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Bibi's Red Line

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu told the UN yesterday that  if Iran crosses the threshold  of enriching uranium to  90%  U-235 (1),  Iran must be stopped from building atomic weapons by any means necessary, including military force.  Since there is no known use for such highly-enriched uranium besides making  nuclear weapons, enriching the radioactive metal to that level would be a sure sign that the Islamic Republic intends to make such a bomb.  Netanyahu estimated that by the summer of 2013  Iran would have enough U-235 to make an atomic bomb, based on current rates of enrichment.

But how would  anyone outside of Iran know  if  the uranium had been enriched beyond 90%  U-235?  Since Iran has refused to allow inspections of its  nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),  this information is not public.  Apparently Israel has spies inside Iran that are reporting progress on the nuclear project, but it is far from clear that  accurate information on Iran's nuclear program is available to Israel or the United States now,  or will be available  by the time that a decision to attack would have to be made.  Even if Iran would suddenly permit  inspections of  some uranium-processing  labs, how would anyone know if other labs were secretly enriching uranium to weapon-grade levels?

Netanyahu would like the United States to join Israel in drawing the "red-line" for Iran, and lead the attack if Iran crosses it.  This will not happen for several reasons:

1. Iran is no threat to the United States.  Sure,  the Iranians held our diplomats hostage for over a year (1979-1981) and call us the "Great Satan", but Iranian leaders have never threatened to destroy the US.  Even if   the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon, they would need ICBM's  to use it on American territory, and they don't have them.  Iran  would be no more a threat than North Korea, which  is also hostile to the US and has had  atomic weapons for several years.

2.  A war in the Middle East would be disastrous for the US.  We have bases in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim countries, all of which would be vulnerable to  terrorist attacks by pro-Iranian Shiites.  World oil prices would skyrocket, which would hurt the US economy,  as well as those  of Europe and Japan.  (Even if Israel attacks Iran alone,  the US would still suffer some of these consequences.)

3. Uncertainty about Iranian intentions.  The US  made war on Iraq on the basis on  wrong  intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, which cost this nation about a trillion dollars and  thousands of dead American soldiers.  Although we have closed down military operations in Iraq, the  prospect of  another war in the Middle East based upon  questionable inferences from secret sources is appalling.  Barack Obama, who vehemently criticized  then-President George W Bush  for the Iraq War,  would be loathe to wage a war of his own  on the basis of an intelligence estimate, especially against a larger and more powerful adversary.  

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz,  the nation's  Foreign Ministry  recommends another round of trade sanctions against Iran  before military action  is contemplated.  This report, taken together with Netanyahu's  estimate of nearly a year  before Iran can produce a nuclear weapon,  indicates that Israel will not hit Iran until  next spring or summer, contrary to the prediction in our blog "Crunch Time in Iran."   Iran has time to prevent war by  opening all nuclear facilities to  IAEA inspection without limit and placing its uranium under international control.  But it does not have forever.

Gerald S Glazer

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(1) The atomic weight of an element is the  number of protons and neutrons in its nucleus.  

The vast majority of  natural uranium  has atomic  weight  238, and  is only slightly radioactive.  A tiny fraction  has atomic weight 235, and this isotope (variant)  is highly radioactive.   Centrifuges are used to  remove the lighter U-235 from gassified uranium ore.  A quantity  of uranium containing   20%  U-235 is sufficient for peaceful uses, such as  radiation treatments or  electricity generation.  To build an atomic weapon requires a minimum of  90%  U-235,  which is far richer than any peaceful  use.

    

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Talkbacks

solitarius | Sept. 28, 2012 at 10:45 a.m. (report)

1. Iran poses no threat to the USA??????????????????????????????
What planet is Mr Glazer on?

Below are links to the truth in this regard. I could have listed dozens but here are just a few expert opinions:

http://www.missilethreat.com/thethreat/pageID.247/default.asp

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012/09/25/irans-arsenal-could-harm-us-forces-in-case-of-a-military-on-its-nuclear-program/57838364/1

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-is-prepared-to-launch-terrorist-attacks-in-us-intelligence-report-finds/2012/01/30/gIQACwGweQ_story.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204740904577195043674372560.html

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/01/iran-now-a-top-threat-to-u-s-networks-spy-chief-says/

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