Any outcome short of the verifiable dismantling and end of the Iranian nuclear program (including the removal of all nuclear material) will leave Tehran at the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability that will pose a threat to American interests and global security.
President Barack Obama said in March that a diplomatic resolution with Iran could give the regime “access to peaceful nuclear energy.” Likewise, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said less than one week later that the Iranian regime could demonstrate its supposed peaceful intent simply by ending its development of 20 percent uranium enrichment, transferring the stockpile of that material from Iran, and agreeing to continuous inspections. Implicit in Obama’s and Clinton’s positions is some sort of notion that Iran could retain certain nuclear capabilities—an admission that the administration has essentially given up on preventing Iran from further enriching uranium or demanding an immediate and sustained suspension of enrichment and other activities.
These statements, apart from ceding previous red lines, are shortsighted in their embrace of faulty assumptions about nuclear programs and dismiss the unique circumstances of the Iranian regime's nuclear activities.
The general lesson to draw here is straightforward: Any nuclear undertaking, particularly one that includes fuel cycle activities such as uranium enrichment and reactor development, reduces the technological barriers to developing nuclear weapons technology and affords states an expedited path to acquiring nuclear weapons. That proliferation risk is inherent irrespective of past behavior or the intent of the state in question.
Maseh Zarif is research manager at the Critical Threats Project at The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and leads its Iran team.
The above article was published in weeklystandard.com on May 10th, 2012 (1:01 p.m.).