Jan 25, 2022

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Reuters cited  a senior Biden administration official as saying that US intelligence did not know how advanced Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is but the ‘breakout’ time for them to create a nuclear weapon was “unacceptably short.”

“But it’s really short. It is unacceptably short,” the official said, calling it “alarming”.

Iran is already enriching uranium past the 60% level, a process that has no civilian purpose. The Washington Post cited Israeli sources for estimates that “Iran has enough material for three bombs and is less than a month from completing the enrichment of that fuel. Building a weapon would take another 18 months to two years, the Israelis reckon — but that’s still a very short fuse.”

Iran is preparing to launch a vehicle out of the atmosphere. This demonstrates that they are capable of producing a missile system capable of delivering a nuclear payload. 

This revelation comes as the seventh round of talks focused on reinstating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the US and Iran have stalled yet again. Verification of Iranian compliance was problematic under the previous agreement. In June, one camera used by the IAEA to monitor the TESA Karaj complex was destroyed in apparent sabotage that Iran blamed on Israel.  Iran then removed the cameras and did not let the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog organization, return to replace them. Iran has refused to show footage from the destroyed camera to the IAEA. 

A joint statement initiated by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy signed by  a group of former US senior officials urged President Biden to pursue a different course of deterrence as “diplomacy appears to be moving backward.”

“Iran’s behavior continues to indicate that it not only wants to preserve a nuclear weapons option but is actively moving toward developing that capability,” the statement read. “Therefore, for the sake of our diplomatic effort to resolve this crisis, we believe it is vital to restore Iran’s fear that its current nuclear path will trigger the use of force against it by the United States.”

The officials recommended “orchestrating high-profile military exercises by the U.S. Central Command, potentially in concert with allies and partners, that simulate what would be involved in such a significant operation, including rehearsing air-to-ground attacks on hardened targets and the suppression of Iranian missile batteries.”

“Also important would be to provide both local allies and partners as well as US installations and assets in the region with enhanced defensive capabilities to counter whatever retaliatory actions Iran might choose to make, thereby signaling our readiness to act, if necessary.”

Despite this recommendation, the US Defense Ministry rejected a request by  senior Israel Air Force (IAF) officers to fast-track the delivery of two  Boeing KC-46 tanker aircraft which had been ordered by Israel. The US State Department approved the possible sale of up to eight KC-46 tanker aircraft and related equipment to Israel for an estimated cost of $2.4 billion last March. Israel was set to receive two of the Boeing-made planes by late 2023. The tankers would be vital in a long-range bombing mission targeting nuclear facilities in Iran.