Doesn’t mean they’ll have a bomb tomorrow but it does mean they know what they’re doing well enough that they’ll soon be where Japan is: Without a nuclear stockpile but with enough technical know-how that they can churn one out quickly at will, within a year or so if they felt like it.

The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved…

That uranium has been enriched to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. To further purify it to the highly enriched state needed to fuel a nuclear warhead, Iran would have to reconfigure its centrifuges and do a couple months of additional processing, nuclear experts said…

“It’s a virtual milestone,” Dr. Cochran said of Iran’s stockpile. It is not an imminent threat, he added, because the further technical work to make fuel for a bomb would tip off inspectors, the United States and other powers about “where they’re going.”…

A senior European diplomat close to the agency said Iran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year. The report also said Iran had said it intended to start installing another group of 3,000 centrifuges early next year.

The absurdity of this process, needless to say, is that it’s a fait accompli that they’ll figure out those necessary steps towards bombmaking eventually. As such, we’re at their mercy. If they value nuclear weapons above any concessions the west can afford to make, they’ll have nuclear weapons. America and Israel can try to stop them but it’s a crapshoot that even a comprehensive bombing run would destroy the program the way the IAF did at Osirak; Iran’s not so stupid that they’re going to horde all the necessary technology in one or two locations. The drop in oil prices gives us some leverage, which is why some are urging Obama to wait and not meet with Iran until after next year’s presidential elections, when Ahmadinejad might be pushed out. On the other hand, the spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor that’s going online next year would give them a second way of building nukes, so this is bound to come to a head sometime early(-ish) in The One’s term. Ross Douthat expects Obama to act, as do I, which is what I’ve always thought was the subtext of Biden’s notorious appeal to the left to “stand with him” when he eventually has to act to avert crisis. Exit question: What’s a Hopenchangey president to do?