Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Iran, Middle East, Politics — Rick Moran @ 9:37 am

We have heard this same tale for 3 years or more; Iran is just months away from having a workable bomb - if they chose to make one.

This time it’s German intelligence who is making the claim - a claim an official spokesman shot down almost immediately according to this Reuters article:

Germany’s foreign intelligence agency BND denied a report in a magazine on Wednesday that its experts believe Iran is capable of producing and testing an atomic bomb within six months. The report, in German weekly Stern, cited BND experts as saying Iran had mastered the enrichment technology necessary to make a bomb and had enough centrifuges to make weaponised uranium.

It quoted one expert at the agency as saying: “If they wanted to, they could detonate an atomic bomb in half a year’s time.”

But a BND spokesman said the article did not reflect the view of the agency, which is that Iran would not be able to produce an atomic bomb for years.

“We are talking about several years not several months,” the spokesman said.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for electricity generation to help it export more of its oil and gas, but Western countries suspect it of trying to make a nuclear bomb.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

Some analysts say Iran may be close to having the required material for producing a bomb, but most say the weaponisation process would then take one to two years due to technical and political hurdles.

That last is pure wishful thinking. It is more than possible Iran has a working bomb design, probably purchased from Pakistan’s “Father of the Atomic Bomb” A.Q. Khan whose black market nuclear shop helped North Korea, Libya, and other nation’s nuclear programs. Khan was a big supplier of technical knowledge to the Iranians as well asĀ  hardware during the 1990’s and there are indications from a seized laptop and other documents that Iran does indeed possess a bomb design.

The real problem Iran has is in keeping the weaponization process secret. Right now, they have more than 100 lbs of enriched uranium. It is only enriched to a level of 5% which is suitable for nuclear reactors but far short of the 85-90% necessary for bomb making. The access they have granted the IAEA inspectors has been grudging but has been enough for the IAEA to be reasonably certain they are not enriching their uranium to bomb making levels - at least at facilities we are aware of.

Jeffrey Hart recently pointed out that Iran is in the process of speeding up the process of building and making operational centrifuges. I daresay that if they were contemplating making any deal at all with Obama, they might show a little good faith by slowing down or stopping the process of bringing those centrifuges online.Rather, this would seem to indicate a desire to push their program along faster - the ultimate goal of which is to install 50,000 centrifuges at their main enrichment plant at Nantanz.

This is still not evidence that Iran is building a bomb. But if they were contemplating such action, vastly increasing the number of working centrifuges would certainly help them along.

But there is one technical hurdle that Iran would need to overcome before becoming a significant threat; warhead design for their ever growing missile count. Most experts believe it will take at least two years for Iran to marry their bomb to one of their missiles - perhaps even longer given their inexperience in the field. But on the other hand, they don’t need a missile to explode the bomb which is probably small enough to fit in the trunk of a car. That kind of threat keeps Israeli leaders awake at night.

The CIA dismisses the notion of a secret military facility where the additional enrichment can take place but they too are guessing. Even the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which stated that the mullahs abandoned their bomb program in 2003 acknowledged the existence of a secret military program until that date. It makes one wonder if such facilities could be reactivated and no one - including the IAEA - would be any the wiser.

The fact is, the entire reason for UN sanctions was that Iran has been less than forthcoming about many aspects of its nuclear program and the security council wants straight answers from the mullahs before they lift the milquetoast restrictions they’ve placed on the Iranian economy. Our intelligence people are still telling the president that Iran won’t have a bomb until 2015.

This won’t happen because Iran sees their nuclear program as a matter of national pride - as do most of the Iranian people. Even regime change might not stop the nuclear program in Iran which is something to contemplate before undertaking any such action.

It is extraordinarily doubtful the US will take any military action against Iran to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, almost the entire world agrees that a nuke in the hands of Iran would be very bad - bad for the region, bad for Israel, and bad for the west.

Obviously, Israel has not decided 100% to go after the nuclear infrastructure of Iran itself. They realize full well that any attack on Iran by them would be seen by the Iranians as an attack by the United States. And there is no doubt that US officials have been very blunt with the Israelis about our opposition to such an attack.

But if Prime Minister Netanyahu receives intelligence that indicates the Iranians are on the cusp of possessing a nuke, no consequences to the Israel-US relationship would stay his hand from launching a military operation. Otherwise, the kind of cloudy, dimly perceived intel that the Germans are leaking doesn’t change the situation at all. It certainly isn’t enough for the Israelis to act on which at this point, would seem to be all that matters when it comes to war and peace.

