Iran this week summarily rejected the latest call by the International Atomic Energy Agency to cease all its uranium enrichment programs. Speaking at a military parade on Tuesday, where Iran’s surface-to-surface Shihab-3 ballistic missiles earmarked “Jerusalem” were on prominent display, Iranian President Muhammad Khatami defied the IAEA, saying: “We will continue along our path [of uranium enrichment] even if it leads to an end to international supervision.”
US and European sources involved in tracking the Iranian nuclear program have made clear in recent weeks that Iran is between four and six months away from nuclear “break-out” capacity. This means that in the next four to six months Iran will have the nuclear fuel cycle complete, and will be able to independently construct nuclear bombs whenever it wishes. More conservative estimates have spoken of 12-24 months.
On Tuesday, Bush was on the O’Reilly show:
O’REILLY: Would you allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon?
BUSH: We are working our hearts out so that they don’t develop a nuclear weapon, and the best way to do so is to continue to keep international pressure on them.
O’REILLY: Is it conceivable that you would allow them to develop a nuclear weapon?
BUSH: No, we’ve made it clear, our position is that they won’t have a nuclear weapon.
So given the anticipated Iran nuclear schedule and their unwillingess to change it, it looks like we are on a collision course. The possible “out” is that a country other than the US takes out Iran’s nuclear capability e.g. Israel. From CNN:
Iran has said it will react “most severely” to any Israeli action against its nuclear facilities, issuing the warning after Israel said the United States was selling it 500 bunker buster bombs.
Israeli military officials said Tuesday that the Jewish state will receive nearly 5,000 smart bombs, including the 500 one-ton bombs that can destroy two-yard-thick (two-meter-thick) concrete walls.
Israel has good reason to preempt an Iranian nuclear capability among other things because the intent of Iran’s program is clearly directed at Israel’s destruction. In addition to the aforementioned “Jerusalem” missiles, Iran’s leadership has expressed a clear intent. From the Iran Press Service:
RAFSANJANI SAYS MUSLIMS SHOULD USE NUCLEAR WEAPON AGAINST ISRAEL
TEHRAN 14 Dec. (IPS) One of Iran’s most influential ruling cleric called Friday on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapon against Israel, assuring them that while such an attack would annihilate Israel, it would cost them “damages only”.
“If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world”, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told the crowd at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran.
If Israel preempts Iran’s nuclear capability, does Iran retaliate aganist the US or just Israel?