In December 2011, Leon Panetta, then secretary of defense, said that if Iran were seen “proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon” or had decided to do that, the United States would “take whatever steps are necessary to stop it.” In March 2012, Barack Obama said: “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” His “red line” was the weaponization of fissile material.
Yet in his Nov. 23 statement celebrating the new agreement, Obama spoke of wanting to be able to “verify” that Iran “cannot build a nuclear weapon.” If so, he rejects not only containment but allowing Iran to stop near — “a screwdriver’s turn away from” — weaponization. But Pollack, writing many months before the recent agreement ratified Iran’s right to enrichment, said:
“As long as Iran is left with the capacity to enrich uranium, the right to perform some enrichment activity, and a stockpile of LEU (low-enriched uranium) . . . then Iran will have a breakout capability. It could be a breakout window as wide as many months, perhaps even a year, but Iran will have the capability to manufacture the fissile material for a nuclear weapon.”
The Saudis and the Turks are watching closely — the Iranians and the US.