President-elect Donald Trump has said that his "number one priority is to dismantle" the Iran nuclear accord, but dozens of the nation's preeminent scientists and nuclear experts sent the incoming leader a strongly-worded letter (pdf) on Monday urging him not to do so, saying that the deal "has dramatically reduced the risk" of nuclear weapons in Iran.
In turn, the scientists note, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is formally known, "has lowered the pressure felt by Iran's neighbors to develop their own nuclear weapons options and none has announced a new dual-use nuclear program of its own," referring to possible military use of civilian nuclear power technology.
The letter, initiated by IBM Fellow Emeritus Richard L. Garwin, is meant to serve as an "assessment of the current status" in Iran and concludes that, as a result of the agreement, "the breakout time for Iran to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon has increased to many months, from just a few weeks."
Garwin is described by the New York Times as "a physicist who helped design the world's first hydrogen bomb and has long advised Washington on nuclear weapons and arms control," and "is among the last living physicists who helped usher in the nuclear age."
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Other signatories include Jerome I. Friedman, 1990 Nobel Prize winner for physics; John Parmentola, former senior VP of General Atomics and former director for Research and Laboratory Management with the U.S. Army; and Victor Gilinsky, a former member of the international Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
After the JCPOA was successfully negotiated in August 2015, Garwin and others sent a similar letter to U.S. President Barack Obama praising the deal as "an innovative agreement," that "will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future non-proliferation agreements."
Trump—who declared in a March speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that "his number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran"—is now seen as a threat to that security. What's more, the president-elect has surrounded himself with a number of outspoken critics of the deal, including Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), his appointee to lead the CIA.
The scientists conclude by urging the incoming leader to "preserve this critical U.S. strategic asset."