Biden Nominee Claims Iran Not Pursuing Nuclear Weapons, Contrary to Evidence

Republicans sound alarm on 'reckless' nominee Corey Hinderstein

Corey Hinderstein
Corey Hinderstein
August 10, 2021

Joe Biden’s pick to counter nuclear weapons proliferation claimed Iran does not intend to develop nuclear weapons, countering the plans of the Islamic Republic's radical clerical leaders and the latest intelligence from the government of Israel.

Biden last week nominated Corey Hinderstein for assistant secretary for defense nuclear proliferation at the Department of Energy, a vital position in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons to hostile countries. Hinderstein has asserted that the country is not actively pursuing nuclear weapons, even as evidence mounts to the contrary.

Hinderstein said all steps involved in Iran's nuclear development including enriching uranium levels and building up centrifuge facilities are "reversible" in an April interview, though Israeli intelligence warns Iran is just two years away from the ability to build a nuclear weapon. Hinderstein offered a similar claim in January 2020, well after the International Atomic Energy Agency found Iranian scientists engaging in covert nuclear work. "I see no indication that Iran is rushing toward a nuclear weapon," Hinderstein, the vice president of Nuclear Threat Initiative, told CNBC News in July 2019.

Republicans in the Senate are already signaling stiff opposition to the nomination. Without their support, Hinderstein would need the support of every Democrat in the upper chamber. Hinderstein’s nomination reflects the broader tone of the Biden administration's efforts to appease Iran as it engages in talks to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, which President Trump left in 2018. Earlier this year, Republicans waged an extended campaign to block Biden Pentagon nominee Colin Kahl due to his deferential views on engaging Tehran and support for a new Iran deal. Kahl was approved by just four votes after months of delays.

The Biden nominee’s comments conflict with the latest information regarding the Iranian nuclear program. Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz told reporters on Wednesday that Iran is only 10 weeks away from acquiring all of the military-grade materials it needs to build a nuclear weapon and called for Israel to "take military action" against Iran for its aggressive behavior. Iran itself insists that it can enrich uranium to 90 percent purity, the threshold needed to build nuclear weapons.

Iranian intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi warned in February that if the White House corners Iran, it will not be responsible for any consequences, a threat that experts said suggested Iran could pursue nuclear weapons.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Free Beacon Hinderstein’s nomination is "reckless" and reveals broader problems about President Biden’s dealings with the Ayatollah.

"The Biden administration has spent the last six months appeasing and dismantling pressure against the Iranian regime," Cruz said. "As a result the Ayatollah has declared open season on Americans and our allies, and is rushing toward a nuclear breakout. It's both reckless and unsurprising the administration would nominate someone who wants to look the other way at Iran's nuclear ambitions."

Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which must advance Hinderstein's nomination prior to a full Senate vote, have expressed concerns about her "naiveté" towards Iran.

"Ms. Hinderstein’s comments certainly show a naiveté about Iran’s intentions," Senator Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) told the Free Beacon. "Iran has shown every inclination to disrupt regional security and kill Americans and American allies, so to put Ms. Hinderstein in a position of authority that would bear on non-proliferation is a dangerous idea."

"I am concerned with Ms. Hinderstein’s recent statements on the Iran nuclear deal and the implications that could have for the national security of the U.S. and allies like Israel with her leading an agency in charge of maintaining our nuclear stockpile," Sen. Steve Daines (R., Mont.) said. "I will be thoroughly reviewing her statements and positions as the Senate considers her nomination."

Hinderstein and the Department of Energy did not return requests for comment. A State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon that the Biden administration is intent on reaching an agreement with Tehran.

Victoria Coates, a senior fellow at the Middle East-focused think tank Center for Security Policy, said Iran is clearly in pursuit of a nuclear weapon and statements to the contrary are "deeply dangerous" and "willfully blind."

"The Iranian regime is clearly demonstrating through their actions that they are still pursuing the nuclear ambitions that were documented in the AMAD archive," Coates said, referring to documents obtained by Israeli intelligence that lays out Iranian plans for a nuclear weapons program.

Bryan Leib, the executive director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, urged the Senate to reject the nomination."It was incredibly reckless for Corey Hinderstein to state in 2019 that she didn't see any indication that Iran is rushing towards a nuclear weapon," Leib said. "I urge the Senate to reject the nomination of Hinderstein because anyone who can't admit that Iran is a bad actor with malign goals has no business serving in our government."