Limiting Iranian Nuclear Activities

Options and Consequences

February 17, 2011


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Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament


How much Iranian nuclear capability is too much? The simplest answer is that any amount is unacceptable. But it is far from clear that zero enrichment is a realistic goal. To help illuminate other possibilities, Michael Levi investigates the differences between various possible states of the Iranian nuclear program.

Limiting Iranian Nuclear Activities focuses on two basic questions. First, where is the appropriate place to draw the line between "limited enrichment"—defined as a situation where the world has a credible chance of responding to an Iranian attempt to rapidly build a bomb—and "robust enrichment," which Levi defines as a situation that would leave Iran able to build a bomb without being stopped? Second, what are the different international consequences of policies that leave Iran with limited enrichment, robust enrichment, or an actual weapons capability?

Rather than recommending specific goals or red lines for U.S. policy, the paper focuses on illuminating the range of possible outcomes in order to better guide decisions on strategy.