UPDATE (2 Feb 2012)
Israel’s defense minister says Iran has enough 20% uranium to make 4 nuclear bombs.
ForeignAffairs.com has published a set of articles and commentary: “The Iran Debate: To Strike or Not to Strike — Arguments Over Military Action”. Matthew Kroenig wrote an article in favor of a military (conventional) strike against Iran, to halt its nuclear weapons program before a nuclear bomb is successfully produced. Colin H. Kahl writes one response, while Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro write another response, with all three arguing that it is not time to use military force against Iran. What interests me in these arguments is the assessment as to whether or not Iran would produce a nuclear bomb, once it is fully able to do so.
Kroenig argues, based on the assessment of the Institute for Science and International Security, that Iran could produce its first nuclear weapon within six months of deciding to do so. Kahl’s reply is that “The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented Iranian efforts to achieve the capacity to develop nuclear weapons at some point, but there is no hard evidence that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has yet made the final decision to develop them.”
In philosophical arguments, the assertion that no evidence or no reason exists is, prima facie, weak. What proof can be offered that something does not exist? Kahl cannot prove that no such evidence exists; he cannot prove that Iranian leaders lack the resolve to actually build a nuclear bomb.
But on the contrary, I can offer several points to support my assertion that Iran has decided to build nuclear bombs:
1. Iran has spent billions of dollars, over the course of many years, on its nuclear weapons program. A nation does not spend that amount of money and time on a project to develop nuclear weapons and then not build them. The time and money committed to the project indicates a decision to build.
2. Iran is not merely purifying uranium. According to the IAEA Report (Nov 2011), Iran has developed, manufactured, and tested all of the components needed to make a nuclear bomb (See my list, based on the IAEA Report). Iran has even constructed an underground nuclear bomb testing facility, installed remote detonation equipment, and tested the electronics.
3. Iran has publicly announced:
“we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism,”
“the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.”
[CNN, Fox News, Commentary]
The Iranian presidential website has stated that “the Zionist Regime of Israel faces a deadend and will under God’s grace be wiped off the map,” and “the Zionist Regime that is a usurper and illegitimate regime and a cancerous tumor should be wiped off the map.” [Wikipedia]
The President of Iran gave a speech in which he stated: “Many who are disappointed in the struggle between the Islamic world and the infidels have tried to spread the blame. They say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism. But you know that this is a possible goal and slogan.” [NY Times]
How would Iran be able to defeat Israel and the United States, when both nations have nuclear weapons and the U.S. has a large conventional military capability as well?
Only with nuclear weapons (and the radicalization of other Islamic nations in the region) could Iran think to defeat both Israel and the U.S.
4. A reasonable nation with the capability to build a nuclear bomb might not do so. But the words and actions of the leadership of Iran are not reasonable.
They deny the Jewish Holocaust. They refuse to recognize the State of Israel. They threaten to wipe Israel from the map. They proclaim that the world will soon be without the nations of the U.S. and Israel. They believe that Islamic religious leaders have a right to kill Muslims who convert to Christianity, and to kill non-Muslims who refuse to convert to Islam. Iran supports terrorism around the world, and works closely with the terrorist group Hamas. Iran has called for the assassination of the Saudi king. Iran attempted to hire someone to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on U.S. soil. Iran has supported the insurgents in Iraq, offering them fighters, weapons, and the technology to make IEDs.
Iran’s leadership is not reasonable. They are seeking power in the world by gravely immoral means. Therefore, if they have the capability to build a nuclear bomb, they would do so.
5. Iran’s leaders adhere to a radical version of Shia eschatology, which asserts that Iran and the other Islamic nations must go to war against the West, against Christians and Jews, in order to hasten the arrival of the end times and to establish a kingdom on earth that is entirely Islamic. They cannot hope to win such a war without nuclear weapons, and they know it.
More on these points in my posts:
Iran’s Nuclear Missile Checklist
How soon will Iran have a nuclear bomb?
Radical Shia Eschatology, Iran’s View of the End Times
Therefore, Iran does intend to build nuclear weapons and to use them in an unprovoked attack against the West. But in my view, Iran will first attack the U.S., not Israel.
I’ve already discussed this topic in detail in my other posts and in my book. Briefly, then, let’s consider the issue of how soon Iran might make a nuclear bomb.
The IAEA Director General, in a TV interview broadcast on 20 June 2011, stated that Iran could build a nuclear weapon within 6 to 12 months. that interview was 7 months ago.
According to the IAEA report, all that Iran lacks to make a nuclear bomb is sufficient highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and time. All other components and capabilities have been developed and tested.
David Albright has postulated that Iran could make a nuclear bomb within 6 months, if Iran accelerated its uranium purification efforts. He made that assertion in mid December of 2011.
The time need to make enough HEU is uncertain. Despite monitoring by the IAEA, Iran does not allow unfettered access at any time to each facility. Experts cannot say with certainty that Iran will be unable to make a nuclear bomb in 2012. Iran may have more 20% uranium than the IAEA knows. Iran may have already begun to purify 20% uranium into 90% HEU. It is important to understand the difference between what we know that Iran has done, and what they might have done without public knowledge. The assumption that we know the entire extent of their capability and efforts is foolish and dangerous, given that a misjudgment in this regard would mean that Iran obtains nuclear bombs before the world realizes that they have that capability.
More on this topic in my book: Notes on the Apocalypse: 2012 [Kindle Edition]
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator