For Immediate Release: April 21, 2022
(Washington, D.C.)—With negotiations to restore compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), at a critical juncture, a group of more than 40 former government officials and leading nuclear nonproliferation experts issued a joint statement today expressing strong support for an agreement that returns Iran and the United States to compliance with the accord.
“A prompt return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA is the best available way to deny Iran the ability to quickly produce bomb-grade nuclear material,” the experts' statement notes. “It would reinstate full IAEA international monitoring and verification of Iran’s nuclear facilities, thus ensuring early warning if Iran were to try to acquire nuclear weapons—and possibly become the second state in the Middle East (in addition to Israel) with such an arsenal.”
Despite Iran’s compliance with the accord, former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in May 2018, reimposed sanctions that had been waived as part of the agreement, and embarked on a pressure campaign designed to deny Tehran any benefit of remaining in compliance with the nuclear deal.
Iran continued to meet its JCPOA obligations until May 2019, when Tehran began a series of calibrated violations of the agreement designed to pressure the remaining JCPOA parties to meet their commitments and push the United States to return to the agreement. These violations, while largely reversible, have increased the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
“As a result of Trump administration policies,” the experts' statement says, “it is now estimated that the time it would take Iran to produce a significant quantity (25 kg) of bomb-grade uranium (enriched to 90 percent U-235) is down from more than a year under the JCPOA, to approximately one or two weeks today.”
“Restoring the limits on Iran’s nuclear program will significantly increase (by many months) the time it would take Iran to produce a significant quantity of bomb grade material, which provides the margin necessary for the international community to take effective action if Iran were to try to do so,” they write.
“Just as importantly,” the experts write, “the JCPOA mandates unprecedented International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring, verification, and transparency measures that make it very likely that any possible future effort by Iran to pursue nuclear weapons, even a clandestine program, would be detected promptly.”
If President Biden fails to bring negotiations with Iran to a prompt and successful conclusion it would perpetuate the failed strategy pursued by the Trump administration and allow Iran to further improve its capacity to produce weapons-grade nuclear material. The result, the nuclear nonproliferation experts write, “would increase the danger that Iran would become a threshold nuclear-weapon state.”
Failure to bring Iran back under the limits established by the JCPOA would produce long-term adverse effects on the global nonproliferation regime, put U.S. allies at greater risk, and create a new nuclear crisis.
Signatories of the letter include a former special representative to the president of the United States on nonproliferation, former U.S. State Department officials, the United States' former Ambassador to Israel, Russia, and the United Nations, and leading nuclear nonproliferation experts based in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
The full text of the statement and list of signatories is available online.