Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers during a congressional hearing on Thursday that the Pentagon has created several military options available for President Biden if Iran chooses to develop nuclear weapons.
According to Gen. Milley, it would take less than two weeks for Iran to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon and only several more months to manufacture an actual nuclear weapon. However, the general emphasized that the U.S. remains committed to its policy that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. “We, the United States military, have developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider if or when Iran ever decides to develop an actual nuclear weapon,” he said.
Experts have estimated that Iran can now produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb within roughly 12 days. Enrichment levels of approximately 90% are necessary to develop nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently reported that uranium enriched up to 83.7% was discovered at Iran’s underground Fordo nuclear site.
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed by the U.S. and other major powers during the Obama administration, limited Iran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67%, which is sufficient for producing nuclear power but inadequate for weaponization.
In 2018, former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement and reimposed economic sanctions on Iran that the accord had removed. Since then, Iran has steadily increased its uranium enrichment, even as the Biden administration attempted to halt Tehran’s nuclear program through diplomacy.
Despite the developments, the IAEA inspectors recently struck a deal with Tehran to restore cameras and other monitoring equipment at key Iranian nuclear sites, including the Fordo location. IAEA officials say this agreement offers hope of slowing Iran’s potential march towards a nuclear bomb. However, Iran’s leaders have repeatedly denied seeking a nuclear weapon, citing it as against the regime’s Islamic principles.