Iran will have Nuclear Bombs in Three Years!
The most important question is not whether Iran will or will not have the bomb, but what should we do with an Iran that has nuclear capabilities. We should seriously look at Iran under a different light and begin to separate the theocratic government, a minority loosing power, from its pro-western people, a silent majority that will soon be in power.
Iran is populated with over 64 million people, of whom 80% are literate with a median age of 19. Over 60% of whom were born after the revolution and whose familiarity with government and politics, is only with an oppressive theocracy. Over two decades of theocracy, has one great and everlasting benefit: Iranians have fully exercised a theocratic government model and can say in earnest : "It does not work."
On the whole Iranians are ready, willing and wanting a model that allows them to live their lives in absolute freedom with all cultural and religious considerations separate but in their appropriate places. Governments whose policies are directed towards the weakening minority, will segregate the growing young pro-western populous.
By no means are we advocating any government allow the existing regime the ability to posses nuclear capabilities, but to better understand the ingredients for having this capability and to establish policies that protect us all, and that benefit a potentially powerful Western ally in a highly unstable area.
Simple ingredients for a nuclear bomb - Resources, Intellect, and Willpower.
Money and access to raw materials and technology are what constitute resources. Iran has 9% of the world's proven oil reserves most of it in Khuzestan, that along with its expanding Persian Gulf gas reserves give it the money. As for raw materials, and manufacturing components, they need only go as far as Russia to the north and Pakistan, North Korea and China to the east, or perhaps even Germany or France. With money, all can be bought.
Not a month goes by where you read a newspaper or briefing, and find Iran trying to acquire some elements of nuclear, weapons, or technology capabilities. And these are only what is in the public media. Think of all that we don't know.
Here is a sampling from Center for Strategic and International Studies:
- Iran attempted to buy highly enriched fissile material from Khazakstan. The US paid between $20 million and $30 million to buy 1,300 pounds of highly enriched uranium from the Ust-Kamenogorsk facility in Khazakstan that Iran may have sought to acquire in 1992. A total of 120 pounds of the material -- enough for two bombs -- cannot be fully accounted for.
- Iran has imported maraging steel, sometimes used for centrifuges, by smuggling it in through dummy fronts. Britain intercepted 110 pound (50 kilo) shipment in August, 1996. Seems to have centrifuge research program at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. IAEA "visit" did not confirm.
- Those aspects of Iran's program that are visible indicate that Iran has had only uncertain success. Argentina agreed to train Iranian technicians at its Jose Balaseiro Nuclear Institute, and sold Iran $5.5 million worth of uranium for its small Amirabad Nuclear Research Center reactor in May 1987. A CENA team visited Iran in late 1987 and early 1988, and seems to have discussed selling sell Iran the technology necessary to operate its reactor with 20% enriched uranium as a substitute for the highly enriched core provided by the US, and possibly uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technology as well. Changes in Argentina's government, however, made it much less willing to support proliferation. The Argentine government announced in February, 1992, that it was canceling an $18 million nuclear technology sale to Iran because it had not signed a nuclear safeguards arrangement. Argentine press sources suggested, however, that Argentina was reacting to US pressure.
- Iran negotiated with Kraftwerke Union and CENA of Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Iran attempted to import reactor parts from Siemens in Germany and Skoda in Czechoslovakia. None of these efforts solved Iran’s problems in rebuilding its reactor program, but all demonstrate the depth of its interest.
- Iran took other measures to strengthen its nuclear program during the early 1990s. It installed a cyclotron from Ion Beam Applications in Belgium at a facility in Karzaj in 1991.
- Iran conducted experiments in uranium enrichment and centrifuge technology at its Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Sharif University was also linked to efforts to import cylinders of fluorine suitable for processing enriched material, and attempts to import specialized magnets that can be used for centrifuges, from Thyssen in Germany in 1991.
- It is clear from Iran’s imports that it has sought centrifuge technology ever since. Although many of Iran’s efforts have never been made public, British customs officials seized 110 pounds of maraging steel being shipped to Iran in July 1996.
- Iran seems to have conducted research into plutonium separation and Iranians published research on uses of tritium that had applications to nuclear weapons boosting. Iran also obtained a wide range of US and other nuclear literature with applications for weapons designs. Italian inspectors seized eight steam condensers bound for Iran that could be used in a covert reactor program in 1993, and high technology ultrasound equipment suitable for reactor testing at the port of Bari in January, 1994.
- Other aspects of Iran’s nuclear research effort had potential weapons applications. Iran continued to operate an Argentine-fueled five megawatt light water highly enriched uranium reactor at the University of Tehran. It is operated by a Chinese-supplied neutron source research reactor, and subcritical assemblies with 900 grams of highly enriched uranium, at its Isfahan Nuclear Research Center. This Center has experimented with a heavy water zero-power reactor, a light water sub-critical reactor, and a graphite sub-critical reactor. In addition, it may have experimented with some aspects of nuclear weapons design.
- The control of fissile material in the FSU remains a major problem:
- US estimates indicate the FSU left a legacy of some 1,485 tons of nuclear material. This include 770 tons in some 27,000 weapons, including 816 strategic bombs, 5,434 missile warheads, and about 20,000 theater and tactical weapons. In addition, there were 715 tons of fissile or near-fissile material in eight countries of the FSU in over 50 sites: enough to make 35,000-40,000 bombs.
- There are large numbers of experienced FSU technicians, including those at the Russian weapons design center at Arzamas, and at nuclear production complexes at Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Tomsk.
- These factors led the US to conduct Operation Sapphire in 1994, where the US removed 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from the Ulba Metallurgy Plant in Kazakhstan at a time Iran was negotiating for the material.
- They also led to Britain and the US cooperating in Auburn Endeavor, and airlifting fissile material out of a nuclear research facility in Tiblisi, Georgia. There were 10 pounds of material at the institute, and 8.8 pounds were HEU. (It takes about 35 pounds to make a bomb.) This operation was reported in the New York Times on April 21, 1998. The British government confirmed it took place, but would not give the date.
Intellectual capabilities can either be bought, e.g., nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan and other poorer Russian republics, or in the case of Iran, taught. Iranians are not only being educated in large numbers within Iran, but a great many are educated outside the country. A favorite destination is the U.S., where at any given top university you may find the top students in engineering, computer sciences, math and physics to be Iranians.
It is obvious that the Iranian government wishes to have nuclear capabilities in order to position itself politically. Let us set aside the government for a minute.
With respect to willpower, we are not speaking about the will of the mullah's, but the will of everyday scientists, engineers, and academics. We are talking about the lack of understanding of foreign governments when it comes to the will of Iranian people in general. Foreign governments have always lacked an understanding of the people in that region. They place all people in the same basket titled "Middle East", generalize their views about them, and author their policies.
The Iranian people are some of the brightest, most inventive and creative people in the region. But most importantly, their culture does not allow them to be told what they may or may not do or have. They are and always will be intellectually curious and stubborn against authoritative orders. Add to that a very strong sense of pride and ego. They could never live down or dismiss this question: "Why should we not have nuclear capabilities?"