Experts outside of the government studying new information from the International Atomic Energy Agency have concluded that Iran’s recent resumption of the manufacture of highly enriched uranium to near bomb-grade levels will give it the capability to manufacture a bomb in about a month.
The New York Times reports that Iran could have enough fuel for a bomb within a month if it followed an expedited timeline. This doesn’t mean Iran has a workable design or a means to deliver it, although it’s widely assumed that 20 years of research would have produced at least one design capable of achieving success.
As for a delivery vehicle, it’s unlikely that Iran has been able to construct a nuclear warhead that could fit atop one of their long-range missiles. But, again, Iran has had 20 years to perfect a design–and if it hasn’t gotten there yet, surely that can’t be more than a year or two away.
All of this suggests that time is rapidly running out. And the most interested observer of all is Israel. Newly installed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has promised that Israel “will do everything to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.”
A report issued on Monday by the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group that specializes in analyzing the findings of the United Nations agency, concludes that a race over the summer to enrich uranium at 60 percent purity — just below bomb grade — has put Iran in a position to produce the fuel for a single bomb in “as short as one month.” A second weapon’s worth of fuel, it says, could be produced in less than three months, and a third in less than five.
But a lead author of the report, David Albright, cautioned on Friday that Iran’s actions signaled an effort by the new government of President Ebrahim Raisi to seek new terms, more favorable to Iran, in negotiations over restoring the 2015 deal that Mr. Trump rejected. There have been no formal negotiations since June, a month before Mr. Raisi, a conservative Iranian jurist, won the presidential election. American officials say they have been expecting that he will seek to start the negotiations anew, demanding far more sanctions relief for Iran.
“We have to be careful,” Mr. Albright, the institute’s head, said Friday at a news conference, “not to let them scare us.”
Albright is well respected in arms control circles by both sides. But this is real enrichment occurring. Iran is within a few weeks of being able to possess enough nuclear fuel to construct a terrible weapon. It’s not a bluff. It’s not an attempt to “scare us.” It’s an attempt to blackmail the United States into lifting sanctions that are currently preventing Iran from going to war with Israel and realizing its dreams of regional hegemony while spreading its fanatical extremism across the region.
The Biden administration is acknowledging that there is no turning back the clock. Whatever limited success the 2015 nuclear deal achieved in limiting Iran’s program — and what the U.S. gave up as far as leverage was far more than it received in Iranian concessions — any deal inked today would not put the nuclear genie back in the bottle.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken:
“I’m not going to put a date on it,” he told reporters, “but we are getting closer to the point at which a strict return to compliance” with the old deal “does not reproduce the benefits that agreement achieved.”
He said that “as time goes on and as Iran continues to make advances in its nuclear program, including spinning more sophisticated centrifuges, enriching more material, learning more, there is a point at which it would be very difficult to regain all of the benefits” of the restrictions Iran agreed to six years ago. “We’re not at that point yet, but it’s getting closer,” he added.
Blinken is delusional if he’s serious. Iran can’t “unlearn” the nuclear fuel cycle and will never agree to give up its nuclear capability unless it is forced to. Biden is reluctant to go to war to prevent the ultimate weapon from falling into the hands of fanatical Jew-haters, but Israel, which recognizes the existential threat, is not.
The showdown would appear to be inevitable. How Biden responds will determine the course of world history for the next century — if there is a next century.