Iran appears to be pursuing virtual nuclearization strategy
[ Page 80 ]
It appears that Iran, unlike Iraq or Israel, does not have a dedicated crash program to build a nuclear bomb. Iran’s strategy is more cunning—and more difficult to stop. Iran seems to be following the Japanese model, trying to acquire all the capabilities necessary to build nuclear weapons should it make a decision to do so sometime in the future. The fact that the NPT allows states to acquire these duel-use capabilities is one of the greatest weaknesses of the current non-proliferation regime. Iran is now exploiting this legal loophole.Thus, Iran may not be conducting any weapon-specific research now, for fear that discovery of such activity would, as the United States hopes, bring united international condemnation, a cut-off of all nuclear assistance, and economic sanctions. But is is doing everything short of that. Now that its clandestine program has been disclosed, Iran is trying to minimize embarrassing disclosures of past weapons-related activities, persist in its fuel production activities, and force the rest of the world to accept a fait accompli.
The consensus opinion of the U.S. intelligence community is that Iran not diverted any resources to a military weapons program and there is no evidence that they have made the political decision to do so. However, it is clear from an examination of their past military programs and past statements that they want to preserve the technical capacity for nuclear breakout but forgoing the actuality in order to avoid international ostracism. This option holds the potential to advance Iran's security objectives without incurring the worse consequences an overt program might bring.