On 19 April 2024, Israel launched airstrikes targeting an air defence facility in Isfahan, Iran. Isfahan is also the location of two of Iran’s foremost nuclear facilities. The Isfahan Nuclear Technology Centre and the Natanz Enrichment Centre. The close proximity of the airstrike has encouraged international press to speculate on the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme and the feasibility of striking nuclear facilities. Since 2018, Iran has restricted the remit of international inspectors, limiting publicly available information on their nuclear programme.

The 2015 JCPOA agreement sought to restrict Iran’s nuclear stockpile, preventing a nuclear ‘breakout’ in under a year. The US believed that the 12 month gap would allow US intelligence to detect Iran’s nuclear weapon development and intervene diplomatically. However, since 2021, Iran has enriched uranium to 60% purity and above, significantly shortening the breakout arithmetic.

Key Judgement 1. If Iran made the political decision to build a nuclear weapon, it is highly likely it could develop the capability in under 12 months.

Key Judgement 2. It is likely the limited number of international inspections since 2021 has encouraged Iran to expand its covert nuclear weapons facilities.

Key Judgement 3. It is unlikely hostile airstrikes could successfully disrupt Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

Source » greydynamics