Iran is rapidly approaching the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability as U.S. and international efforts to prevent or deter it from crossing that threshold have failed. Sanctions imposed by the U.S., UN, European Union, and other Western allies in 2010 and 2011 have not had a significant impact on Iran’s ability to develop a weapons capability or on the regime’s nuclear policy. During this period Iran has overcome the most difficult technical obstacle to acquiring a nuclear weapons capability: the enrichment of uranium from 3.5% to 20%. Enrichment at 20% is near bomb-grade purity given the relative ease of enriching from 20% to weapons-grade levels (near 90%). There are increased indications that the regime has simultaneously worked on acquiring two other elements of a nuclear weapons capability—nuclear payload and delivery vehicle systems—that are far less technically challenging than the production of bomb fuel. The clock is fast ticking down to a nuclear Iran.
Maseh Zarif is a research manager and Iran team lead for AEI's Critical Threats Project.
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