Report: Iranian nuke within months

Eiland downplays 'Der Spiegel' report, says enrichment only 1 of 3 benchmarks on way to bomb.

eiland cropped 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
eiland cropped 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
While a set of European-run simulations could indicate that Iran will be ready to build an atomic bomb sooner than anyone predicted, uranium enrichment is only one of three benchmarks the rogue nation will have to reach before it is ready to launch a nuclear attack against Tel Aviv, former National Security Council head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday. On Friday, Germany's Der Spiegel newspaper reported on a computer simulation run at the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, through which scientists modeled the uranium enrichment capabilities of centrifuges operating at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. The results of those tests were not reassuring - showing that even if the centrifuges were operating at a mere 25 percent efficiency, Iran would possess enough enriched uranium to create an atomic device by the end of 2010. But if the efficiency were 100% - and even if Iran has not (as it is believed to have) made improvements on the Pakistani-style centrifuges it operates - a sufficient quantity of enriched uranium to build a nuclear device could be ready by the end of 2008. But Eiland emphasized that enriched uranium was only one of three developments necessary for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. After the uranium was ready, he said, the material must be weaponized before it could be deployed. And after weaponization, Iran must have appropriate means of deployment. Until 2003, both the US and Israel agree, Iran had a plant that dealt with weaponization, but it has since disappeared. As a result, the US intelligence assessment is that weaponization is not taking place - but Israel, said Eiland, believes that the absence of proof does not necessarily mean that no weaponization is underway at a clandestine location. And, warned Eiland, even if no weaponization were currently under way using existing knowledge, it would only take Iran six to 12 months to weaponize the necessary amount of uranium once it was obtained. Eiland said that as far as he knew - without taking into consideration the European simulation - Iran did not have a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium for weaponization. The US National Intelligence Estimate report released in December 2007 claimed that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program and estimated that Iran would not develop a nuclear weapon before 2010. Even the US report, however, did not deny that Iran was continuing to enrich uranium - a process that can be adapted for either civilian or military purposes.