WASHINGTON—The U.S. military has “multiple options” if Iran decides to develop nuclear weapons, the Pentagon’s top commander told lawmakers on Thursday.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told a House Appropriations Committee hearing that Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within two weeks, after which it would need several more to develop a nuclear weapon. Said it would take months.
Other US officials have offered similar estimates for the so-called breakout time for Iran to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb when the 2015 nuclear deal took effect.
Undersecretary of Defense Colin Carr said last month that it would take Iran “about 12 days” to accumulate “the equivalent of a single bomb of fissile material.”
“The United States remains committed to the policy that Iran will not have operational nuclear weapons,” Milley told lawmakers.
“We, the U.S. military, have developed multiple options for the country’s leadership to consider if or when Iran decides to develop an actual nuclear weapon,” he said. .
Iran claims its nuclear program exists for peaceful purposes only.
The Biden administration has shifted focus away from the revival of the nuclear deal, citing Iran’s continued crackdown on demonstrators and its continued supply of armed drones to Russia. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multilateral agreement offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear activities. Tehran began violating its JCPOA obligations after former President Donald Trump abandoned his 2018 agreement and reimposed economic sanctions.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, announced last month that its inspectors had detected particles of uranium enriched to 83.7% purity in Iran’s underground Fordowsite. Weapon grade level is considered 90%. Iran has openly enriched its uranium to 60% purity in violation of the landmark nuclear deal that President Joe Biden took in hopes of reviving.
Earlier this month, Iran agreed to increase inspector access, restore surveillance equipment at nuclear sites and increase inspections at Fordow facilities by 50%. During a visit to Washington last week, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said he expected Iran to deliver on its promises.
On Thursday, the Iranian military concluded naval exercises conducted jointly with China and Russia in the Gulf of Oman. This was seen as a major show of military prowess against Western enemies. According to his CCTV in China, the exercises included live-fire suppression and attack exercises with nighttime communications exercises.