Analysts Warn of Iran’s ‘Breakout Capability’ in Effort to Move Red Line

Inspections Don't Mean Shutting Down Civilian Program

Iran is always within a year or two of some artificial “red line” regarding their advancement of a civilian nuclear program, and related only tangentially to hypothetical weapons creation.

Today saw the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) pushing yet another hysterical warning about Iran’s “breakout capability,” which is itself a concept invented entirely to paint Iran’s civilian program as a military threat, and popularized in ISIS reports.

The “breakout capability” rests on the assumption that Iran could hypothetically transform its entire perfectly legal civilian program into a military program and produce a weapon at some sufficiently scary point in the near future.

Iran’s program is, of course, constantly being inspected by the IAEA under the terms of its safeguards agreement. ISIS complained in their report that the inspections don’t actually mean the program is stopped from civilian use, which of course isn’t what inspections are for.

To put the hysteria in proper context, however, ISIS claimed four and a half years ago that Iran had already reached breakout capability, and analysts in general have been predicting that Iran was within a few years of acquiring a nuclear weapon for over 30 years now.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of