Iran's march to the bombIran's nukes: the state of play

Published 20 April 2010

There are no doubts about two things: Iran is working feverishly to acquire the means and materials to build nuclear weapons, and that Iran’s goal is to minimize the breakout time before making a sprint toward a nuclear weapon; by minimizing the breakout time, Iran would limit the world’s ability to exert pressure and reduce the opportunity to intervene militarily or otherwise to prevent Iran from getting the bomb; the good news is that Iran’s nuclear program is vulnerable to attack and disruption

Michael Tobin writes in Fox News’s “Live Shots” blog that he was recently given a private intelligence briefing about the Iranian nuclear program, on the condition that he would refer to the source only as a “Western source.” The briefing presented three conclusions relevant to concerns about nuclear threats in the world.

  1. The Iranian Nuclear program is not a civilian program with a military potential. It is a pure military program thinly cloaked as a civilian one for the purpose of delaying international pressure.
  2. Iran already has the capability to make a bomb. When they will do it is, “mainly a political question.”
  3. The nuclear program is vulnerable to air strikes.

Addressing the first point, the source told Tobin that the number of centrifuges Iran is operating: roughly 5,000. To produce fuel for one power plant, “They need to have 50,000 centrifuges of the type they have at Natanz.” They have more than enough operating centrifuges, however, to enrich enough uranium for a bomb. “If they want to produce one bomb a year, they need 2,500 or 3,000 centrifuges.”


The discovery of the mountainside enrichment facility at Qom showed that Iran is having trouble with its technology because the enrichment there did not work (see “Pentagon Orders Accelerated Production of 15-ton Bunker Buster,” 17 October 2009 HSNW). Also, according to the source, it showed the intent of the Shiite regime. “It is way too small to serve civilian interest…You would need Qom to work 20 years to produce one year of nuclear fuel. But it is exactly what you need for a military program.”

He also pointed to the fact that Iran’s Defense Minister has been operating a shadow nuclear program, paralleling the steps of the Atomic Energy Agency.

On the second point, the source told Tobin that Iran had perfected most of the technology for a nuclear bomb in 2003. “We know that the Iranians don’t only have documents but produced the components, fabricated some components of nuclear weapons and tested them…They were good enough to prove that their design works.” Only one problem kept Iran from taking the final step. “There was one thing missing in 2003 which kept them from building a bomb, the ability to enrich uranium,” said the source.

Then, press reports leaked details of Iran’s nuclear ambition and the United States toppled the neighboring regime in Iraq citing the threat of