Speaking before the House Appropriations’ Defense Subcommittee on March 23, 2023, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran’s nuclear program is now at “inflection point.”
That the Islamic Republic has made vast progress toward a nuclear weapon over the past two years is not news, though partisans debate the reason.
They should not.
While President Joe Biden’s supporters blame that progress on President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the timeline of Iranian nuclear enrichment shows a much closer correlation to Biden’s decision to end “maximum pressure.”
Iran today acknowledges enrichment to 90 percent, not only far above a level needed for civilian power generation but also above the approximately 80 percent enrichment level of the nuclear bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima.
A Change in Policy on Iran?
The real surprise in Milley’s testimony was his statement that “The United States remains committed, as a matter of policy, that Iran will not have a fielded, nuclear weapon.”
Words matter, and Milley’s insertion of “fielded” is the national security equivalent of a White House holiday weekend embarrassing document dump. In effect, Milley shifts US policy from denying Iran a nuclear weapon to acknowledging that the United States will not take action so long as a nuclear Iran does not deploy its nuclear weapons.
Biden, Milley, and their wordsmiths may believe they are clever, but they fool no one.
First, the new policy hemorrhages US credibility in the region. Fifteen years ago, Senator Hillary Clinton told Gulf Arab allies that the United States would extend a nuclear umbrella over them should Iran ever develop a nuclear weapon. Far from reassuring them, her statement caused an uproar as, for decades prior, every US administration assured them that the United States would never allow Iran to get that far. At a time when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are reconsidering their ties to China and Russia relative to the United States, this is a dangerous message to send.
It gets worse. Milley’s “fielded” condition is nonsense. The time to stop Iran’s nuclear program is before it develops a nuclear weapon. Is Milley saying that the United States would bomb or go to war against Iran only once it becomes a nuclear power? Is the Biden administration willing to risk nuclear war? While I personally oppose bombing Iran, if military force is on the table, would it not make more strategic sense to strike Iran before it gained nuclear deterrence?
There is also the question of policy consistency. If the condition for military action is fielding nuclear weapons, then why has the United States not attacked North Korea? That the United States has not struck the Hermit Kingdom 17 years after its nuclear test suggests further highlights the disingenuousness of Milley’s remarks. Nor is it clear the United States could detect “fielding” if, by that, Milley means assembling a weapon that Iran theoretically could launch from a truck bed or train.
American security is at its worst when its officials believe their own spin. Either Milley misspoke in which case he must urgently clarify his remarks or Biden has given up preventing Iran’s nuclear weapons breakout.
Either way, every Arab ally and Israel must conclude they cannot count on the United States. If they wish to prevent the world’s greatest state sponsor of terror from developing a nuclear arsenal, they must act unilaterally and now.
Author Expertise and Biography
Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005). Follow him on Twitter: @MRubin1971.
March 24, 2023 at 4:56 pm
Watch as fat lazy Millie tries to let Israel take care of the problem.
March 24, 2023 at 6:39 pm
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany need to wake up and acquire their own nuclear deterrence. The US will not protect them.
I am surprised that they are so resistant to having their own nuclear forces. They should work together. Japan has the plutonium, SK the missiles, Australia the needed testing ranges and could be helped by GB in their nuclear endeavours.
Just because the US has poor left wing and right wing leadership, does not mean US allies need to doom themselves by following the US off the cliff of nuclear annihilation
March 24, 2023 at 8:24 pm
The inevitable will arrive whether US likes it or not.
US makes the very bed it lies on today and US actions in the middle east region over the past many or numerous decades have made it a powder keg.
US probably doesn’t know iran now has a very good relationship with moscow except for a small handful of people with IQ of above 185.
Just very recently, north korea tested a new underwater nuclear weapon that has characteristics which closely match those of the russian poseidon underwater drone.
Iran could soon have its own version of the device as well.
Just think. Who is responsible for all that or who’s totally to blame for it.
March 24, 2023 at 8:28 pm
Well said, Dr. Rubin.
General Milley is among the least trustworthy and competent of the hacks in Biden’s regime.
March 24, 2023 at 8:34 pm
Perhaps Miley knows more than he is letting on. We have classified abilities, including cyber warfare that is never accounted for in these ‘simulations’.
March 24, 2023 at 9:39 pm
How can we prevent them when the entire premise of the Iran nuclear deal was to properly fund the development until they were ready in our eyes to have nuclear weapons.
March 24, 2023 at 11:52 pm
The day Rubin, a Zionist Israel shill, realized that the US doesn’t own the world and cannot coerce the entire world to Israel’s benefit!
March 24, 2023 at 11:54 pm
As the matter of fact United States has a mere 4% of the world population.
Those who made themselves believe that the US has the power to forge the entire world according to its Will were always lying to themselves.
