A panel of experts has concluded that time is dangerously running out for the U.S. to put in place a protective anti-missile umbrella. The biggest threat is Iran, which the panel forecasts will have the A-Bomb this year.
The Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis' new draft report, “Missile Defense, the Space Relationship, and the Twenty-First Century,” concludes that the number and sophistication of nuclear missile threats, such as that from Iran, “are evolving at a pace that no longer allows the luxury of long lead times for the development and deployment of defenses.”
The report's writers lament that, with a new administration, the future development of even the nation’s limited missile defense system is in question at a time when it should be a clear and solid priority.
Rogue states, chief among them North Korea and Iran, place a premium on the acquisition of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the means to deliver them, the authors warn.
“Russia and China, traditional competitors of the United States, continue to expand the range and sophistication of their strategic arsenals at a time when the United States debates deep reductions in its strategic nuclear forces beyond those already made since the end of the Cold War and has no current modernization program,” the panel notes.
In order to address increasingly complex and multifaceted dangers from a host of enemies, the United States must move well beyond the initial missile defense deployments of recent years to deploy a system capable of comprehensively protecting the American homeland, as well as U.S. overseas forces and allies, the panel concludes.
Although the experts cover the waterfront and detail the disturbing progress of numerous countries in nuclear ballistic missile development, the example of Iran, alone, raises apprehensions.
Despite years of pressure by the United Nations and the international community, Iran continues to forge quickly ahead toward a nuclear capability. In October 2007, French authorities — citing estimates by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — suggested that Iran was operating 3,000 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. That claim was later confirmed by Iranian officials. According to subsequent projections, that number of centrifuges could yield enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 2009 if operated at full (100 percent) efficiency, and in 2010 if they worked just a quarter of the time. Since December 2007, Iran has built a stockpile of low-enriched uranium hexafloride. Iran’s stockpile had reached more than 1000 pounds by August 31, 2008, with monthly production rates of more than 100 pounds, according to the IAEA. In 2009 its steady production rate could give Iran at least 1,500 pounds that could be re-circulated through its centrifuges to pro¬duce the 35 pounds of weapon-grade uranium sufficient for one bomb. In April 2008, Iranian President Mahmoud Ah¬madinejad disclosed that his government had begun to in¬stall another 6,000 centrifuges at the Natanz facility.
Iranian leaders have taken the latter bullet point to be a critical milestone. “The nuclear issue (of Iran) is the most important political development in contemporary history,” Ahmadinejad announced to supporters at that time. “Iran’s victory in this biggest political battle will lead to new international developments,” the dictator warned.
“Thus all indicators point toward the development of an Iranian nuclear capability with varying estimates not about whether Iran is doing so, but instead when it will have such weapons,” the report says.
There have also been reports that Iran as well as North Korea, and even terrorist groups, could have benefited from information from the notorious A.Q. Khan proliferation network.
The new report details how in 2006 drawings were discovered on computers owned by Swiss businessmen that included how to build a warhead that could be fitted on an Iranian ballistic missile. Whether these drawings were earlier passed on to Iran is not certain.
The nuclear-related documents allegedly included hundreds of pages of specifications for a compact nuclear device that could have been designed for Iran.
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