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AS THE ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR GOVERNS THE WORLD'S ATTENTION, IRANIAN IS QUIETLY MARCHING TOWARD NUCLEAR BREAKOUT

When Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad invaded Israel on Oct.7, they didn’t just perpetrate the most deadly attack on Jews since the Holocaust. The Iran-trained and supported terrorists also helped divert the world’s attention away from how Iran is quietly, but quickly, marching towards nuclear breakout. In February, top Biden Administration official Colin Kahl, the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, admitted that Iran could soon assemble a crude nuclear device in days.

Even with Iran entrenched as a nuclear threshold state, it is not too late to stop the West Asia country  from obtaining nuclear weapons. The U.S. should be galvanized by the current conflict to restore deterrence against Iran—beginning with stronger enforcement of sanctions designed to cut off the regime’s number one source of income: oil revenues. The money generated from its petroleum exports funds Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist proxies alike.


Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, pictured here in 2019, has been closely monitored by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.ATTA KENARE—Getty Images


STOP IRAN NOW Via Time Magazine

DECEMBER 9, 2023

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Sonnenfeld is a TIME columnist, global governance expert, and senior associate dean and Lester Crown Professor of Management Practice at the Yale School of Management. He helped advise the development of the Abraham Accords and helped organize and produce the 2019 Peace Through Prosperity Conference, which served as a foundation for the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab nations.

Boehler is the founder and CEO of Rubicon Founders, a healthcare investment firm. He served in the Trump Administration as the founding Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, the U.S. government’s international investment arm. He served on the negotiating team for the Abraham Accords and led the normalization discussions between Israel and Morocco. He was also a founding member of Operation Warp Speed and is currently a board member at the Atlantic Council and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  ****************************************************


When Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad invaded Israel on Oct.7, they didn’t just perpetrate the most deadly attack on Jews since the Holocaust. The Iran-trained and supported terrorists also helped divert the world’s attention away from how Iran is quietly, but quickly, marching towards nuclear breakout. In February, top Biden Administration official Colin Kahl, the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, admitted that Iran could soon assemble a crude nuclear device in days.


Understandably, the U.S. and its allies are now focused on urgent, immediate regional crises—namely the IDF’s military operation to eliminate Hamas from Gaza and dealing with the ever-growing threat of militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. But a nuclear Iran remains the gravest long-term regional security threat facing Israel, the Middle East, and the United States, and it is not too late to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.


hen Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad invaded Israel on Oct.7, they didn’t just perpetrate the most deadly attack on Jews since the Holocaust. The Iran-trained and supported terrorists also helped divert the world’s attention away from how Iran is quietly, but quickly, marching towards nuclear breakout. In February, top Biden Administration official Colin Kahl, the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, admitted that Iran could soon assemble a crude nuclear device in days.


Understandably, the U.S. and its allies are now focused on urgent, immediate regional crises—namely the IDF’s military operation to eliminate Hamas from Gaza and dealing with the ever-growing threat of militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. But a nuclear Iran remains the gravest long-term regional security threat facing Israel, the Middle East, and the United States, and it is not too late to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.


We remain confident Saudi Arabia will eventually recognize Israel’s existence, but not right now. The scenes of Israeli fighters marching through Gaza broadcast throughout the Middle East threaten to inflame a pre-existing hatred of Israel that makes normalization politically untenable at this time, even for Gulf monarchies not beholden to voting publics.


We firmly judge this derailment of the next phase of the Abraham Accords as the great geopolitical casualty of the Oct. 7 attack. Even more importantly, the Ayatollah seems to believe the West is now further distracted and perhaps more deterred from confronting Iran over its nuclear program, as full-fledged nuclear weapons creep ever closer to fruition.


The strides Iran has made in its nuclear program over the last few years have flown under the radar. Today, Tehran has enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon in only 12 days according to data collected from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).



