Iran Appears Poised for a Surprise Nuclear Breakout

On May 5, an unnamed Iranian official told Reuters that Tehran’s “nuclear program is advancing as planned and time is on [its] side.” Last Monday, the Islamic Republic’s President Ebrahim Raisi noted that his country’s “oil sales have doubled.” For these reasons and others, Andrea Stricker argues, Iran is under no pressure to agree to an updated version of the 2015 nuclear deal. On the contrary, she warns, “protracted negotiations may provide cover for a nuclear breakout.”

A nuclear breakout is not the same as having a functional weapon, although once a proliferator has weapons-grade uranium, preventing weaponization must happen quickly. Tehran could finalize a weapon at a site adjacent to its enrichment facility, a process likely to require several months, given what is known about Iran’s weaponization progress since 2003. Incorporating an atomic weapon on a missile would take substantially longer.

Meanwhile, foreign powers would waver about what to do. The UN would convene meeting after meeting, demanding Iran grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to suspect sites. But gone are the days of unanimous UN Security Council action—such as that seen in response to North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test or against the first revelations of Iran’s clandestine enrichment program in 2002.

In the end, a U.S. president could be left with the undesirable choice of conducting military strikes, possibly with Israeli help, or accepting a nuclear Iran.

Read more at FDD

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria