With a week left until the November 24th deadline on nuclear talks between the P5+1 nations and Iran, remarks made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this past summer take on greater significance.
In a July interview with Fareed Zakaria, Clinton states:
[…] if you cannot be persuaded that the Iranians cannot break out and race toward a nuclear weapon, then you cannot have a deal. I believe strongly that it’s really important for there to be so little enrichment or no enrichment, at least for a long period of time. Because I do think that any enrichment will trigger an arms race in the Middle East. I think if the Gulf looks and says, well, if they have any enrichment, they can do this, and then they can do that, and then we’re off to the races, we’ve created a very dangerous situation. But if you can define that “little” in a way that you can convince our partners, not only in the Gulf, but in Israel and elsewhere that it truly is so inadequate a base that you could not move to break out, and if they were making moves toward breakout we would all know and then pursue other kinds of actions. But that’s the persuasive case to be made.
Iran currently has 19,000 centrifuges installed, 10,200 of which are operating. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) estimates that Iran must dismantle at least 15,000 of its centrifuges before its ability to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear bomb without detection is constrained. According to a report in The New York Times earlier this month, the P5+1 nations are looking for ways to allow Iran to keep more of its enrichment capacity intact.
Clinton’s position of allowing Iran “little enrichment or no enrichment” is close to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’aalon’s statement on The Charlie Rose Show last month that Iran must be allowed “no indigenous capability to enrich uranium,” as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration yesterday on Face the Nation that “Iran should not be left with the residual capacity to enrich uranium that you need for an atomic bomb.”
Aside from the immediate threat that a nuclear Iran presents to the Middle East and Western world, Clinton expressed concern that allowing Iran to enrich will spur a regional arms race. Speculation, fueled by statements made by members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, hints that Saudi Arabia will attempt to develop the ability to make a nuclear bomb in response to Iran’s nuclear program.