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Michael-Eisenstadtt-283x150-279x148Deterring an Iranian Nuclear Breakout

Michael Eisenstadt, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Issue Number 26, May 2015



Deterring Iran from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons will remain the core imperative driving U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic in the years to come.1 This will be true whether or not ongoing nuclear diplomacy with Tehran leads to a long-term agreement to limit its nuclear program. Public debate about what constitutes a “good” long-term deal with Tehran has focused mainly on ways to constrain Iran’s declared fissile-material production capabilities, in order to keep the Islamic Republic a year or more from a breakout (the time it would take Iran to amass sufficient fissile material for one nuclear device).2 The United States deems one year sufficient time to organize a diplomatic or military response.3 Monitoring Iran’s declared facilities is a vital task because a number of proliferators, including Pakistan, South Africa, and North Korea, have used known sites to produce weapons-usable fissile material. But a breakout using declared facilities is probably not the most likely scenario, nor is it the scenario that will most severely test International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring capabilities, U.S. intelligence, or the political resolve of the United States and the international community

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