If Iran Already Has the Bomb, What Then? Hardening Infrastructure Will Be Key to Minimizing the Threat

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 16, 2012 | Go to article overview
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If Iran Already Has the Bomb, What Then? Hardening Infrastructure Will Be Key to Minimizing the Threat


Byline: Peter Vincent Pry, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A majority of Americans support a military strike to stop or slow Iran's nuclear weapons program. But that assumes Iran doesn't already have some.

What if Iran already has one or more nuclear weapons and the capability to make a nuclear strike on the United States - right now? If true, this would change the calculation for the American people. Then the risks of a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran's nuclear program would change radically.

The truth is, no one knows for sure just how far advanced Iran's nuclear weapons program is. There are sound reasons for doubting Washington's official estimates that Iran does not yet have the bomb or the ability to make a nuclear strike on the United States.

The U.S. Manhattan Project during World War II, working with 1940s-era technology to develop nuclear weapons that were then merely a theoretical possibility, succeeded in building two working atomic bombs of radically different designs - in just three years. Iran supposedly has been struggling to develop nuclear weapons for 20 years, with help from nuclear-armed Russia, China and North Korea.

Iran does not have to give the world a warning by testing a nuclear weapon to have confidence it will work. The United States didn't. While the U.S. did test a complicated plutonium bomb, the atomic bomb used to destroy Hiroshima was powered by a simpler, but untested, uranium-235 design that actually was built first.

The respected Wisconsin Project, which monitors nuclear proliferation, estimates that Israel has developed a nuclear arsenal of about 200 weapons, including highly sophisticated weapons of thermonuclear design, neutron warheads and warheads miniaturized for missiles and artillery - all without nuclear testing.

So we know from our own experience that Iran could already have nuclear weapons.

Our intelligence on Iran's nuclear weapons program is poor. Much of what we know comes from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspectors rely on Iran's voluntary cooperation. Iran is a hard nut to crack for U.S. intelligence agencies. Last year, just before Thanksgiving, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrested a dozen U.S. intelligence operatives.

Iran has every reason to disinform the West about the status of its nuclear weapons program, to convince the United States and others that it is not developing nuclear weapons or that the program is still far from mature, in order to delay a U.S. or Israeli pre-emptive strike. Iran may already be building a substantial nuclear arsenal so that its nuclear-armed status will become irreversible, as in North Korea.

Privately, the Obama administration may recognize that Iran's nuclear weapons program is already irreversible but may not want to acknowledge publicly what would amount to a colossal national security failure.

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