As a first round of talks toward a long-term comprehensive nuclear agreement between the P5+1 states and Iran began Tuesday, critics warned that the Vienna negotiations could end in a deal – or a stalemate — that would leave Iran dangerously close to a nuclear weapon.
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank, a strong sanctions proponent, warned that during the months of comprehensive negotiations, Iran would still have the capacity to hone technologies that would advance its ability to weaponize its stockpiles of enriched uranium. Research on delivery systems, warhead designs, nuclear triggers and ballistic missiles, he cautioned, could continue apace, unfettered, for months.
"Iran is gaining itself a minimum of six months to work on those elements, maybe longer," he told The Times of Israel. "Iran has shown a willingness to compromise on the parts of its nuclear program that it has already perfected."
In addition to weapons delivery systems, Dubowitz warned, Iran would be able to continue research and development on advanced centrifuges, although it is forbidden from installing any new centrifuges under the terms of an interim nuclear deal it reached with world powers in November 2013. Advanced centrifuges would enable Iran to use fewer centrifuges to enrich its uranium to near-weapons-grade levels.
Carney responded to critics who, like Dubowitz, have been complaining that the interim agreement didn't curtail in a meaningful way Tehran's ability to break out to a bomb.