The precise number’s in dispute. What’s not in dispute: (a) If he’s telling the truth and they’re running proper cascades, then per the “3,000 centrifuges = 1 bomb per year” rule, Iran’s now capable of producing HEU sufficient for one weapon in six or seven months or considerably sooner if the centrifuges they’re using are the new IR-2 model; and (b) he’s certainly learned the right lesson from Bush’s willingness to meet face to face without preconditions. In his own words:
“The West wanted us to stop,” he was quoted as telling a group of scholars. “We resisted, and now they want to resume negotiations.”
Who knows what tasty concessions further resistance might win?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that he’s made dubious boasts about their capabilities before, but I’d be equally remiss if I didn’t also remind you that a “senior UN official” said a few months ago that 6,000 centrifuges in place by summer was “pretty much plausible” and ElBaradei himself admitted not long ago that they’re capable of building a bomb in six months to a year. This goes back to my point in the last Iran nuke post: The UN is not denying that there’s a very serious threat here. Casual news followers who take Iraqi WMDs as their frame of reference and who assume that the UN and U.S. are always at odds on proliferation are apt to think this is another case of Bush pushing alarmism where none exists. Not so, and less so today than yesterday.
Exit question: Any hopeful spin at all to be found here? Maybe they’re beating their chest about the number of centrifuges in order to impress the public ahead of a planned climbdown on enrichment? Now that they’ve built a nuclear apparatus capable of striking terror in the hearts of the west, they can make a deal with the UN without completely losing face at home. No? Help me out here.