I’m from Iran and not for a minute I ever believed that United States would ever be able to stop us should our leaders decide to make nukes.
March 25, 2023 at 12:11 pm
This is an interesting article:
The author states: “While I personally oppose bombing Iran…”
Given the tenor of previous articles written by the author… I was surprised.
(Worth an article in itself… although, I’m sure the author has explained his position before.)
@ this point discussion of the “Iran Question” needs to incorporate the Saudi-Iran rapprochement brokered by China.
How does this development effect the Middle East?
How does it effect the United States’ geopolitical relationships in the Middle East?
How does it effect Iran’s nuclear program?
The U. S. has been left silently simmering, mostly quiet because to speak of it (Saudi-Iran diplomatic relations) is to acknowledge a diplomatic turn of events the U. S. seemingly wasn’t expecting and suggests an irrelevance which, given the Post World War geopolitical & diplomatic dominance, is striking.
Why? May I suggest because U. S. diplomacy has been stuck on stupid quite awhile now. Stuck in past failures… and because of past failures are never admitted… but never forgotten… and are seemingly forever nursed… we never move on to a more productive diplomatic path.
We keep wanting to reverse diplomatic failures… in a way that can’t work… didn’t work before… and certainly can’t work in this new geopolitical environment.
Iran is a classic example.
The Shaw fell (possibly, secretly encouraged by the U. S.) the Ayatollah’s took over, Iraq invaded with U. S. support, but the proxy war ended as a battlefield stalemate, and more importantly, Iran’s government survived (Western emigre’s were supposed to flock back to Iran after the Ayatollahs’ expected overthrow by Saddam and guide Iran to an even stronger Western tilt than previously under the Shaw.)
When this several step geopolitical stratagem failed… the U. S. froze any meaningful diplomatic approach to Iran… and went into a long seething “take my marbles and go home” approach to Iran… with a constant message of hostility and military threat.
And other similar diplomatic attitudes and approaches to other countries has self-sabotaged American diplomacy.
When you want to Rule the World, but your reach is greater than your grasp… you screw up big time.
The U. S. needs to accept reality: the multi-polar world already exists… the genie is already out of the bottle… it can’t be put back… too late.
American Foreign Policy will flounder & fail until the U. S. Government takes into account this great shifting from a uni-polar world, dominated by the United States, into a multi-polar world… dominated by no one single country, as before.
It will take tact, brains, and skill to navigate this New World where “MY WAY or the highway” doesn’t work anymore… if it ever really worked as well as many in the foreign policy elite thought it did.
(Many countries have long chaffed… silently under America’s high-handed, bullying tactics.. and are now looking to break away from U. S. bullying.)
The answer: the Yankee Spirit of cutting win-win deals, which in the 19th Century, the “Yankee Trader” had perfected before the U. S. became the hegemon of the Post War World.
So, we’ve done it before… it’s like riding a bike… we can do it again.
Iran already has (non-fielded) nukes
March 25, 2023 at 2:16 pm
The official story is that Iran would need 6 months to two years after accumulation of required fissile material, to construct a nuclear device.
That’s an absurd lie and here is why:
1- no country ever accumulated required fissile material and ONLY THEN conducted weaponization to make nukes.
These two processes are fundamentally different and do not dependent on each other.
Take American Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs as an example. Both were ready long before the fissile material was ready.
2-“the nuclear archive” Shows Iran pretty much finished weaponization by 2003 and the only bottleneck to have working nukes were the required fissile material. We don’t even know the extent of Iran’s weaponization work before 2003 because Israel has only published a small fraction of the nuclear archive.
3- Iran never stopped the weaponization after 2003. Never admitted or disclosed its weaponization efforts to IAEA nor agreed to any interview of personnel involved. In other words, Iran’s weaponization effort never stopped after 2003 and no doubt a lot of progress has been made on that front in the past 20 years. If Iran had one finalized and frozen design in 2003, it most likely has several more advanced ones today!
4- admitting Iran has finished physical nukes ready for the insertion of the nuclear “pit” puts a lot of pressure on western countries to “do something” about it. Hence the lie that
“Iran weaponization efforts stopped in 2003”
“Iran would need 2 years to make nukes”.
Both claims laughable and absurd on their face.
Conclusion: Iran already has nuclear devices ready for the nuclear pit insertion into them. Hence the term “fielded nuclear weapon” used by Milley.
March 25, 2023 at 7:35 pm
The USA has been far more effective at deterring its allies from developing nuclear weapons than in deterring its enemies from doing so.
Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, etc. all have all needed knowhow and resources but have been held back by US pressure. Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan and now Iran all managed to get nukes despite the USA not wishing them to do so.
March 25, 2023 at 8:44 pm
So, why bomb Iran instead of North Korea, that already has the bomb.? Better yet, why don’t we focus on fixing our country before starting another war?