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The China-Iran Nuclear Pipeline

How to Shut It Down

Dark clouds are seen over Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, July 9, 2015. Leonhard Foeger / Reuters

President Barack Obama has said that the final nuclear deal with Iran will “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has likewise said that the deal “shuts off the four principal pathways to a bomb for Iran”—the Natanz uranium facility, the Fordow uranium facility, the Arak plutonium facility, and covert Iranian attempts to produce fissile material.

The Natanz, Fordow, and Arak pathways would involve Iran building a bomb mostly through work at known locations, with technology and materials that it already possesses. So long as the deal is in place, keeping these three pathways closed will depend largely on the vigor with which the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitor known locations and respond to readily detectible violations.

The fourth pathway, in contrast, would include Iran creating a secret, parallel new nuclear

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