April 12, 2006


Experts: Iran's Boast May Mean Little (SALLY BUZBEE, 4/12/06, The Associated Press)

Iran's boast that it has joined "the club of nuclear countries" by enriching uranium may rattle the Western world. But diplomats and experts familiar with the program say Iran still is far from producing any weapons-grade material needed for bombs and may be exaggerating its own progress.

"The Iranians are deliberately trying to hype this up," David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said Wednesday.

He called the step that Iran announced with great fanfare Tuesday -- the use of 164 centrifuges to enrich small amounts of uranium -- merely a small and expected advance.

By trumpeting its successes so forcefully, Iran may be trying to apply political pressure -- aiming to convince the U.N. Security Council that its nuclear capability is so far along that no sanctions can dissuade it. [...]

Few experts question that Iran, if it made steady progress over many years, could create a sophisticated nuclear program and eventually make weapons-grade material. But the step announced Tuesday indicates it has a long way to go, most say.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency already knew that Iran was capable of, and had done, some enrichment on a smaller scale than that announced Tuesday, said Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In addition, there is no evidence the country has brought the 164-centrifuge chain at its Natanz facility on line in any kind of sustained way, he said. A "one-shot" test may have little meaning, he said.

Thousands of centrifuges working together in "cascades" for long periods are needed to create even the low-level fuel required for a reliable electrical-generation program. Many thousands more operating at much more sophisticated levels would be needed for weapons-grade material.

But centrifuges shatter regularly and require precise engineering and maintenance -- which means "ramping up" production is difficult.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 12, 2006 6:15 PM

I don't get why they think Iran's announcement was meant to exaggerate its progress. If they're announcing something we already knew they had done years ago, why wouldn't the logical inference be that it's meant to minimize their progress -- to persuade Western decision-makers that Iran is far behind where it actually is?

Clearly there's many in the West that would love to pretend there's no serious problem and we don't have to do anything about it. This gives those folks some "evidence." Meanwhile, talking about it helps to normalize the idea that Iran has a nuclear program.

Posted by: pj at April 12, 2006 6:27 PM

On the other hand this could be , ala Saddam Hussein, deja vu all over again.

And if that's the case we should do as GWB has: Call their bluff and blast the crap out of the whole magilla with conventional weapons, as currently planned, with all supporting targets, as currently identified. When it comes to bluffing with nukes, we simply cannot take the chance they're not bluffing. Get it Democrats, Peaceniks and chronic handwringers! We will not fold when the stakes are this high. That's the response we need as status quo for the globally insane.

Posted by: Genecis at April 12, 2006 6:58 PM

Agree with pj. This ground has been ploughed here many times, and I know OJ thinks we should wait it out, and regime change will come. I'm not sure and tend to be sceptical. If Carter had hit in 1979, things would be moot, but he didn't. I see no reason to continue Carter's policies.

Regretfully, I think we have to hit them. They don't respect anything else. Restraint is perceived as weakness and will only delay the inevitable, with greater loss of life. Why replay the Cold War? If we should have hit the Russians in 1945, why shouldn't we hit the Iranians now? I'm no clairvoyant. Don't know how things will turn out, but we need to make a move. I think Bush will.

Posted by: jdkelly at April 12, 2006 7:10 PM

Not ast all--we should help them change the regime and we should take out the Iranian, North Korean, Pakistani, and Chinese nuclear programs. But they're no threat to us.

Posted by: oj at April 12, 2006 7:37 PM


They're annoiuncing it because they know folks will get hysterical about it--the same reason we inflate WMD claims.

Posted by: oj at April 12, 2006 7:40 PM

They're no threat once they have been eliminated. Why not do it now? Certainly regime change is desirable to attack, but I see no change on the horizon. Hope over experience. Jimmy would agree with you. Wish I could.

Posted by: jdkelly at April 12, 2006 8:21 PM

oj - I think we're in agreement on the right course of action, but I disagree with your analysis of the politics.

It's hardly in Iran's interest to make "us" hysterical. It's in their interest to frighten the leftist appeasing public, while giving responsible decision-makers like Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Blair, etc. room to believe that inaction is a feasible course of action. Pretending to be much less farther along than they are, but announcing it in an hyperbolic fashion that will scare the foolish, achieves both ends.

And when did we inflate WMD claims?

Posted by: pj at April 12, 2006 8:26 PM


They don't care about us--they're just spooking the Euros and the UN who will promptly back down.

Posted by: oj at April 12, 2006 8:29 PM

pj: You know that the left is convinced that we lied about WMDs.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 12, 2006 10:21 PM

Could be. Or it could be the Democrats they're spooking.

Posted by: pj at April 12, 2006 10:35 PM

They "know" that we've been duly chastened by our Iraq experience and will never attack anyone else without UN and EU permission. Hardly the first enemy to fail to understand us completely.

Posted by: oj at April 12, 2006 10:40 PM

I'm not sure why I should believe faulty intelligence only goes one way. In my book, if we could be overconfident about Iraq's WMDs then we can also be overconfident about Iran's lack of progress. Weren't we rather surprised when Pakistan detonated a bomb?

Posted by: RC at April 13, 2006 2:39 AM

No. I remember a New Times cover story from the 70s about Pakistan's "Islamic Bomb" program, but it took another twenty years even with Chinese help.

Posted by: oj at April 13, 2006 7:09 AM

Wasn't it generally accepted for years that both India and Pakistan could make a-bombs at will, but one would hold off so long as the other did?

Posted by: David Cohen at April 13, 2006 11:29 AM

It's not that hard to make a bomb. It took us 3 years and $20 billion dollars in the 1940s, and we didn't have blueprints from North Korea (from China, from the US), computers, and other modern technical aids, or even a clear understanding of the science. Today, it would take a country with trained engineers, plans, and access to modern machine tools (which the Germans are more than happy to sell) less time and no more than a few billion dollars to get a nuclear bomb assembly line up and running. If they spend more, they can mass produce them, as Iran is preparing to do.

We would be foolish to assume that Iran hasn't had nukes for years now.

Posted by: pj at April 13, 2006 11:44 AM

Yes, anyone who became a society like ours could do it in short order.

Posted by: oj at April 13, 2006 11:50 AM

BTW, that's $20 billion in modern dollars -- it was $1.9 billion at the time.

Posted by: pj at April 13, 2006 12:11 PM

My new policy, after years of seat-of-the-pants informal research, is to ignore the advice of anybody labeled an "expert" in the media.

So far, I'm holding up surprisingly well!

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at April 13, 2006 3:02 PM

until the dprk or iran light one off, i am going to assume they don't have any.

Posted by: toe at April 13, 2006 5:51 PM