Recent press reports indicate Iran seeks to speed up its nuclear enrichment efforts via the use of advanced-model centrifuges to enrich uranium. This suggests that Iran is determined to move ahead with its nuclear program in spite of U.S. and international efforts to force the Islamic Republic to forego a nuclear capability. Iran’s past failure to report its enrichment activities to the IAEA and its refusal to abide by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1696, which calls on Iran to halt its enrichment activities, prompted the United States to sanction Iran for its nuclear program. The U.S. government continues to view Iran’s nuclear program as a significant national security threat. With talk of red lines and deadlines for possible military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities dominating public discourse, it is time for everyone to relax, take a deep breath, and consider some good reasons why Iran’s nuclear program does not constitute an imminent threat to the security of the United States.
- There is no evidence that the government of Iran either has, or has made the decision to build, a nuclear bomb.
U.S. experts concur that Iran is at least a few years away from being able to develop a viable nuclear weapon should it choose to do so. However, it is also the consensus view of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, plus Israeli intelligence, that Iran has not made the decision to pursue nuclear weapons, and that Iran abandoned its research efforts aimed at building a weapon in 2003.
- Even if Iran did develop a nuclear warhead that it could mount on a missile, it doesn’t possess the missile technology to even come close to striking the United States.
According to a recent Congressional Report, Iran is unlikely to have, or to even be pursuing, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability that would allow it to strike the United States. In order to develop such a capability, it would need significant outside assistance from Russia and China, which it is currently not receiving. Also, the study noted that Iran has not demonstrated the flight test program required to even produce an ICBM.
- The U.S.’s vastly superior nuclear arsenal would deter Iran from a nuclear attack in the extremely unlikely event that Iran could develop a nuclear ICBM capability before it could be detected by U.S. intelligence.
Despite the negative public commentary associated with the term “containment,” the logic of nuclear deterrence is precisely what kept the United States and the former Soviet Union from engaging in outright hostilities during the forty-plus years of the Cold War. Likewise, Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers and implacable enemies, have managed to avoid outright war for decades. The U.S. has dealt with far greater threats than Iran could potentially hope to pose without resorting to war. To put this in perspective, U.S. rhetoric on North Korea has been far less bellicose than that towards Iran, despite North Korea’s significantly more advanced nuclear and missile technology programs. In short, if push ever came to shove, the U.S. could live with a nuclear Iran.