With Americans distracted by their own economic problems and the media swooning over Barack Obama, we learn:
Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.
The figures detailing Iran’s progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country’s main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.
Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.
As I reported earlier this week, Israeli officials are saying that they are prepared to do what it takes to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and this has now been more explicitly corroborated by other reports. One of the early challenges of the Obama administration will be to determine how it would respond to any preemtive action by Israel, including any likely consequences of such action. Or, alternatively, what diplomatic tools he would use to prevent Iran from making the political decision to kick out inspectors and go independent, at which point Iran would possibly be able to build a weapon within a year. Personally, as an American, I’m not comfortable delegating this job to the Israelis, but I don’t view it as feasible that Obama would launch a preemtive strike should it come to that. Either way, can we now finally discredit last year’s national intellegence estimate that claimed Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003?