Dissuading Iran from Pursuing Nuclear Weapons Complicated by Lack of Clear Brightlines
Deterrence is one of the most important tools. Not just deterring Iran's use of nuclear weapons but also deterring any production of them is a reasonable policy objective. Iran must be convinced that crossing the redline of weaponization would result in dire and certain consequences. The problem is that today the line between latent capability and weaponization is almost invisible. If Iran were to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), expel inspectors, and reconfigure its enrichment facilities at Natanz in an overt breakout, it would not be difficult to calculate the small number of weeks before one weapon's worth of highly enriched uranium (HEU) could be produced using declared facilities. In the more likely case of Iran continuing ostensibly to adhere to the NPT, it would not be possible to know if it were operating clandestine facilities. Some things would be clear indicators of a weapons decision, however, including the discovery of clandestine enrichment facilities, HEU production, new or ongoing weaponization work, a declaration by Iran that it indeed possessed nuclear weapons or the unveiling by intelligence of such a status, and a nuclear test explosion. Meanwhile, the line between a latent capability and weaponization can be made wider and more visible in various ways.