The German intel guess is probably right. But whether the Iranians can keep it secret if they choose to boost the enrichment of their uranium is another question.


  1. In my opinion it is a very, very, VERY foolish assumption that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon before 2015. Especially since they are spending so much time and energy extracting and purifying the U235.

    If they were intent on concentrating Pu239 it is likely that 2015 would be a reasonable date. But with U235 you can make a very simple but effective nuclear weapon. It could not be mounted on a missile, the bomb would be much too heavy but it would be simple. You or I could make one with information in Wikipedia.

    Such a bomb would be best delivered in a small truck. Suicide driver is assumed and you would loose some of your yield with the detonation at ground level but still, it would take out a small city. You would be wasting most of your U235 but at that point, who cares?

    This weapon could be completed by early next year. Once you have enough 95+% pure U235 (?10kg?) you only need a month or two to weaponize it and get it into Israel.

    This is not a difficult concept. Why can’t our current leaders understand this? Are they over thinking the idea; assuming that Iran is making a super-duper fancy suitcase Pu239 nuke? Or assuming that the Iranians are stone age savages who can’t understand the technology? They are on a “Mission from God” and they have carte blanche moral authority to take out Israel and plunge the entire world into chaos for the appearance of the 12th Imam.

    What can we do???

    Comment by Wramblin' Wreck — 7/15/2009 @ 2:39 pm

  2. Let them wipe Israel

    Comment by observer — 7/15/2009 @ 4:31 pm

  3. Once you have enough 95+% pure U235 (?10kg?)

    According to Wikipedia,
    the minimum for a gun design is 20-25kg. Little boy at 80% enrichment was supposedly 39kg. An implosion design is more frugal.
    I basically agree though on the timeline; my amateur reading is that sometime in 2010 (maybe earlier) the uncertainty in the amount of LEU produced would permit covert diversion to a hidden centrifuge line for final enrichment (months) to enough HEU to make a single bomb. i.e. they are a de-facto nuclear power right now or shortly for worst-case planning purposes. (armscontrolwonk (Rick linked one article) is as usual required reading, and comments are worth reading there.)

    You’re making assumptions about motivations that are much less arguably plausible than they were two months ago - the recent coup in Iran suggests that power hunger is a strong motivation for the current leadership. They have to assume that Israel would retaliate massively against the entire Arab and Persian world if a nuclear explosion mysteriously destroyed Tel Aviv.

    Comment by Bill Arnold — 7/16/2009 @ 12:53 pm

  4. “You would be wasting most of your U235 but at that point, who cares?”

    Just a guess here, but I think the Iranians might care. They might be crary enough to think whomever’s city they destroyed might get a little mad about that and make some kind of concerted effort to kick their ass.

    Nukes make great defensive weapons, but unless you go in for total obliteration of all possible and potential opponents they make lousy offensive weapons.

    Comment by busboy33 — 7/16/2009 @ 3:14 pm

  5. I just hope the U.S. stays out of this conflict. We are involved in foreign wars up to our eyebrows, and we are broke! It is time to start bringing the troops in ending our military aggression while beginning war crime trials for the past administration.

    I think it is also time to stop our foreign aid to Iraq, Egypt, Israel, etc. The country is bankrupt, our economy is NOT coming back since the last two administrations shipped most of our good jobs over seas.

    I blame the democrats and republicans equally - they are both puppets for the federal reserve, goldman sachs, J.P. morgan, citibank, etc. I agree with Adam Kokesh (running for congress) when he said “I was sent off to falujah (Iraq) to fight in a foreign desert, it was there that I realized that the biggest threat against America is right here at home.”

    You like most in the media, have no regard for our constitution, which prohibits us from entering into these wars for profit and it also demands that we fire the private federal reserve.

    Comment by DrKrbyLuv — 7/16/2009 @ 4:47 pm

  6. For all practical purposes, Iran already has North Korea’s bomb.

    Comment by crosspatch — 7/16/2009 @ 11:15 pm

  7. @busboy33:”… Nukes make great defensive weapons, but unless you go in for total obliteration of all possible and potential opponents they make lousy offensive weapons.”

    I agree. All the knashing of teeth over India, Pakistan, N. Korea et al over their nuclear weapons programs was basically wasted time and energy. Once you HAVE the bomb, you can’t use it.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop anyone from WANTING it. Nor can it stop everyone from worrying about worst-case-scenarios, eg., terrorists getting hold of one (since they believe, with some degree of accuracy, that they cannot be “wiped off the face of the planet”).

    Comment by DoorHold — 7/21/2009 @ 11:03 am

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