Iran: Looking Beyond the Assassination

November 30, 2020

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile
  • Military


Anthony H. Cordesman


Center for Strategic and International Studies

Important as the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may be, it is only one part of the story. Like the killing of Qassem Soleimani, it has a major political impact and makes it even harder for the United States to negotiate with Iran. At the same time, both the assassination and Iran’s nuclear program need to be kept in a broader strategic context.

How Far Has Iran Gotten Toward a Nuclear Device?

First, no one scientist dominated Iran’s program. It is the cumulative result of efforts that began under the Shah in the 1970s, and which have evolved ever since. It also now draws on some 75 years of data and leaks since the first nuclear weapon – especially data on how France, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea have acquired their nuclear weapons.

By 2013, there already were estimates that Iran had all of the technology it needed to make a weapon within a year if it could devote all of its enrichment activity to producing weapons-grade material. Such estimates were probably exaggerated then, and they may be exaggerated now, but one needs to be careful about the probable success of arms control efforts like the JCPOA.


Read the full commentary at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.