Times of London: Iran just waiting for Khamenei's order to build a bomb

We knew they had enough low-enriched uranium for one bomb. What we didn’t know is that they might already have perfected the process by which uranium is highly enriched and then weaponized in a warhead. Oh, and some more good news: No one’s sure if Khamenei’s already given the order, which means the countdown might already have begun.

No worries, though. Hillary promised you their pursuit of nukes would be futile, didn’t she?

Iran has perfected the technology to create and detonate a nuclear warhead and is merely awaiting the word from its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to produce its first bomb, Western intelligence sources have told The Times.

The sources said that Iran completed a research programme to create weaponised uranium in the summer of 2003 and that it could feasibly make a bomb within a year of an order from its Supreme Leader.

A US National Intelligence Estimate two years ago concluded that Iran had ended its nuclear arms research programme in 2003 because of the threat from the American invasion of Iraq. But intelligence sources have told The Times that Tehran had halted the research because it had achieved its aim — to find a way of detonating a warhead that could be launched on its long-range Shehab-3 missiles…

“If the Supreme Leader takes the decision (to build a bomb), we assess they have to enrich low-enriched uranium to highly-enriched uranium at the Natanz plant, which could take six months, depending on how many centrifuges are operating. We don’t know if the decision was made yet,” said the intelligence sources, adding that Iran could have created smaller, secret facilities, other than those at the heavily guarded bunker at Natanz to develop materials for a first bomb. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency only keep tabs on fissile material produced at monitored sites and not the number of centrifuges that Iran has built…

If Iran’s leader does decide to build a bomb, he will have two choices, intelligence sources said. One would be to take the high-risk approach of kicking out the international inspectors and making a sprint to complete Iran’s first bomb, as the country weathered international sanctions or possible air strikes in the ensuing crisis. The other would be to covertly develop the materials needed for an arsenal in secret desert facilities.

Any reason to believe Iran might have those “smaller, secret facilities” needed to build a bomb covertly? Why, yes: According to an NYT story published in January, a classified portion of that 2007 NIE described at great length analysts’ “suspicion that Iran had 10 or 15 other nuclear-related facilities, never opened to international inspectors, where enrichment activity, weapons work or the manufacturing of centrifuges might be taking place.” Combine the fact that that rather significant detail was omitted from the public debate at the time with the report’s increasingly discredited conclusion that Iran gave up its program in 2003 and you’ve got one of the most astounding intelligence failures in U.S. history, with potentially graver consequences than either 9/11 or the WMD intel on Iraq.

As for the Revolutionary Guard supposedly waiting on Khamenei, if there’s any lesson to be drawn from the Iranian election fiasco, it’s that increasingly the Guard itself calls the shots in Iran. I’ve always thought the simplest and most logical explanation of why Khamenei backed Ahmadinejad’s rigging of the election is that he feared being deposed if he didn’t. If that’s true and he went along to protect his own power, why wouldn’t he also go along with a demand from the Guard to approve construction of the bomb? At the very least, with Mousavi, Khatami, and Rafsanjani galvanizing public opinion against him, he’s in no position anymore to deny the Guard’s requests; not only his power but his safety may depend on their support. And as for The One, at last check, Iran has until September to “reach out” or “unclench its fist” or say “yes we can” to negotiations. Any chance that he’s starting to think about Plan B? Normally I’d say no, but after reading this, I wonder…