Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Iran's Nuclear and Missile Potential

While the demonstrators are in the streets and the basiji and Revolutionary Guard are bashing heads, we haven't heard too much about Iran's nuclear program. But we may be hearing more soon: Germany's stern magazine is coming out with an article saying that Iran could test a nuclear device within six months. That's not the same as having deliverable weapons, by a long shot. But it appears that this estimate comes from a single anonymous person at the German intelligence agency.

Things are most likely continuing as normal at Iran's nuclear facilities. The IAEA is still inspecting, as far as Iran will allow, which doesn't include the Arak heavy-water reactor under construction.

If you're looking for reliable information on exactly what progress Iran has made in its nuclear and missile programs, the best source I've seen is the EastWest Institute's report "Iran's Nuclear and Missile Potential (pdf)." It hasn't much been noticed, perhaps because it has nothing sensational to report. It estimates one to three years for a device to be built, and five years beyond that to produce a warhead that could be delivered on a missile. It also says that the proposed missile defense system probably would do little to protect Europe, and that Iranian missiles that might be used to attack Europe will take some long time to develop.

The report was developed by a team of American and Russian experts, and it also has recommendations on how the two countries might cooperate relative to Iran. The report itself is one small step toward further cooperation.

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