Obama Is Correct, About Three Months (Revelation 15:2)

How long would it take Iran to develop nukes? No one knows the answer for sure

By Kristina Wong

Experts aren’t sure how long it would take Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

The timeframe is key to the debate surrounding the administration’s negotiations with Iran and other countries on a nuclear deal that would place limits on Iran’s program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The Senate this week approved legislation that will allow Congress to review a deal — and to vote to disapprove it. The House will take up the bill next week.

A key factor that lawmakers will consider is the risk that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, and they will want to know whether any deal negotiated with Iran is extending the time Tehran would need to develop a bomb.

“How far along is Iran in the weaponization process?” Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at an April hearing. “If Iran were to enrich enough fissile material to achieve a ‘breakout,’ how long would it then take them to then build a warhead and mate it to missile? We must have answers to these questions.”

The Obama administration has warned that Iran needs just two or three months of “breakout time,” or, time it would take for Iran to have enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon.

But it would still take more time for Iran to create a weapon.

“What this means is that even if Iran crosses that line, it would still have a long way to go to have a nuclear weapon it can use, let alone a stockpile of nuclear weapons,” said Ariane Tabatabai, an associate at the Belfer Center’s International Security Program.

President Obama said in March 2013 that it would take over a year for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon.

The year-long assessment tracks with an estimate from Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. In a September 2012 address at the United Nations, he indicated it would take about a year for Iran to develop a bomb.Later that year, he switched to the earliest time estimated to get enough fissile material, which at the time he said was “six months.”

People get confused between the two definitions, of getting enough material and developing a bomb, said Frank Von Hippel, professor and co-director of Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.

There are multiple steps to getting a nuclear bomb, and producing enough weapons grade uranium is just the first step, said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

Iran would also have to develop a warhead, get the uranium into the warhead, and have a way to deliver it, he said. Even then, it’s not clear whether the weapon would work, since Iran has never done any nuclear weapons testing.

Experts say they can’t assess how close Iran is to actually completing those steps, without knowing what past research it has done, and how far it went.

The agreement being negotiated is supposed to address the issue, commonly referred to as “past military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program.

Lawmakers have called for answers on how long it would actually take.

“We need to know how far along Iran progressed in their weaponization so that we can understand those consequences as it relates to other breakout time issues,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), co-sponsor of the Iran bill, said Thursday.

Negotiators last month reached a framework agreement on a deal that would extend Iran’s breakout time to a year. Negotiators are not trying to fill in all the details on a deal by June 30.

“The breakout time has become the main criterion for judging how much Iran scales back its nuclear program under a deal but it is far from being fully reliable,” said Tabatabai.

The “worst case assumption” is that Iran could build a nuclear bomb as soon as Iran obtains enough weapons-grade uranium, Von Hippel said.

He said Iran has done some research on warhead design, but without knowing how far it got, it’s impossible to know.

“Nobody knows the answer,” he said.

The Deal That Will Never Happen (Ezekiel 17)

 Beyond the Iran Nuclear Deal

MAY 9, 2015

President Obama’s meeting with Arab leaders this week is an opportunity to reassure the deeply skeptical Gulf states that America’s engagement and probable nuclear deal with Iran is not a threat but an opportunity for regional stability.

Iran is a Shiite nation; the Gulf states are majority Sunni, and the closer Iran and the big powers get to a deal (the self-imposed deadline is June 30) the more anxious the Sunni leaders have become. On this score, Mr. Obama can offer a convincing response: an Iran restrained by a strong and verifiable nuclear agreement is a lot less threatening than an unfettered Iran.

But there is another aspect to the deal that has unsettled Gulf leaders. In exchange for limitations on its nuclear program, Iran will be freed from economic sanctions, thus unleashing billions of dollars in frozen assets and new foreign investments. The Gulf states fear this could strengthen Iran’s influence in the region and give it more resources to support militant groups like Hezbollah and continue its meddling in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, where, with Russia, it is a major enabler of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

They also worry that the United States, eager to end three decades of hostility with Iran, can no longer be counted on to guarantee their security. Here Mr. Obama’s answer is a bit more complicated. He is expected to make more explicit the security assurances, but he should flatly reject any idea of a formal pact similar to that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that some Arab leaders have pressed for. The United States must be extremely cautious about being dragged into Middle East conflicts.

Getting the balance right won’t be easy. It is one thing for Mr. Obama to say the United States will defend Saudi Arabia against an invasion by Iran. But what would America’s responsibility be if Iran uses proxies to stir trouble in Saudi Arabia, which is a more plausible scenario? There should be a clear understanding that America will not defend any of these regimes against their domestic political opponents.

The United States has already sold billions of dollars in weapons to the Gulf states and held scores of joint military exercises. More aid, and more joint exercises, lie ahead. The most important step now is to integrate the Gulf nations’ military systems so they can better defend themselves.

Iran is not the only threat the Gulf states face, or even the main one. As Mr. Obama told The Times’s Thomas Friedman, there are internal threats — “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances.” Few people see democracy taking root in the region anytime soon, but the political systems have to be made more inclusive, including for Islamists.

There is one other important point Mr. Obama can make: Iran is too often discussed as a force to be contained. Iran’s history certainly does not inspire confidence. But as Ellen Laipson, president of The Stimson Center, a think tank, has argued, the nuclear deal should be seen as “a great moment of opportunity” for the Arabs (with Israel’s tacit agreement) to embark on new regional ventures with Iran on energy, climate change, water scarcity and arms control.

If the nuclear deal is completed, the administration would try to encourage Iran to play a more constructive role in Syria. Many are skeptical that this will produce results, but testing the possibility of expanded cooperation beyond the nuclear deal is certainly worth the effort.

The Real Choices Are War Now Or War Later (Eze 17)

 False choices about Iran

Over the last six years, President Obama has become a master at selling his policies by using a rhetorical device known as the false choice. Recently, however, sources normally friendly to the president have been commenting on this technique. After a speech at the Military Academy last year, for example, The Atlantic published an article titled “Obama at West Point: A Foreign Policy of False Choices.”
A more recent use of false choice involves the administration’s negotiations with Iran over that country’s nuclear program. The president has stated in many ways that the only two options available are to accept whatever deal he reaches with the Iranians or war.
That approach conveniently overlooks a number of other possibilities ranging from tougher negotiating, harsher sanctions, covert actions of various types, the threat of war and military action short of all-out war.
There have been three air attacks on nuclear reactors. Ironically, the first such attack was launched by the Iranians, who are now so worried about an attack on their own nuclear facilities. In 1980, the Iranian Air Force attacked an Iraqi reactor under construction near Baghdad. The attack did relatively little damage. Less than a year later, the Israeli Air Force completed the job.
In 2007, the Israelis repeated their success by destroying a nuclear facility being built in Syria with support from both Iran and North Korea. Initially the Syrians denied the existence of such a facility, a claim that the International Atomic Energy Agency accepted. Later investigations caused the IAEA to reevaluate its assessment, and Syria’s dictator eventually admitted its existence.
The Israeli attacks generated much outrage, but no war, probably because no one in the region wanted either to take on the Israelis or let the Iraqis or Syrians develop nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, the Iranians hid their construction efforts from the IAEA long enough to harden their most important facilities, making them more difficult, but not impossible, to destroy by air attack.
When Iraq was developing its weapons programs, a number of mysterious events occurred. Nuclear scientists were killed and explosions destroyed vital materials and equipment in European sites before they could reach Iraq. Nuclear scientists in Iran have also been assassinated, and a major cascade of centrifuges needed to enrich uranium was destroyed when a computer virus caused the centrifuges to spin out of control.
Opponents of military and covert operations claim that such measures don’t significantly set back a nation’s efforts to build nuclear weapons and only increase their determination to do so. Note, however, that neither Iraq nor Syria has nuclear weapons today. The attacks delayed their nuclear programs long enough for other events to end those efforts.
Threat of military action alone might deter Iran, but the threat would have to be credible. Unfortunately, President Obama’s failure to carry out his “redline” threat to Syria not to employ chemical weapons has weakened the credibility of any future threats he might make.
Finally there is diplomacy. Diplomacy only works in cases where a nation genuinely has no ambition to be a nuclear weapons state, a condition not likely to be shared by Iran. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine inherited the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. Ukraine gave up that arsenal in return for a 2009 agreement by Russia, the United States and Great Britain that guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia’s uncontested invasion of Ukraine will undoubtedly undermine confidence in future nuclear disarmament diplomacy.
Anything else is simply another example of a false choice.
 Col. Theodore L. Gatchel (USMC, ret.), a monthly contributor, is a military historian and a professor emeritus of joint military operations. The views here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

Jordan May Become The Next Nuclear Horn Of Prophecy (Daniel 8)

The Middle East’s Next Nuclear Power?
Kazakhistan Nuclear Missiles

It may not be the one you’re thinking about.
January 28, 2015
The Kingdom of Jordan has for more than a decade watched near-continuous turmoil swirl around its borders—an American invasion of Iraq on one side, an Israeli war with Lebanon on another, and a Syrian civil war to the north that has seen ISIL flourish. For much of that decade, while Jordan absorbed refugees and was targeted by terror, it largely escaped the first-hand effects of war itself. Wednesday’s news that the Kingdom was prepared to trade a terrorist involved in the worst terrorist attack in Jordanian history to free one of its pilots captured by ISIL after his F-16 crashed in December, represents a new chapter in Jordan’s perpetual struggle against the militants on its borders. Over all of these regional challenges has hung another dark cloud—the fear, uncertainty, and tension that’s sprung from Iran’s secret nascent nuclear program.

And yet even as Western attention has focused all around Jordan—and especially on the nuclear negotiations with Iran—in a little-noticed series of moves, the Kingdom’s been edging closer to going nuclear itself. In fact, the Kingdom of Jordan, Washington’s most reliable Arab partner, is the latest Middle Eastern state considering nuclear energy that is refusing to relinquish its right to enrich.
That “right to enrich” uranium has proved to be one of the key sticking points in the Iran nuclear talks and was at the top of the list of why Washington and Tehran missed and subsequently extended their late November deadline to reach an agreement regulating the theocracy’s nuclear program.

To prevent proliferation, the US has long held that Middle Eastern states seeking nuclear energy must forego the right to enrich nuclear material. The principle of no-enrichment has underpinned the so-called “gold standard” of US-bilateral nuclear agreements. While this standard does not uniformly apply outside the region—Washington’s 2014 Agreement on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation with Hanoi included no such stipulation—in its December 2009 agreement with the US, the United Arab Emirates acquiesced to forego enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Jordan and Washington have been discussing nuclear cooperation for some time, but the conversation gained urgency following the 2011 Egyptian revolution—and the subsequent and repeated destruction of the Sinai natural gas pipeline—when the Kingdom lost its most consistent source of energy. In 2013, these disruptions resulted in a $2 billion, or nearly 20 percent, budget deficit.
Over the past four years, the Kingdom has increasingly focused on nuclear energy, in particular the construction of two 1000-megawatt power plants, to fill this gap. By 2030, Jordanian officials estimate nuclear power will provide 30 percent of the state’s electricity.

