Obama: Iran ‘Breakout Time’ Will Shrink in 13-15 Years

State Dept Insists He Didn't Mean to Say That

In an interview today on NPR, President Obama tried to defend the Iran deal by saying it would extend the “breakout time” for Iran to a full year for at least the next 13-15 years.

“Breakout time” rests on a lot of broad assumptions of hypothetical capability of Iran’s civilian enrichment program, and what would happen if they suddenly reconfigured it to produce weapons-grade uranium (90+% enriched, as opposed to the 3.5% they are set for now).

The concept is used by hawks to claim Iran is “x months from nukes” even though they are not even attempting to make them, and is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been able to claim Iran is a year from nukes for several decades.

During the course of the comments, Obama said that technological improvements in centrifuges mean that in 13 to 15 years the “breakout time” would be essentially zero.

Instead of reassuring about this shutting Israel up for 13-15 years, it riled everybody up with claims it assured a nuclear weapon in 13-15 years, though again it rests on a hypothetical action Iran isn’t taking.

Still, the State Department was quick to disavow Obama’s comments, insisting he didn’t mean to say what he said, and that the 13 year scenario would only happen without the existing deal.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.