Using a football analogy on Meet the Press on September 16, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran’s nuclear weapons program is “in the red zone” and claimed Iran is within six to seven months of having a nuclear weapons capability. In an exclusive interview with LIGNET, American Enterprise Institute Iran expert Maseh Zarif discussed his think tank’s new report on the Iranian program which has an even more alarming timeline on how soon Iran will be able to build a nuclear bomb.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to increase pressure on the Obama administration to toughen its stance on the Iranian nuclear program by going on two Sunday morning news programs on September 16. Netanyahu again claimed “red lines” should be drawn to constrain Iran’s nuclear, a proposal the Obama administration has rejected. Netanyahu also claimed Iran’s nuclear program is very close to being able to construct a nuclear weapon, saying this program is in “the red zone” and said “they’re in the last 20 yards and you can’t let them cross that goal line.”
Netanyahu claimed Iran is within six to seven months of having a nuclear weapons capability and by 2013 will be 90 percent of the way to having enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.
Maseh Zarif’s predictions for Iran’s nuclear program were more dire. Zarif said the new AEI Iran report explains how Iran now has the capability to make a nuclear weapon in three weeks to four months.
To read the full text of the new AEI Iran report, click HERE.
Zarif said that Iran could make five nuclear bombs if its current stockpile of uranium enriched to 3-5 percent and 20 percent uranium-235 was enriched to weapons grade.
LIGNET’s estimate is higher than AEI’s and believes Iran could make six to seven nuclear weapons from its enriched low-enriched uranium stockpile if enriched to weapons grade. To read LIGNET’s latest analysis of Iran’s nuclear program, click HERE.
Zarif is especially concerned about Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow uranium-enrichment facility. Zarif said Iran has substantially increased the number of centrifuges at this facility, decreasing the time it would take to make one weapons worth of nuclear fuel at this facility from 95 day to 47 days. Fordow has about 2,100 centrifuges of which about 700 are operational.
Zarif’s report notes that Iran maintains a much greater capability to make nuclear weapons fuel and can do so faster at its Natanz enrichment facility where it has installed over 9,300 centrifuges, as many as 8,800 of which may be operational. However, the Fordow facility is a growing concern since it appears designed to withstand Israeli and U.S. air strikes.
Zarif said the alleged Stuxnet computer virus that reportedly damaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in 2010 had a very small and temporary effect on its nuclear program. Zarif said Iran has bounced back from whatever damage Stuxnet might have done and is now enriching uranium to higher and higher levels.