In late June a huge explosion occurred in Iran. The Iranians claimed it was the result of a gas leak. Available intelligence showed that a bomb detonated at an Iranian missile base and caused massive destruction.
Days later another explosion occurred at Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility causing severe damage to at least one building. The facility is believed to be the site of ongoing Iranian work on advanced centrifuges.
Multiple other attacks have occurred inside Iran over the same time period, including explosions in at least two large power plants. Only recently another huge explosion shook Tehran. Early indications are an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) missile base may have been struck.
Everyone assumes the Israelis are behind this. It may well be that American forces are involved as well. There have been such strikes before, but something is different now. There is a sudden urgency to the pace of the attacks. Whoever is running the ongoing operations fully understands something the world as a whole has yet to comprehend.
The Iranians are within a matter of months of acquiring an atomic bomb.
The implications of that development are catastrophic. A revolutionary, messianic regime, which believes the Mahdi, an Islamic superman, will appear at any moment and that the apocalypse is nigh cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. It will not husband them and manage them rationally. It will use them.
We are standing on the precipice of a catastrophic event, one which may lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and ultimately to the deaths of tens of millions.
In June of this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released two reports on the Iranian nuclear weapons program. They are sobering. Iran is now enriching uranium well beyond the level agreed to in the so-called Iran Deal. It is researching and perhaps building advanced centrifuges. It has resumed enrichment of uranium at its underground nuclear facility in Fordaw.
Iran now has enough low enriched uranium (LEU) to produce a nuclear weapon. Best estimates are that Iran could transform that LEU into the highly enriched uranium (HEU) needed to make a bomb in somewhere between 3 and 4 months. As Iran steadily creeps up the enrichment level of its LEU that timeline shortens by the day.
That timeframe is troubling enough, but in reality, the situation could be much, much worse. Iran has been denying international inspectors access to some undeclared sites for months and has never answered questions related to possible undeclared nuclear activities.
The sites in question are known to have been connected to an Iranian crash program in the early 2000’s that had the goal of quickly building five operational nuclear weapons. Those sites may be active again, and there may be an entire portion of the Iranian nuclear weapons program hidden from our view.
We do not know what we don’t know.
Outside of Iran, all indications are that Tehran has once again shifted its efforts to illegally acquire technology for use in nuclear weapons into high gear. A recent German intelligence report stated that Iran was pursuing efforts designed to “complete existing arsenals, perfect the range, applicability and effectiveness of their weapons and develop new weapon systems.”
Iranian missile systems already have the capability to reach the entire Middle East. If Tehran had operational nuclear weapons it could at any time of its choosing strike Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Cairo, or Dubai. Past Israeli intelligence has shown that Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
A single weapon of that size detonated in the air over Tel Aviv would kill over 170,000 people. Another 350,000 would be severely injured. Tel Aviv would become effectively uninhabitable. An attack on Riyadh or any other Middle Eastern city would be equally devastating.
Sanctions are having a major impact on Tehran. Its economy is crumbling, and its capacity to continue to support terrorism and insurrection outside its borders is begin severely degraded. Those sanctions should be maintained and tightened whenever and wherever possible.
Still, we must face the fact that the increasingly desperate Iranian regime may choose to continue to funnel its scarce resources into its nuclear weapons program in a desperate bid to lash out at the world. Backed into a corner and increasingly short on other options, the Ayatollahs and their Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps henchmen could decide to lash out at the United States via an attack on its Middle Eastern allies.
Inside Iran, continuing clandestine attacks are focused on ending the Iranian nuclear threat and averting this possibility. We can hope that such attacks, combined with sanctions will prove sufficient. Yet, we must also face the possibility that they may not.
We have sought for decades to stave off the inevitable. We have utilized a wide range of tools, economic, military, and political, to attempt to dissuade Tehran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. We have bought time, but that time is running out.
We have warned the Iranians for decades to walk away from their attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. They have ignored all such warnings. If sabotage and covert action do not prove sufficient, we may yet find that we are required to take the next step and move to conventional military strikes involving U.S. military assets and, likely, those of our allies.
One way or the other it is time for the issue to be resolved. It is time to end the Iranian nuclear weapons program.