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Obama Echoes Netanyahu’s Concerns, Admits Breakout Time Would Be “Near Zero” at End of Nuke Deal

In an interview with NPR, President Barack Obama acknowledged that at the end of the nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran, Iran’s breakout time – the time it would take to produce enough fissile material to fuel a nuclear bomb – would be “near zero,” the Associated Press (AP) reported today.

The AP reported:

Obama, whose top priority at the moment is to sell the framework deal to critics, was pushing back on the charge that the deal fails to eliminate the risk because it allows Iran to keep enriching uranium. He told NPR News that Iran will be capped for a decade at 300 kilograms – not enough to convert to a stockpile of weapons-grade material.

“What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero,” Obama said.

The constraints, which, if observed by Iran, would limit Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, would be in place for only ten years after which point “some restrictions would start phasing out.”

This admission confirms one of the concerns expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most prominent critics of the emerging deal.

In his historic speech before Congress, Netanyahu raised the possibility that in addition to developing a nuclear weapon by violating the deal, there existed “an even greater danger that Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal,” adding that once limits on Iran’s enrichment activity were lifted, Iran could have enough centrifuges to “make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.”

Over the weekend, in an interview with The New York Times, Obama also echoed the concerns of critics of the deal by suggesting that the process of detecting and responding to Iranian violations of the deal could take take a while. The president has stated that the goal of the deal being negotiated is to extend Iran’s breakout time to a year. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that given the terms of the deal that have been publicized, Iran’s breakout time could be as short as seven to eight months.  A response that exceed Iran’s breakout time will not be effective.

[Photo: The White House / YouTube ]