Here is the new story, as reported by CNN, Fox, and the Washington Post: “Iran proposes new round of nuclear talks with 6 world powers as sanctions hit hard”. The media has concluded that this call for new talks is the result of sanctions against Iran, esp. the most recent sanctions against its banks.
My evaluation of the situation is that Iran is merely buying more time in order to complete its nuclear weapons program. According to the recent (Nov 2011) IAEA report, Iran has completed nearly every step needed to research, develop, and build a nuclear bomb, except sufficient quantities of highly enriched uranium [HEU].
How soon will Iran have a nuclear bomb? There are a number of sources answering that question. Basically, the time frame for them to complete their nuclear weapons program can be evaluated in three ways:
1. assuming that Iran has no additional uranium purification capabilities other than what was stated in the IAEA report, AND assuming that they do not increase their rate of purification, they would have enough HEU by the end of 2013.
2. assuming that Iran has no additional uranium purification capabilities other than what was stated in the IAEA report, AND that they increase their rate of uranium purification, they would have enough HEU by the end of 2012.
3. But if Iran has additional uranium purification capabilities, unknown to the IAEA (perhaps known to U.S. or Israeli intelligence), OR if Iran already has some HEU from its past purification efforts, OR if Iran increases its rate of purification very substantially (with or without our knowledge), then Iran could have enough HEU within the first 6 months of 2012.
Over 6 months ago, the Director of the IAEA stated that Iran could possibly make a nuclear bomb within 6 to 12 months of that date (when his interview aired 20 June 2011). While no one thinks that Iran has a nuclear bomb at this point in time, it is certainly conceiveable that they could make a nuke within the NEXT 6 months.
By engaging the West in new nuclear talks, Iran might obtain a loosening of sanctions against its banks or at least a delay in any military action by Israel or the U.S. Once Iran completes its nuclear bomb program, it can make a new severe threat against any nation or group of nation that imposes sanctions on it.
More analysis on this topic in my book:
Notes on the Apocalypse: 2012