Over the weekend, the AP ran a story based on high-level Israeli sources suggesting that Iran’s nuclear program has “crossed the threshold,” which implied that the program is now militarized:
Iran is now capable of producing atomic weapons, Israel’s top military intelligence officer said Sunday, sounding the highest-level warning that Israel’s archenemy has achieved independent nuclear capability.
At a Cabinet meeting, the chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, did not say Iran already has an atomic bomb, participants said. However, he said, Iran has “crossed the threshold” and has the expertise and materials needed for one.
Meanwhile, American intelligence sources disagree and reported their dissent to a US Senate committee this week. The Post today quoted Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair:
“The overall situation — and the intelligence community agrees on this — [is] that Iran has not decided to press forward . . . to have a nuclear weapon on top of a ballistic missile,” Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Our current estimate is that the minimum time at which Iran could technically produce the amount of highly enriched uranium for a single weapon is 2010 to 2015.”
Readers may remember that I pointed out similar apparently contradictory statements about Iran’s nuclear material recently delivered on weekend TV progams by high-level US officials just last week.
What’s going on?
Iran has demonstrated that it can enrich uranium. So far, none of the uranium has been enriched to weapons-grade, but the technological skill required isn’t all that substantial. This is a huge flaw in the Nonproliferation Treaty and I’ve previously discussed the much-needed Additional Protocol to the NPT, which would improve verification.
Some experts, like Harvard’s Graham Allison, call for an end to nuclear enrichment. The big mistakes were made when Ike promoted Atoms for Peace and the NPT reflected his guarantee allowing non-nuclear states to pursue a wide range of “peaceful” technologies.
As for the moment, Blair notes that the Israelis are engaged in classic worst-case planning:
“The Israelis are far more concerned about it, and they take more of a worst-case approach to these things from their point of view,” he said.