At the AEI co-sponsored GOP presidential debate on national security, I asked this question: “Yesterday [Monday], the United States and UK slapped Iran with new sanctions. We haven’t bought oil directly from Iran in more than three decades, and have had targeted sanctions in place for more than half that time. Nonetheless, Iran is probably less than a year away from having a nuclear weapon. Do you believe there is any set of sanctions that will stop Iran from getting the bomb?”
While many in the journalism world focused on the quasi-answers to that question from the candidates, many Twitterati were more consumed by my “less than a year” assessment, challenging me to cite a source. Okey dokey folks. Here’s David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security (by no standards a “conservative” or “pro-Israel” outfit):
Iran could make enough for a bomb in little more than six months using 1,000 advanced centrifuges if it decided to divert its stock of U.N. safeguarded low enriched uranium in a dash for a weapon.
Here’s the more hawkish Bipartisan Policy Center’s take:
We calculate that, if it chooses, Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in just 62 days using its existing stockpiles and current enrichment capability.
Quibblers will suggest that there are important “ifs” in both these assessments. And yes, the key “if” is “if” Iran decides to build a bomb. So, I suppose when I said “less than a year away from having a nuclear weapon,” I should have added, “if they want one.” But… isn’t that the point? Do we want to leave this decision up to Khamenei?
Danielle Pletka is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI