Wednesday, February 17, 2010

17-Feb-10: A growing Iranian migraine

An analytic piece entitled "Iran's Brinkmanship Is Paying Off", published by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University connects the dots over there in our near-neighbour Iran's very nasty labs and bunkers.It's a deeply worrying picture.

Iran has begun enriching uranium from 3.5 to 20% uranium-235. This demonstrates Iran's complete defiance of the international position regarding its nuclear development program.

The report points out what we did not want to know: if Iran amasses a stock of 20% enriched uranium, then the time to produce nuclear weapons has become quite short. Iran can no longer be considered a threshold state, but a full-fledged nuclear power.
On Tuesday, February 8, 2010, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, announced that Iran began enriching uranium from 3.5 to 20% uranium-235. Iran claims that it needs this uranium for its Tehran Nuclear Research Reactor (TNRR)... This statement has serious ramifications.

By way of illustration, assume that approximately 3,000 units of work are needed to produce 25 kilograms of uranium enriched to 90%, the amount and purity needed for a nuclear explosive device. Of these, some 2,350 units are needed to enrich the uranium to 3.5%. Five hundred units are needed to further enrich the uranium to 20%, and only 150 units of work are needed to enrich the uranium from 20 to 90 percent. If the enrichment facility is ready, this last step can be accomplished in a matter of a few weeks. And this is what could happen if Iran builds up a stock of 20% enriched uranium.

Recent announcements that the US is strengthening its missile defenses in the Gulf region could be taken as a sign that the US is preparing for such an eventuality. Even worse, this could be taken as a sign that the US has almost given up hope that Iran can be persuaded, either diplomatically or through severe sanctions, to at least suspend, if not dismantle its uranium enrichment operations.

If Iran has a stock of 20% enriched uranium it can no longer be considered a threshold state, but a full-fledged nuclear power. This approach is essential, if preparations are to be made to deal with such a situation.
As if we did not have enough security headaches already.

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