WASHINGTON – United States President Barack Obama’s refusal in a White House briefing this month to announce a “red line” in regard to Iran’s nuclear program represented another in a series of rebuffs of pressure from Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a statement that the US will not accept its existing stocks of low enriched uranium.
The Obama rebuff climaxed a months-long internal debate between Obama and Gates over the “breakout capability” issue that surfaced in the news media last April.
Gates has been arguing that Iran could turn its existing stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) into a capability to build a nuclear weapon secretly by using covert enrichment sites and undeclared sources of uranium.
That Gates argument implies that the only way to prevent Iran having enough bomb-grade uranium for nuclear weapons is to insist that Iran must give up most of its existing stock of LEU, which could be converted into enough bomb-grade uranium for one bomb.
But Obama has publicly rejected the idea that Iran’s existing stock of LEU represents a breakout capability on more than one occasion. He has stated that Iran would have to make an overt move to have a “breakout capability” that would signal its intention to have a nuclear weapon.