- Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers it would take Iran “several” months to produce a nuke.
- The top US general said that the US military has “developed multiple options” for a potential response.
- Iran’s nuclear program has rapidly advanced since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Thursday told congressional lawmakers that Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within two weeks and it would then take only take “several more months” for Tehran to produce an “actual nuclear weapon.”
“But the United States remains committed, as a matter of policy, that Iran will not have a fielded nuclear weapon,” Milley said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing, underscoring that the US military has “developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider if or when Iran ever decides to develop an actual nuclear weapon.”
Before then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the JCPOA — in May 2018, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear weapon was roughly a year. That timeline has been drastically shortened in the period since, and tensions between Tehran and Washington have reached historic heights in the process.
Milley’s comments on Thursday built on remarks from Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, who last month told a House Armed Services Committee hearing that “Iran’s nuclear progress since we left the JCPOA has been remarkable.”
“Back in 2018, when the previous administration decided to leave the JCPOA, it would have taken Iran about 12 months to produce one bomb’s worth of fissile material,” Kahl said. “Now it would take about 12 days.”
In February, UN experts said Tehran has enriched uranium to 84% — close to weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran has repeatedly maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful, an assertion that has been met with widespread skepticism in the West.
Restoring the JCPOA deal was a top foreign policy priority for President Joe Biden when he first entered the White House. But negotiations to revive it have fallen apart, and the administration has since signaled that the effort to save the agreement is “not on our agenda.” Iran’s support for Russia in the Ukraine war and its brutal crackdown on anti-government protests have not helped matters.
During a visit to the Middle East last July, Biden said that the US would use military force as a “last resort” to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.