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05 March 2006

Iran's Nukes - Not Ready for Prime Time?

A kind of confusing article in the Times today provides a number of perspectives on Iran's progress with its nuclear program. The general thrust of the article is that Iran has a good deal of work to do, and rapid progress at this point seems unlikely.
Obstacles, the experts say, remain at virtually every step on the atomic road. The most significant, they add, involve the two most technically challenging aspects of the process — converting uranium ore to a toxic gas and, especially, spinning that gas into enriched atomic fuel.
The Iranians need to become expert at doing both these since no international help is available. Manufacturing centrifuges to spin out the U235 sounds particularly daunting. They are working off blueprints purchased from the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Khan and having problems:
[W]hen operators shut down an experimental cascade of 164 centrifuges at Natanz, about 50 of them broke or crashed...Iran must replace and repair the broken machines and prepare the cascade for operation. Then comes the really hard part: if all goes well, the Iranians must mass-produce thousands of centrifuges and learn to run them in concert, like a large orchestra.
So it sounds like Iran is quite a few years away from being able to threaten anyone. Being a Shiite theocracy with no natural allies among the nations of the world, Iran is unlikely to secure assistance among current nuclear powers to help them along. This should give us a few years to experiment with different policy approaches and stumble on one that works. The Bush administration is pushing for a broad coalition to stop the Iranian program in its tracks, fearing that any early success could lead rapidly to a weapons program. This may or may not be a good strategy, but we clearly have time to find out if it works. In the meantime, even Israel should find solace in knowing that even Iran knows that using a nuclear weapon would mean no more Iran.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the USA is being a tad paranoid here. Iran has zero nukes and is unlikely to have one in the decade, and the USA has 12,000 nukes and effective delivery devices.

Iran's real concerns have always been with the sunni nations. Saudi Arabia already has 50 Chinese CSS-2 nuclear-capable medium range ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, and rumors of their secret acquisition in 1996 of a small number of chinese nuclear weapons.
With sunni powers surrounding Iran, steadily gaining in technology with assistance of the USA, Iran's shiite state is under mortal threat, and thats no joke.

Iran has been secretly trading with Israel for high technology, thats how bad the sunni threat is. If they are willing to blow up each others mosques (iraq), then its obvious that a sunni/shiite war is possibly on the horizon, with Iran squarely in the crosshairs.

Sorry Dubya, not everything is about you, don't be so arrogant.

March 26, 2006 8:04 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Very good points. There's no reason to rush into anything here - we have plenty of time to see how this develops and what to do about it.

March 27, 2006 7:08 PM  
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