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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Iranian Nukes


Iran, threatened with referral to the U.N. Security Council over its atomic ambitions, could develop bomb-making capability in as little as five years but a 15-year timeframe is more likely, a think tank said on Tuesday. Iran resumed sensitive nuclear work last month, bringing two years of talks about its atomic programme with the European Union trio of Britain, France and Germany close to collapse. The United States and European Union suspect Iran wants to use a civilian nuclear programme as a cover for developing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies. 'If Iran threw caution to the wind and sought a nuclear weapon capability as quickly as possible, without regard for international reaction, it might be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon by the end of this decade,' said John Chipman, director of London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.
This estimate strikes me as wildly optomistic. How long did it take Pakistan and North Korea to develop nuclear capacity? Iran is a much richer country. Iran might take 15 years to develop nukes, but if so it will be because they want to proceed that slowly for some reason, not because they have to. I would bet that a crash program, without trying to hide could easily produce nuclear weapons within a couple of years, and a secret program will likely have nukes before the end of the decade, possibly sooner.


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