DEBKAfile’s military sources cite some Western intelligence and nuclear weapons experts as predicting that Iran could turn out nuclear weapons some time in the next 12 months.
This estimate is based on Tehran’s announcement that 7,000 centrifuges are in operation to enrich uranium. If all those machines were to work at top speed day and night, seven days a week, they could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb in 60 days, say some intelligence sources. According to American experts, given the current rate of the program’s development, Iran will be in a position to manufacture as many as 60 nuclear bombs and warheads in 12 to 18 months.
This judgment was confirmed by Israel’s military intelligence (AMAN) chief, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin in his latest briefing to the cabinet Monday, April 20. He reported that Iran is going all-out for enriched uranium from overseas to shorten the process.
Japanese sources recently reported that a North Korean boat shipped a large quantity to Iran earlier this year. According to the big-circulation The Nikkei, the North Korean vessel’s hold carried a secret cargo of uranium highly-enriched to 50-60 percent. The ship set out for Iran in December, moving moved at a leisurely pace so as not to call attention from Western spy satellites, surveillance vessels and warships. Earlier this year, the illegal consignment was dropped at an Iranian port for transport to a facility near Tehran, according to the Japanese paper.
Yadlin noted that extreme economic crisis has not delayed Tehran’s headlong nuclear progress or curtailed its designs on other Middle East countries – Hizballah’s subversive activities in Egypt are not a lone instance. Inflation is officially put at 30 percent but is probably closer to 50 percent, while unemployment is deepening, yet Tehran upped the 2009 appropriation for its nuclear program by 15 percent.
Rather than translating the crisis into leverage for persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear objectives, the Israeli intelligence chief noted that the Obama administration has opened the door to dialogue with all the extremists of the Middle East, including Iran, albeit “with open eyes.”
Iran, for its part, is accelerating its nuclear program, taking full advantage of the undercover communications with Washington which are aimed at gaining Tehran’s cooperation for the US war effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan.