November 16, 2007

National Intelligence Estimate and Iran

...we can expect some loud noises from Washington, London, Canberra and thankfully now, Berlin and Paris just to name a few ...

It's almost upon us, the Washington Post reports that intelligence services have just about completed the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program. The NIE is quite a piece as it combines the assessments of most all US intelligence agencies on a given issue.

Being of a highly sensitive nature we will not be privy to its findings, but details most always find there way into the public domain. Hence, someone will see to that.

The critical question will be: How long before Iran is able to produce its own bomb? Depending on your source to date, the consensus seems to be around 2009 - 2010. Arms Control Today qauntifies Irans uranium enrichment process here.

"What a difference a year makes. In November 2006, Iran had slightly more than 300 gas centrifuges running at its pilot uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, approximately 200 kilometers south of Tehran. One year later, Iran has close to 3,000 centrifuges installed in a vast underground hall of the commercial-scale Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz. It has also stockpiled enough of the enrichment feedstock uranium hexafluoride to produce enriched uranium, whether for nuclear energy or for nuclear weapons, for years to come".

It concludes however that a military attack is not a viable option. But if, through the NIE, U.S. intelligence analysts bring the 2009 forward, we can expect some loud noises from Washington, London, Canberra and thankfully now, Berlin and Paris just to name a few.

Meanwhile the Guardian reports Iran is but one (1) year away from a bomb according to the U.N.

Referring to a report by Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, this will "intensify US and European pressure for tighter sanctions, increasing fears of a potential military conflict".

"The installation of 3000 functioning centrifuges at Iran's enrichment plant at Natanz is a "red line" drawn by the US across which Washington had said it would not let Iran pass. When spinning at full speed they can produce enough weapons-grade uranium (enriched to more than 90% purity) for a nuclear weapon within a year. The atomic energy agency says the uranium being produced is only fuel grade (enriched to 4%) but confirmation of the 3000 centrifuge benchmark brings closer a moment of truth for the Bush Administration".

And what a difference 2 years makes, it was August 2005 that a major U.S. intelligence review concluded that Iran was a decade away from a bomb.

Finally, in whats been seen as a blow to Western efforts, China has just pulled out of a November 19 meeting to discuss tougher sanctions against Tehran.

It's a clear indication that the Chinese place great value on economic interests with Iran. In fact, China, like Russia have extensive business interests within Tehran, little wonder they firmly oppose a third round of UN sanctions.

Over to you...

21 comments:

Incognito said...

Tougher sanctions on Iran.. what a joke.. Sanctions rarely if ever work because they are idle threats, for the most part.. and with hold outs like Russia and china, they can never reach consensus. So countries like Iran know they can do what they please, because nothing will ever be done.

Karen said...

Count me in the group of those who hold no hope of sanctions working.
Really interesting post, Otto. Thanks for the info.

WomanHonorThyself said...

true true..way past time to talk bout sanctions eh!

alohasteve said...

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American Interests said...

Incog: I too question the value of sanctions against Iran, meanwhile time is running out...

Karen: Glad you found of interest!

womanhthyself: Thanks Angel

alohasteve: Hi there, you really need to get that blogger profile happening...

Conservative Chic said...

Completely agree - sanctions on Iran are a complete joke at this point.

Iran scares me. I feel they are a real threat that we need to take seriously. A bomb in their hands is not a good thing to put it midly.

courtneyme109 said...

WoW. I wish I wrote that.

American Interests said...

Jen: I could not imagine anyone not being concerned about an Iranian bomb, but then again...thanx for stopping by...

courtneyme: Welcome to AI, enjoyed exploring your site...

Donald Douglas said...

Good job, Ottavio: Iran is moving quickly.

Tapline said...

AI, great post. Iran should have been taken out long ago. We struck the wrong nation. Not that Saddam didn't need to be taken out. a man who would murder his own people certainly didn't disearve to live but, then many in the world are in the same boat. Look at Iran. they hung two homosexuals 16 years old for being homosexual. They stone,,,stone women for being unfaithful. Cut hands off if one steals..and the beat goes on.......I"m looking at the TV as I write this and under the picture are tapes running concerning current news. It states that the president of Iran is calling the American Dollar just paper and is in freefall. He just keep spewing..... I ramble.....stay well.....

