A Washington Post report published Sunday is drawing a wave of cheers across the Internet for revealing what is being hailed as "the truth" about Iran's nuclear program.
Specifically, the report states that Iran is incapable of producing a nuclear bomb within the next six to eight years, turning on ear repeated claims in media that Iran is only a short time away from possessing such a weapon.
"The regime's most likely path to the bomb begins in Natanz, in central Iran, the site of the nuclear facility where over the past three years about 1,500 kilograms of uranium gas has been enriched to low levels," Joseph Cirincione wrote. "Iran could kick out U.N. inspectors, abandon the Non-Proliferation Treaty and reprocess the gas into highly enriched uranium in about six months; it would take at least six more months to convert that uranium into the metal form required for one bomb. Technical problems with both processes could stretch this period to three years. Finally, Iran would need perhaps five additional years -- and several explosive tests -- to develop a Hiroshima-yield bomb that could be fitted onto a ballistic missile."
William Hartung, writing for Talking Points Memo, called the report "tremendously useful," praising it as "the truth" about Iran's program.
"This means there is plenty of time to engage in smart diplomacy aimed at heading off this possibility," he wrote. "And since there's no evidence that Iran is currently going full speed ahead towards a bomb, this timeline may be extended."
"Even if it is determined that the Iranians have restarted weapons design work, however, it’s important to stress that there is still no evidence — and no, John Bolton’s op-eds don’t count as evidence — that Iran has decided to obtain a nuclear weapon, as opposed to breakout capacity," ThinkProgress writer Matt Duss noted. This is an extremely important distinction, one that Iran war advocates have consistently attempted to elide."
However, it's possible that none of the evidence about Iran's much-debated nuclear program even matters.
David Ignatius, writing in The Washington Post on Friday, raised the status of a Nucleonics Week report that claimed Iran's low-enriched uranium was causing problems for its refineries.
"This news strikes me as a potential bombshell," he opined. "If the Nucleonics Week report is accurate (and there's some uncertainty among experts about how serious the contamination problem is), the Iranian nuclear program is in much worse shape than most analysts had realized. The contaminated fuel it has produced so far would be all but useless for nuclear weapons. To make enough fuel for a bomb, Iran might have to start over -- this time avoiding the impurities."
In spite of this, U.S. intelligence officials are considering a rewrite of a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran had abandoned pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2003, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"So far, intelligence officials are not 'ready to declare that invalid,' a senior U.S. intelligence official said, emphasizing that the judgment covered the 2003-2007 time frame only," the paper reported. "That leaves room for a reassessment of the period since the December 2007 report was completed, the official suggested."
The paper added that while Vice President Joe Biden and officials with the National Security Council have "expressed interest" in an updated N.I.E. on Iran's nuclear program, no decision has been made. President Obama's diplomatic efforts in dealing with Iran would be greatly complicated should the U.S. intelligence community conclude that Iran is once again working toward a nuclear weapon.
Nevertheless, "[the] real danger is not a nuclear-armed Iran but a Middle East with more nuclear-armed nations and unresolved territorial, economic and political disputes," the Post noted Sunday. "That is a recipe for disaster, and that is why there is no country-specific solution; we cannot play nuclear whack-a-mole.
"A comprehensive plan must build barriers against acquiring nuclear weapons and must reduce the motivation to do so. This means dealing with the regional security and prestige issues that motivate most countries to start nuclear programs. It requires a global approach that deals with both sides of the nuclear coin: disarmament and proliferation. Reducing existing nuclear stockpiles creates the support needed to stop the spread of the weapons; stopping the spread creates the security needed to continue reductions. We must keep flipping that coin over. Each flip, each step, makes us a little safer."