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.

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Read more at FDD

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

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy