By Alfred Nurja The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released this month a substantial analysis of Iran's nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities. The report's detailed break-out scenarios allow readers to finally make some sense of the various and conflicting timelines that have circulated in recent years about when and how Iran could produce a nuclear bomb if that is what it chose to pursue. More importantly, the nuclear section of the IISS publication also makes a number of observations that are worth highlighting and looking at more closely because of the policy implications that they have:
These observations point to at least two useful deductions. First, the element of time. The report articulates clearly that when it comes to dealing with the Iranian nuclear program there is still time for seeking a negotiated solution. As the background of the measured Iranian engagement with the international community in the last two decades shows, Iran, unlike North Korea, shuns international isolation. Persisting in the path of engagement while carefully preserving the unity of the P5+1 members still holds the best promise for reaching a negotiated solution. P5+1 unity is also essential for ensuring the effectiveness of the sanctions regime. Second, as the report's findings substantiate and as the former CIA's Middle East Intelligence Officer, Paul Pillar stressed at a recent ACA briefing, "... we're talking about Iranian decisions that have yet to be made.... And in this case, the decisions, whether to proceed to a weapons capability or how close to come to it, will depend in large part, among other things, on what the United States does vis-à-vis Iran." An Iranian nuclear weapon is therefore not inevitable. There is indeed time for pursuing a negotiated solution with Iran provided we maximize the impact of U.S., and P5+1 policies on their decision making process.