Some recent claims that we should all relax about the Iranian nuclear program because Iran has not made a decision to build a weapon are themselves blown up in a short, devastating comment from ISIS, the Institute for Science and International Security.
The statement describes “Iran’s strategy of ‘nuclear hedging,’ or developing the capability to rapidly build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program….”
And it explains why a lack of urgency is a great error.
In the discussion regarding the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, some have sought to downplay Iran’s nuclear progress by emphasizing that Iran has not yet “made the decision to build a nuclear weapon.” While it is true and important that there are no indications that Iran has made a decision to actually construct a nuclear weapon, such a statement does not accurately portray the real concern about Iran’s nuclear program and progress. In fact, Iran has already made a series of important decisions that would give it the ability to quickly make nuclear weapons. In doing so, it has pursued a strategy of nuclear hedging: it has put together a gas centrifuge program to provide the necessary fuel for a weapon, worked on developing a nuclear weaponization capability, and developed a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, all under ostensibly civilian purposes or great secrecy. The international community should not take ease in the absence of this final decision since Iran has already overcome many obstacles on the path to finally acquiring nuclear weapons.
The ISIS analysis is an important reminder that Iran continues, very steadily, to move closer and closer to the ability to build a usable nuclear weapon.