American Interests said...

Donald: Iran is moving too quick!

Tapline: I like your rambles Tap, and let Ahmadinejad spew all he likes, from my readings America (and Israel) have him under the microscope!

Goat said...

Good post Otto, most of the estimates I have seen from trusted sources put it at 2-3 years depending on some external factors, equipment for one. The number of centrifuges Iran has is still dependant on the ability to correctly align the cascade. Alot of signs point to significant unease among the business class that has much clout in the IRGC about provoking the US to the point of war, they are pragmatic enough to know Iran would be flattened in days if it was to go that far. Here is a good resource Otto, especially Amir Taheri's articles.
http://www.benadorassociates.com/

American Interests said...

Goat: Thank you for coming by and the link...

Brooke said...

Hi, there! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, AI!

Aunty Belle said...

Hey Honey Chile',
thanks for your visit to the BACK Porch.

This here is a fine post--very informative. I'se wif' Tapline--Iran was the greater enemy, but some sources say (soto voce) that Iraq were easier to invade an' we had reason to do it, but ultimately it was to be close to Iran, have troops in place, equipment, etc.


But I think Goat also has a key point--the bidness class of folks in Iran, and many of the youth are sick of the Dinner Jacket
(Ahmadininejad) and might be an ally in an overthrow.

On the matter of China and Russia, ya'll, don't forget that when the Coalition troops arrived in Afghanistan they found Chinese soldiers there.

Now, let's not forget, sweet thangs, that China's military expenditures is risin' a near warp speed...the US projections is that by 2025 the Sino military tab will be 250 billion, though Rand Corp. thinks more like 185 billion, since civil unrest demands more of the budget.

All this to say, "How much oil does a beefy Chinese military need? AND how much oil does a voracious modernizing China need? "

In 2008 Putin is movin' upstairs to be the head of United Russia, wif his vice fella moving into his chair...and perestroika will be over--we'll see a new clamp down.

The world is a'changing.

ArtfulSub said...

The National Intelligence Estimate is a sick joke precisely BECAUSE "it combines the assessments of most all US intelligence agencies on a given issue."

So, leftist trash Carter and Clinton goons at the State Department will have a significant if not dominant role in the drafting of the report. In spite of having little or no knowledge on the subject.

And, of course, they will leak certain "classified" sections to the democrat party and the lefty media. Sections that seem to support their twisted view and will be portrayed by the Media and the Democrats as representing a Consensus.

Intelligence gathering by Committee does not and never will work. If we want a solid analysis of Iran's nuke status, we need a SMALL team of professionals to FOCUS on that ONE topic.

WomanHonorThyself said...

even though youre an Aussie..Happy Thanksgiving my friend!..gobble gooble..heh!:)

Goat said...

I know we have picked up a couple very high level defections from the IRGC, what we have learned from them is still behind the wall though I am sure it is key. I also hear a subtle change of tactics is taking place in the diplomatic arena.
Otto and others, Amir Taheri is an Iranian expatriot and knows Iranian society better than most and there are a few Iranian bloggers as well.

American Interests said...

Brooke: No worries and thanks for visiting.

Aunty: The world is changing but there are some who would say it;s getting back to normal.

artfulsub: Thanks for highlighting one of the NIE's main shortcomings.

womanhthyself: Thanks and I bet your in the kitchen...still LOL

Goat: Interesing comments. The more we can ascertain about Iran's inner workings the better.

Goat said...

I went to high school with quite a few Iranian exchange students during the Carter years and hostage crisis, some were very snobby, others were very western. I also had friends from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel so I have long studied the region and the various tensions as I had lived in a micro-cosm on campus at the time, including a pipe bombing. We need to put more oomph behind the people before we pull the trigger. The business class is far more pragmatic than the mad mullahs and don't like what has happened to their once proud and prosperous country. Those kids I went to school with are now mid-forties and have a Western education in the Liberal-Arts as that HS is a college-prepatory private school that competes on the world stage. I wonder what they are doing now?

American Interests said...

Goat: Thank you, that is very interesting, your knowledge and experience is very much appreciated here.

I wonder if their pragmatism has any tangible influence back home?