What can the Obama Administration hope to accomplish to reduce nuclear dangers during the last quarter-pole of this presidency, especially after being drubbed in the mid-term elections? Quite a lot, actually.
The big “get” remains a nuclear deal with Iran that leaves Tehran far more poorly positioned to sprint to a nuclear arsenal than the cartoon depiction of the problem that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to school the UN General Assembly in September 2012. The more likely scenario of concern, as James Action has written, isn’t breakout, but “sneak-out.” Outlier states seeking the Bomb usually don’t try to break out in heavily monitored locales; they are more likely to do this in hidden spaces. Nonetheless, the terms of public debate have been framed in terms of breakout from agreed constraints at facilities with known coordinates under heavy scrutiny. By this yardstick, ongoing negotiations have already reaped significant gains, and could yield far more if negotiations succeed.
We shall, of course, see, whether a deal can be struck, and, if so, what the final numbers, plumbing configurations, and fissile material off-loading arrangements will be. Then it will be possible to determine how much better off the United States, Iran’s neighbors, and the State of Israel will be than is currently the case under the interim agreement or, if negotiations break down, with an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program. We shall also consider how much access any deal reached allows for foreign inspectors and sensors to look into dark corners.
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