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Monday, December 18, 2006

Will Iran have nukes by March?

From Maariv (Hebrew), translated by Daily Alert:
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh received a promise from Iran of extensive economic aid, cash, military cooperation, and also good news, from his perspective.
Lower your profile, calm the situation, the Iranians told Haniyeh. In four months we're going to issue a statement that will dramatically change the strategic balance in the Middle East.
According to Israeli intelligence, the Iranians have promised to make an important announcement at the next Persian new year, which begins the third week in March 2007.
A few details are added by the Russian news agency Novosti:
Tehran has announced that it intends to complete its nuclear research program by the Iranian New Year on March 21. This involves the assembly of a cascade of 3,000 centrifuges, which it needs for the commercial stage of uranium enrichment. Russian and foreign experts believe that these centrifuges will enable Iran to create five to seven nuclear charges within 12 months.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced plans to receive the first batch of enriched uranium after commissioning 60,000 centrifuges.

The Natanz nuclear facility, where Iran is enriching uranium, is designed to accommodate only 54,000 centrifuges, but experts say that would be enough to create a nuclear bomb within two weeks. They also say the Natanz facility could reach its designed capacity in five to seven years.

Many Russian experts, however, think that Iran is bluffing when it speaks about turning on 3,000 centrifuges in March 2007. It could do this if it has bought the required number of centrifuges, but that is unlikely. Tehran is likely overstating its technical possibilities.

"Iran has made a crucial decision and is moving honorably along its chosen path," Ahmadinejad has said. According to the Iranian president, the people of his country will not only "rebuild Iran and propel it to the pinnacles of success, but will also open the door to freedom for other nations."
Iran's successful completion of a peaceful nuclear program hardly seems to be something that would change the balance of power in the Middle East, nor something that would help Hamas.

It is entirely possible that Iran is bluffing. But the free world seems to be willing to wager millions of Israeli lives on that possibility.