Amman’s proposed nuclear facilities have met with opposition both at home and abroad. Washington’s stated opposition to the program revolves around enrichment. Jordan’s resolve to maintain this right has stymied efforts to reach a “123 agreement” governing US international nuclear cooperation. The Kingdom, which has no oil, has significant deposits of uranium ore—reportedly 35,000 tons or enough to last Jordan 100 years—and is hoping to commercially exploit the resource.
Israel, too, has taken issue with Jordan’s nuclear ambitions, primarily due to concerns about safety. One of Jordan’s proposed nuclear plants, at least initially, was slated to be built in the Jordan River Valley, a major earthquake fault line. According to a US diplomatic cable disclosed by WIKILEAKS, Israel highlighted these apprehensions during a meeting with their Jordanian counterparts in 2009—two years before the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe—only to have the Jordanian officials respond by citing Japan as an earthquake-prone country that builds safe nuclear reactors.
The biggest opposition to Jordan’s nuclear project, however, is domestic. It’s not difficult to see why. To start, one of the proposed plants is slated to be built in the heartland of the Bani Sakr, Jordan’s largest tribe. A charismatic young parliamentarian named Hind al Fayez—who hails from the tribe and happens to be married to a prominent local environmental activist—has adopted the no nukes agenda as her cause celebre. In May 2012, she spearheaded a successful vote in parliament to suspend the program.

Among other concerns, Al Fayez questions how a state with such little water will be able to cool a reactor situated more than 200 miles from the shoreline, and whether Jordan has sufficient human capital (i.e., enough nuclear physicists) to safely operate the facilities. She has also expressed dismay with the $10 billion price tag, a sum roughly equivalent to Jordan’s total 2013 annual budget.
Refuting the critics is Jordan’s Atomic Energy Commission Chair Khaled Toukan, who holds a Ph.D in Nuclear Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Toukan is an impressive government advocate for the project.

No access to water, Toukan says, no problem. Like the three nuclear power plants in Palo Verde, Arizona, Jordan will use wastewater from the nearby Khirbat al Samra sewage treatment plant to cool the blistering reactors. The second reactor, closer to the port of Aqaba, will utilize water pumped from the Red Sea—easing Jordan’s water crisis through desalinization.
A dearth of local nuclear technicians? Not for long, says Toukan. The Kingdom is building a research and training reactor, recently established an undergraduate nuclear engineering program, and has sixty-one nationals currently enrolled in graduate programs in nuclear engineering and related fields abroad. As for the financing challenge, according to Toukan, Russia—which is presently slated to build the reactors—will fund and own 49.9 percent, leaving Government of Jordan to finance the remaining and controlling share.

While Toukan’s answers are authoritative, they have not yet succeeded in convincing Jordanian skeptics. Perhaps that’s because serious safety problems emerged at Palo Verde in 2013. Or maybe Toukan’s unsubstantiated 2014 claims before parliament—that radiation leaks from the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona were resulting in increased incidences of cancer in the Kingdom—have further soured Jordanians on nuclear energy. It’s also possible that heightened fears of terrorism fueled by the recent territorial gains by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq or ISIS, are dampening enthusiasm for the project.

Last year, Hind Al Fayez said “They’ll build that plant over my dead body.” A year on, her hostility toward the program has not noticeably diminished.

To be sure, Jordan needs energy. Indeed, the requirement is so acute that months ago the palace ignored significant domestic disapproval and signed up to a 15-year $15 billion deal to procure natural gas from Israel. (Amman has temporarily frozen negotiations as Israel deals with anti-trust concerns in its offshore gas sector). While important, however, the agreement is insufficient to meet the Kingdom’s requirements in the decades to come.

In the face of continued foreign and domestic opposition, it isn’t clear that Jordan will actually proceed with the nuclear option. Today the Atomic Energy Commission is calling nuclear power “a strategic choice,” but with nearly a million Syrian refugees in the Kingdom, a stumbling economy, a rising threat of terrorism on the home front, and with a downed Jordanian pilot currently held captive by ISIL, King Abdullah could punt, delaying a decision—and avoiding confrontation with Washington—for the indefinite future. Given the ongoing challenges, for the time being at least, no nukes should be a no-brainer for the Kingdom.

David Schenker is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002-2006, he served as Levant director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.