Iran is essentially a nuclear threshold state given their stockpile of uranium, with estimated enrichment levels as high as 84%. For context, 90% is the benchmark for full breakout capability. International sanctions on the regime’s ballistic missile program have also been allowed to expire, giving the regime carte blanche to further develop and proliferate the delivery vehicles necessary for a potential strike with the ability to reach Tel Aviv, Haifa, or even a European capital.



Provided by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Adam Boehler



The potential destructive power of an Iranian nuclear weapon is obvious, but even the mere threat of a nuclear Iran is a potent weapon for the Ayatollah right now. He has surely seen how Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats seemingly deterred the U.S. from fully supporting Ukraine, according to experts including former American diplomat John E. Herbst. The Ayatollah may feel emboldened to run the same playbook now, especially if Israel reoccupies Gaza for the long-term or Hezbollah aggression compels the Israeli military to enter Lebanon in the months ahead.


The U.S. has repeatedly backed down from even minor confrontation with Iran in the interests of avoiding a wider regional war, including responding rather timidly to attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by Iran-backed militias in recent weeks. As 60 Minutes detailed in November, the regime’s assassination campaigns on U.S. soil against U.S. officials and dissidents also continue apace.


It seems conceivable that the Ayatollah may continue to scale the escalation ladder with increasingly potent nuclear threats. U.S. and Israeli officials have messaged resolve not to let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, but whether Israel and the U.S. actually have the political will to destroy the Iranian bomb-making program remains to be seen.



Provided by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Adam Boehler


Even with Iran entrenched as a nuclear threshold state, it is not too late to stop the West Asia country  from obtaining nuclear weapons. The U.S. should be galvanized by the current conflict to restore deterrence against Iran—beginning with stronger enforcement of sanctions designed to cut off the regime’s number one source of income: oil revenues. The money generated from its petroleum exports funds Iran’s nuclear program and terrorist proxies alike, with windfall profits from increased oil exports, as we’ve discussed previously


As Secretary of State in 2016, John Kerry proudly proclaimed that the world was safer thanks to the nuclear deal he engineered, which released $150 billion in sanctions relief to Iran. In hindsight, Kerry’s sheepish admission that some of that money might go towards terrorism has proven sadly prescient, and we should hit pause on this spigot immediately.

Additionally, the U.S. must continue to pressure the IAEA to conduct rigorous inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities and hold the regime accountable when it does not abide by its commitments. An IAEA report released on Sept. 4stated: “Iran’s decision to remove all of the agency’s equipment previously installed in Iran for JCPOA-related surveillance and monitoring activities has also had detrimental implications for the agency’s ability to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”


To deter nuclear escalation, the world must impose new, tougher costs on Iran when it skirts IAEA regulations, stopping the country in its tracks before it progresses any further towards an actual nuclear weapon. Failure to do so makes it increasingly likely that Iran asserts control on the escalation ladder through nuclear threats, whether in the crisis in Israel or with increasing support for its terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and beyond.


American policy makers are rightly seized with the urgent and important work of supporting Israel’s counter-offensive efforts against terrorists in Gaza. We should not, however, lose sight of the fact that the current crisis is inextricably tied to the strategic imperative of stopping Iran’s march to the bomb.


Should we fail to urgently address and counter Iran’s nuclear program, today’s conflicts in the Middle East will likely become far worse.


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UPDATE: December 26, 2023


VIENNA — Iran has increased the rate at which it is producing near weapons grade uranium in recent weeks, reversing a previous slowdown that started in the middle of this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report to member states.


Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in the report that Iran “in recent weeks had increased its production of highly enriched uranium, reversing a previous output reduction from mid-2023,” according to an IAEA spokesperson Sunday.


Iran had previously slowed down the rate at which it was enriching uranium to 60% purity. Uranium enriched at 60% purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.


The U.N. nuclear watchdog said its inspectors had verified the increased rate of production since the end of November at facilities in Natanz and Fordow to about 9 kilograms per month, up from 3 kilograms per month since June and representing a return to earlier levels of production.


Enriching uranium means increasing the percentage of uranium-235, the isotope of uranium that can be used in nuclear fission



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