House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce on Saturday slammed the Iran nuclear deal saying

it allows the (Islamic) regime (of Tehran), "even without cheating, keep a path to a nuclear weapon."

Is Iran seeking a nuclear warhead?

Does Iran need to violate the JCPOA agreement to obtain a nuclear warhead?

  • By > "even without cheating, keep a path to a nuclear weapon." He meant, in fact, that the agreement did not cover all of Iran's path to a nuclear bomb.
    – user15579
    Jul 17 '17 at 23:11

To understand the issue, you must first understand what led to the sanctions.

When Iran first sought to develop atomic energy, they had to agree to the conditions set out by the IAEA, to get access to nuclear technology maintained by other nations who develop nuclear power.

This includes agreeing not to use that technology to develop nuclear weapons, the Non Proliferation Agreement. Meeting that obligation means allowing random inspection of all facilities that deal with nuclear technology.

Iran got in trouble, and got sanctions, when it expelled the inspectors and refused to allow inspections.

In order to get the sanctions lifted, and all IAEA nations had to agree, not just Obama, Iran agreed to the resumption of inspections. Theoretically, if Iran lives up to that agreement, it will not develop nuclear weapons.

If it does develop nuclear weapons, that will be a clear violation of the agreements.

Is Iran developing nuclear weapons? At this point, that is a matter of opinion, though expelling the inspectors would have been the first step... the first step in N Korea developing nuclear weapons was to expel the inspectors.

One does have to wonder why a nation awash in oil feels it necessary to develop the very expensive option of generating electrical power via nuclear reactors.

  • 1
    oil is "dirty." Oil can be sold to others, oil will run out, oil adds to the climate change problem. There are also radioactive isotopes used in medical therapies that are generated through nuclear technology. Wanting to develop the ability to generate for peaceful purposes is not a mystery just because they have oil. If we were to exploit our resources and be fully petroleum independent, we'd still use nuclear. Not sure why you think Iran is somehow nefariously exempt from wanting to diversify. Of course, we have nukes, so maybe the comparison is not apt. Jul 18 '17 at 16:32
  • @PoloHoleSet: so you're saying that Iran is a wellspring of environmental concern and social conscience? That's probably why they hang people for being gay. There is nothing in Iran's current international posture that suggests it is interested in anything but acquiring more power over its neighbors, much like the other ME nations. Nuclear bombs would serve that end far more effectively than developing peaceful nuclear power, especially to the 10th century theocracies who understand the stick far more than the carrot.
    – tj1000
    Jul 18 '17 at 16:46
  • 2
    No, I'm saying that it's in one's own self interest to not pollute and befoul your own home. That has nothing to do with liberal or not. China is aggressively pursuing renewable technology, and it has nothing to do with "liberal." Kind of a childish response. If they don't have a specific need for oil for power generation, why not sell the oil? Keep in mind that they made the most progress down this path during the Bush years, when oil was over $147 per barrel, as opposed to 1/3 of that now. At $147, I'd definitely want to sell it to western infidels and generate power via nukes. Jul 18 '17 at 16:56
  • 1
    Also, I'm not saying they didn't want a nuclear weapon, as well, but one can abandon one and not stop developing the other, because there are legitimate non-military uses. Jul 18 '17 at 16:57
  • Countries much less sunny bank heavily on solar. There are good reasons against oil, and good reasons for nuclear in dark cold winters, but Iran simply lacks a good explanation why it's going nuclear.
    – MSalters
    Jul 20 '17 at 13:53

Is Iran seeking a nuclear warhead?

Maybe, yes, no; no one really knows.

Does Iran need to violate Obama's agreement to obtain a nuclear warhead?

I would assume it breaks the agreement.

Remember it is not solely Obama's agreement, but an agreement between Iran and the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China, plus Germany and the European Union.


European countries will be pissed at Iran if they decide to break the alignment because Europe (and other non US countries) are starting to massively invest in Iran.


  • Why would EU countries care? They don't have electorate that would throw a major fit if Israel gets nuked, the way US does.
    – user4012
    Jul 17 '17 at 20:06
  • @user4012 If Iran breaks the deal sanctions would be impossed on Iran, and the EU companies which have started projects there are going to be caught in the fire.
    – Rekesoft
    Jul 18 '17 at 9:54
  • @Rekesoft - this makes the (imho unwarranted) assumption that EU states would join in whatever new sanctions you are anticipating. Which is far from certain.
    – user4012
    Jul 18 '17 at 12:51
  • @user4012 The US would impose the sanctions. The sanctions would fall against european-iranian partnerships. The EU countries would be mad about it, either they join the sanctions or not.
    – Rekesoft
    Jul 18 '17 at 13:16
  • @Rekesoft The problem with sanctions is that they are largely ineffective without 100% buy-in.
    – user4012
    Jul 18 '17 at 13:18

The main obstacle to getting a nuclear warhead is enriching enough uranium to a pure enough level.

As part of the agreement, Iran, who was not especially close to a nuke, had to decommission their purification centrifuges, open everything up to unprecedented inspection access, and furthermore dilute or "de-enrich" the stockpiles they already had, and give up the vast majority of the volume, as well. Weaponized Uranium has a 90%/10% mix of U-235 to U-238. Under the agreement, Iran will only enrich to 3.67%.

There is no way, just from this most important component, under the agreement, to make progress towards a nuke. If you want to define "keep a path" as something completely nebulous, like not lobotomizing all PhD physicists who may have theoretical knowledge, then maybe, but from a practical point of view, no, they can't.

Plutonium, a by-product of Uranium fission, is actually a much easier way to get to a nuke, but the agreement covers that avenue, as well.

NY Times: Plutonium Is Unsung Consession of Iran Nuclear Deal

  • This may be dumb, but isn't it a problem that Iran does not let inspectors onto their military bases? I mean, couldn't they very well be developing nuclear missiles there, out of sight of inspections?
    – rougon
    May 13 '18 at 18:37
  • 1
    @rougon- Actually, no, that's not the issue. At least, not with Iran since the agreement was put into place. The IAEA, in every single quarterly status report, has said that they have been able to get access to every single site, both "regular" and ad hoc, that they have requested. Part of the agreement was, in addition to regular inspections at defined sites, they could request access to any other location. The thing with dealing with Uranium, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, is that you can't just take a sponge and some soap and erase signs of activity using that substance. May 16 '18 at 14:27
  • Thanks for that clarification -- do you know if they have requested access to military bases? I don't mean to be thick, but every piece I read about the deal's flaws says that the big gaping hole is that Iran won't let inspections take place on military bases. I can see non-nefarious reasons why, but it does seem like a hole.
    – rougon
    May 16 '18 at 16:35
  • 1
    I haven't read the quarterly reports, myself, just read about them through news reporting. Might go and check that out to see, but the reporting seems to indicate that they have asked for access to other sites. If I track that down I'll post a link here. May 16 '18 at 18:16
  • 1
    @rougon - a fairly in-depth article addressing that specific point, from last August. As of then, the IAEA did not yet have any reason to request access to specific military sites - latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-iran-nuclear-20170830-story.html May 16 '18 at 21:26

Something similar was said by the Israeli prime minister at the time the deal was made.

There is a pretty strong tradition of some American legislators taking their lead on Middle East matters from Israel. Whether Israel had any justification in making that claim is unclear. It may have just been angry rhetoric at a treaty without a statement granting Israel a right to exist.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .