: ‘They’re Very Close.’ U.S. General Says Iran Is Nearly Able to Build a Nuclear Weapon #WorldNEWS Less than a week before world powers resume negotiations over Irans nuclear program, the top U.
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‘They’re Very Close.’ U.S. General Says Iran Is Nearly Able to Build a Nuclear Weapon #WorldNEWS
Less than a week before world powers resume negotiations over Irans nuclear program, the top U. S. commander in the Middle East says his forces stand ready with a potential military option should talks fail.
“Our president said theyre not going to have a nuclear weapon,” General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U. S. Central Command, tells TIME. “The diplomats are in the lead on this, but Central Command always has a variety of plans that we could execute, if directed. ”
Iranian negotiators are set to meet with European, Russian and Chinese counterparts in Vienna on Nov. 29 to discuss the possibility of reining in the program in exchange for easing international sanctions. The U. S. will not take part in the talks at Iran’s request, and American officials have repeatedly warned that time is running out to restore the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
President Joe Biden has made clear that the U. S. has no desire to engage in yet another destabilizing war in the Middle East, but officials at the White House, Pentagon and State Department have worked to develop so-called “Plan B” options should diplomacy fail and Iran opt to build the bomb, ranging from additional sanctions to military action.
Iran is now further along in its nuclear weapons program than ever, producing stocks of uranium enriched to 60% purity, edging closer toward 90% weapons-grade material, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U. N. watchdog. McKenzie believes Tehran has not made the decision to press ahead with manufacturing an actual warhead, but he shares concerns with Americas Middle East allies about the progress Iran has made.
“Theyre very close this time,” McKenzie says. “I think they like the idea of being able to breakout. ”
The Institute for Science and International Security, a non-profit think tank that specializes in nuclear weapons analysis, issued a report in September that found Iran could produce enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon in a month under a “worst-case breakout estimate. ” After breakout begins, Iran could produce a second weapon in less than three months, then a third in less than five months.
Iran has stone-walled IAEA inspectors access to its facilities for months. Rafael Mariano Grossi, the agencys director general, said Tuesday his team has been unable to access surveillance footage inside nuclear facilities and subjected to “excessively invasive physical searches.
Even if Tehran decides to amass enough fuel for a bomb, McKenzie says, the nation hasn’t yet standardized a design for a warhead that’s small enough to be affixed atop any of its arsenal of 3,000 ballistic missiles.
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