President Obama allowed today that Iran could decide “to break out” toward a nuclear weapon at the end of the 15-year deal his team negotiated. The remarks are a stark rhetorical shift from Obama’s previous statements that the accord would permanently bar the regime from weaponizing its nuclear program. They give new credence to the opponents of the deal — Republican, Democratic, and Israeli — who argue that it will render Iran a “nuclear threshold state” by the time it expires.
“Is it possible that at the end of 15 years, they now start introducing some more advanced centrifuges and at some point they feel comfortable enough, cocky enough, to say now’s the time for us to break out, we’re going to kick out all the IAEA inspectors, we’re going to announce that we’re going to pursue a nuclear weapon?” he said Friday during a webcast from the White House with the Jewish Federations of America. “Absolutely. Just as it’s possible that they could have done that next week if we hadn’t had this deal.”
That admission is a far cry from the assurances he provided August 5, in a bellicose speech defending the deal at American University. “We have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said in that speech. “It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected that assessment of the deal during his appearance before Congress earlier this year. “This deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade,” he said in March. “That’s why this deal is so bad. It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”
New York senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader-in-waiting, made the same point when he announced his opposition to the deal. “The agreement would allow Iran, after ten to fifteen years, to be a nuclear threshold state with the blessing of the world community,” Schumer said a day after Obama’s America University speech. “Iran would have a green light to be as close, if not closer to possessing a nuclear weapon than it is today. And the ability to thwart Iran if it is intent on becoming a nuclear power would have less moral and economic force.”
#related#Obama said today that he had no choice but to leave Iran with some nuclear infrastructure because “the world community” and even Iranian dissidents believe that the Non-Proliferation Treaty gives Iran the right to a peaceful nuclear program. “In the best of all worlds, Iran would have no nuclear infrastructure whatsoever. There wouldn’t be a single nut, bolt, building, nuclear scientist, uranium mine, anywhere inside of Iran and that I suppose would be the single guarantee that Iran never has a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not a reality that’s attainable.”
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.