By claiming in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that “for the first time in a decade” progress in the Iranian nuclear program has been halted and Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile has been reduced, President Obama continued an unfortunate pattern of behavior by his administration on this issue: He outright lied.
President Obama’s claims aren’t even close to being true. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has surged since 2009 and has continued to increase since an interim nuclear agreement with Iran was agreed to in November 2013.
The number of nuclear weapons Iran could make from its enriched uranium has steadily risen throughout Mr. Obama’s presidency, rising from seven to at least eight over the last year.
The below chart from a recent Center for Security Policy analysis illustrates the increase in Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile and the number of nuclear weapons Iran could make from its enriched uranium since Mr. Obama became president — no sign of the president’s proclaimed decline. (Click here to view the entire analysis.)
While it is true Iran stopped enriching uranium to the 20 percent uranium-235 level as required by the November 2013 interim agreement, and is diluting 20 percent–enriched uranium to reactor-grade, this concession has had a negligible effect in reducing the threat from Iran’s nuclear program.
Most of its enriched uranium stockpile happens to be at the reactor-grade level, and Iran can convert that material into enough weapons-grade fuel for one nuclear bomb in 2.2 to 3.5 months, only about two weeks longer than it would take to do so using 20 percent enriched uranium.
The United States has offered huge, one-sided concessions in its talks with Iran that will allow the country to continue to enriched uranium, will not force it to give up its enriched-uranium stockpile, and will not require a halt to construction of a plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor.
Iran has failed to cooperate with the IAEA during the talks and cheated on the interim agreement by testing advanced centrifuges.
Based on these factors, I could only conclude in a November 21 NRO article that the Obama administration has no interest in an agreement to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and has instead quietly decided to contain an Iranian nuke program.
Congress must ignore the president’s ridiculous claim that new sanctions against Iran would set back progress made in the nuclear talks and alienate our allies. These talks were fatally flawed from the beginning and are certain to produce a weak, short-lived deal that will destabilize the Middle East.
This is why 14 national leaders signed a Center for Security Policy letter to congressional leaders last November calling on Congress to repudiate the nuclear talks and pass new sanctions against Iran until it complies with all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Sanctions legislation in the House and Senate is reportedly close to obtaining veto-proof majorities. Even if President Obama vetoes new sanctions, passing legislation to impose them will send a clear message to Iran and the world that the American people do not support the nuclear talks and that a future U.S. administration is likely to ignore any agreement reached in them and start over.
— Fred Fleitz followed the Iranian nuclear program for the CIA, State Department, and House Intelligence Committee. He is now a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy.