Iran and the Bomb

| Fri Aug. 20, 2010 7:29 AM PDT

When I read this headline in the New York Times — "U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent" — I was relieved. Then I read the story itself:

The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.

....The current draft of the intelligence report also describes considerable division in Iran about whether the goal of the nuclear program should be to walk right up to the threshold of building an actual bomb — which would mean having highly enriched uranium on hand, along with a workable weapons design — or simply to keep enough low-enriched uranium on hand to preserve Tehran’s options for building a weapon later.

Two things. First, a year isn't really a very long time. Second, the tone of this article suggests that the Obama administration takes for granted that Iran is, in fact, working on building a bomb. They might or might not do it, but that would be strictly a tactical decision, not an operational one. This doesn't surprise me, but a lot of people still seem to be skeptical about Iran's intentions, and this story suggests that this skepticism isn't shared by anyone in the Obama administration.

In any case, the point of the piece is that inspectors "would detect an Iranian move toward breakout within weeks," which leaves plenty of time to react. That doesn't actually sound like much time to me, though, and if this is an effort to get critics to calm down it seems unlikely to work. The Bill Kristol brigade is going to milk this for everything it's worth.

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