White House 'Worries' Iran Could Be Nuclear Weapon Ready in Weeks

The White House says it "definitely worries" that Iran could have nuclear weapons within the coming weeks after the country fast-tracked its estimated procurement timeline from a year's time.

"What Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken said during his testimony this morning was that [Iran's] breakout period is down from about a year—which is what we knew it was during the deal—to just a few weeks or less," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a Tuesday press briefing.

"It definitely worries us," she said.

On Tuesday, Blinken testified that Iran could now acquire a nuclear weapon in a "matter of weeks," bumping up the previously projected timeline.

"Their program has galloped forward," Blinken told senators.

White House Iran Nuclear
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that since the U.S. pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, "Iran has rapidly accelerated its nuclear program and reduced cooperation with international inspectors." Psaki gives remarks at a daily press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 26, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Getty Images/Anna Moneymaker

Both Blinken and Psaki blamed the speed-up on former President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal, saying the deal helped set back the time it would take for Iran to procure a weapon.

"Certainly that is a direct impact of pulling out of the nuclear deal, making us less safe, giving us less visibility," Psaki said.

"Under the Iran nuclear deal, Iran's nuclear program was tightly constrained and monitored by international inspectors," she said.

She continued: "Since the Trump administration seized U.S. participation in the deal, Iran has rapidly accelerated its nuclear program and reduced cooperation with international inspectors in non-performance of Iran nuclear deal commitments."

In May 2018, Trump unilaterally terminated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

The move isolated the U.S. from its Western allies who had worked for more than two years to negotiate an agreement among seven countries, including France, Germany, and Britain.

On Monday, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called for a meeting on restoring the JCPOA to be "held as soon as possible."

A renewed deal would likely result in lifting a portion of U.S. sanctions on Iran, but removing the restrictions has been viewed by some as a threat to U.S. national security.

Several members of Congress, including Democrat Senator Joe Manchin, have warned against reviving the deal. But Blinken defended efforts to do so on Tuesday, telling senators that getting back into the agreement "would be the best way" to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon "on short notice."