In an annual report to Congress March 12, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said Iran could not produce weapons-grade uranium without it being detected. It already has.
While the Islamic republic has had some progress in its nuclear program, Mr. Clapper said, “We assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon’s worth of [weapons-grade uranium] before this activity is discovered.” He added, “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television that same week, President Obama said Iran is still “over a year or so” away from building a nuclear weapon. Mr. Obama said then that during his stay in Israel, he would reiterate the U.S. stance to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability.
He’s too late.
Inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency in their last two trips to Tehran in January and February failed to get approval to visit several key sites, including the Parchin military facility suspected of carrying out tests on nuclear-bomb components. The agency clearly stated in its Feb. 21 report that Iran is on a potential second path to the bomb through its Arak heavy-water plant, which is to go live next year and could provide enough plutonium for several atomic bombs.
Since Mr. Obama took office, the regime has mastered the technology to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level, which is 80 percent of the way to weapons grade. Now it is mass-producing more efficient centrifuges — more than 10,000 at the Natanz facility alone — and has enough low-enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs.
Mr. Obama sought to talk his way out of the crisis, and Iran agreed — but only to stall for more time so it could continue to build the bomb.
Images of a secret nuclear site known as Quds and recently revealed details of its operation clearly show the regime has crossed the nuclear red line. In collaboration with North Korea, it is now steps away from arming its missiles with nuclear warheads.
According to information from a high-ranking intelligence officer assigned to the Ministry of Defense, the regime’s scientists have made a significant breakthrough in not only enriching to weapons grade, but have converted the highly enriched uranium into metal, a key step in building nuclear warheads. Moreover, successfully using the metal in making a neutron reflector indicates the final stages for a nuclear-weapons design that would be a two-stage, more sophisticated and much more powerful nuclear bomb.
Regime scientists are also working on a plutonium bomb, and they have at the Quds site 24 kilograms (about 53 lbs.) of plutonium, sufficient for several atomic bombs. The scientists are in the last stage of putting together a nuclear warhead, and are using polonium and beryllium, which would serve as the trigger and the tamper, respectively, for the bomb.
The site, which is almost 15 miles from the Fordow nuclear facility, has a capacity for 8,000 centrifuges and currently has three operational chambers with 19 cascades of 170 to 174 centrifuges enriching uranium. As of three months ago, there were 76 kilograms (about 167 lbs.) of 20 percent and 48 kilograms (about 105 lbs.) of more than 40 percent enriched uranium stock at the site.
This secret site consists of two facilities built deep in a mountain and a missile facility that has been equipped with more than 380 missile depots and launching pads. The facility can house large intercontinental ballistic missiles, most likely the Shahab 3 and, possibly, the North Korean Taepodong II.
Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, reviewed the imagery and human intelligence and called for a congressional hearing.
“The newly discovered underground complex looks like the kind of enormous complexes built by the USSR during the Cold War and by Russia today,” Mr. Pry said. “The imagery suggests a top-priority military site.”
The location of the site amid an Iranian missile armory, protected by a vast array of defensive and offensive missiles, is consistent with the intelligence reporting that the site is for the final stages of nuclear weapons development. The complex appears to be the most heavily protected site in Iran.
“One can infer from the descriptions, some design characteristics of parts for making implosion plutonium weapons and two-stage atomic weapons,” Mr. Pry said. “The latter is a design far more sophisticated than the Hiroshima bomb that could have a much higher yield and possibly produce an explosion 50 times greater than Hiroshima.”
Fritz Ermarth, who served in the CIA and as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, reviewed the imagery. “[T]his imagery strongly suggests that Iran is working on what we used to call an ‘objective force.’ That is the objective of a deployed force of nuclear weapons on mobile missiles, normally based in deep underground sites for survivability against even nuclear attack, capable of rapid deployment,” he said.
Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative and chief negotiator on nuclear and space treaties with the Soviet Union, said, “Most notable is the fact that Iran has already demonstrated its ability to launch satellites into low earth orbit. When they also gain confidence in their nuclear weapons, they can then use those launchers to place nuclear weapons in earth orbit and detonate them over wherever they wish, creating an electromagnetic pulse that could level its strategic playing field with all of Western civilization. This is perhaps their ultimate asymmetric weapon.”
The regime’s strategists have long thought that the West fears another major conflict in the Middle East and has no option but to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.
Negotiations and sanctions will not divert the regime from its pursuit of the nuclear bomb. A policy of containment and relying on mutually assured destruction will be an even more destructive policy. A nuclear-armed Iran will create a nightmare of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and world peace and the global economy will become hostage to the radicals who rule Iran and their proxy terrorists.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010).