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What difference the Iran deal?

By Steven Meyer - posted Thursday, 16 July 2015

The first thing that strikes me about the deal the Obama Administration negotiated with Iran is its irrelevance.

Let me explain

In the teeth of sanctions the Iranians developed the capability to enrich uranium, build nuclear devices and build the rockets and cruise missiles that could deliver them. They are 90% or more of the way to becoming a fully-fledged nuclear armed state. Sanctions could not stop them completing the task.


In what follows it is important to bear this in mind. Sanctions or no sanctions, deal or no deal, Iran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear state. The capabilities exist. It is in that sense that the deal negotiated in Vienna is irrelevant.

Will Iran choose to cross the threshold?

Well, that's another matter. I expect Iran to continue its development of delivery systems such as ballistic and cruise missiles. My guess is it will delay assembling an actual nuclear device until it has a fleet of reliable delivery vehicles. There's no point having nukes with no way to deliver them.

How long will it take? I have no way of telling but given the progress they have already made, with a little help from North Korea, I would say five years at the outside; but probably less. Remember they've been developing their missile capabilities despite sanctions. There's no reason to believe keeping sanctions in place would stop them.

So within a few years – five at the outside but probably less – Iran will have the capability of becoming an overnight nuclear armed state, delivery systems and all, with or without sanctions, deal or no deal.

Will they take the final step? Will they turn capability into actuality?


There's no way of being sure. However I can't imagine a nation devoting so much effort to becoming a nuclear power without taking the final step. So my forecast is that by 2020 at the latest Iran will be a fully equipped nuclear power.

What could stop them?

The short answer is nothing less than the physical destruction of their facilities. The US has that capability but Obama will not use it. I doubt that any future president will either. Clinton, Bush and Obama all refrained from bombing North Korea's nuclear facilities. The Bush Administration, not exactly what I would call a peaceful group, did not bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Why should a future president act any differently?

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About the Author

Steven Meyer graduated as a physicist from the University of Cape Town and has spent most of his life in banking, insurance and utilities, with two stints into academe.

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