The Other Sides of Renegotiating the JCPOA Iran Nuclear Agreement

April 15, 2021

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile
  • Military


Anthony H. Cordesman

Author's Title: 

Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy


Center for Strategic and International Studies

So far, most of the debate over the JCPOA agreement has been a repetition of the original debates that took place before the agreement was reached in 2015 and while the current agreement was first being negotiated. The public side of this debate focused almost exclusively on preventing Iran from getting enough fissile uranium and plutonium for a nuclear weapon, and it made no effort to describe what kind of nuclear weapon or nuclear force posture would be involved, what delivery systems would be involved, or what level of nuclear weapons yield and nuclear force Iran would or could acquire in a breakout effort.

These negotiations largely took place more than a half decade ago, and they took place at a time when few estimated how quickly Iran’s missile and UCAV/drone forces could develop, how quickly it could acquire conventional precision-strike capabilities, how much it could expand its regional ties and influence, and what the potential effects could be of new Russian and Chinese arms transfers to Iran’s other forces.

They did not attempt to address the overall stability of the future military balance in the Gulf and MENA region or to reach compromises that were valid at the time – assuming that the agreement would be the first step in achieving a broader level of stability in the region.

The U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran’s development progress, Israel’s new attacks on Iran’s underground centrifuge facility at Natanz, and the increasing level of instability in the region have all changed these conditions. This does not necessarily mean that the JCPOA should not be revived, but it does mean that the JCPOA should be addressed in very different terms.


Read the rest of the commentary at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.