Building a Security Framework for a Nuclear Iran

[Washington Post] David Kay - Given what we know and what we can best-guess, it looks as if Iran is 80 percent of the way to a functioning nuclear weapon. We know, basically, that Tehran has a handle on the fissionable material. Iran imported significant amounts of raw uranium from China in 1991. It has also attempted to produce weapons-grade material, conducting secret enrichment efforts and acquiring designs, materials and samples of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment from the A.Q. Khan network. Plus, over the past 18 years, the Iranians have developed and tested state-of-the-art centrifuges and enrichment techniques. If Iran's 6,000 forthcoming new-design centrifuges were working for a year, the program could produce about five weapons. My best guess is that they are about two to four years away from accomplishing this. Obtaining that last 20 percent of the elements needed to make a nuclear weapon would take perhaps one to two years. My humble best guess is that Iran is pushing toward a nuclear-weapons capability as rapidly as it can. But if Tehran were to believe that American - not Israeli - military action is imminent, it might slow work on the elements of its program that it thinks the world can observe. The writer led the UN inspections after the Persian Gulf War that uncovered the Iraqi nuclear program.

2008-09-08 01:00:00

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