Who has the answer to this pivotal question? The Cato Institute’s Justin Logan is who you want to rely on for the straight, unbiased answer. I put the question above to Justin this morning.
Here’s his answer:
Iran has no nuclear weapons, correct. What constitutes a “nuclear weapons program” is a weird definitional/epistemological question, and part of the reason we got into such tumult over the 2007 NIE.
The short version is that many of the elements of nuclear technology we worry about are useable for both weapons and power generation. Some of the biggest, most important elements, in fact. But when you hear people say “Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” that’s polemic that’s unsupported by what we know of the facts at present. They are doing things that unnerve us because those things would be central to any effort to produce a nuclear weapon in the future, but there are big missing pieces at present that ought to preclude responsible people from flinging around the phrase “nuclear weapons program.”
The most important fact given current controversies is that Iran is further away from a bomb than it was in January due to its near-total compliance with the provisions of the JPOA. There is a necessary condition Iran would need to meet to produce a bomb, and its behavior under the JPOA has moved it further away from a bomb than it was in January. (Iran essentially downgraded some of its enriched uranium, which moved it further away from meeting that necessary condition.)
Nobody is saying this, but it seems terribly important if we’re going to evaluate what the JPOA produced and how to move forward.
Read some more on this issue here.