Jeffrey LewisBloggingheads with Jackie

My diavlog with Jackie Shire from ISIS is on the site.

I model that “Get Il” shirt at the beginning of the Nork Segment.


  1. Yale Simkin (History)

    One segment of the dialog was a discussion of Albright’s and Shire’s 11/07 ACT essay:

    A Witches’ Brew? Evaluating Iran’s Uranium-Enrichment Progress

    A key part of that essay was the “breakout” scenario from non-bomb Low-Enriched-Uranium (LEU) to Highly-Enriched-Uranium (HEU)

    How Much LEU Is Enough for a Breakout Capability?
    A key milestone will be reached when Iran accumulates enough LEU to break out and relatively quickly produce weapons-grade uranium.
    … There would be little time for the international community to respond diplomatically, even though the IAEA would likely quickly detect any significant diversion of LEU.
    The production of HEU could be accomplished in approximately three months using 2,000 P-1 centrifuges, or in about two months in 3,000 such centrifuges.
    … If Iran achieves by the end of this year a higher but still relatively low rate of LEU production, such as 50 kilograms of LEU per month, it would take Iran 14-16 months to produce 700-800 kilograms of LEU. In this case, Iran could accumulate 700-800 kilograms of LEU by late 2008 or early 2009. If Iran were to operate the P-1 centrifuges at a high rate of 90 kilograms per month by the end of this year, it would need until late spring or early summer 2008 to accumulate this quantity of LEU.

    Compare this to my post here

    The Iranians seem to be proceeding roughly the rate I posted HERE
    In that scenario, Iran gets one cascade online by June and ramps up only one additional cascade every two months.
    This results in an accumulated SWU sufficient to build one first generation or several advanced bombs by the first half of 2009.
    Interestingly, if Iran did have 3K centrifuges,
    and if they were only capable of running them at 33% of potential 2 swu/yr,
    then they would again reach the same 20kg HEU in the first half of 2009.
    It is important to note that Iran could produce totally kosher (no irony intended) LEU – able to claim virginal innocence – until the very end. Just a couple months or less is all it takes to push LEU to HEU. – yale · Apr 13, 12:19 PM ·

    Looks like heresy is becoming Conventional Wisdom.

    Israel is not going to wait for this to happen.

    Israeli Warns Iran Could Have Nukes Soon
    JERUSALEM (AP) — Iran could have nuclear weapons in two years if its nuclear ambitions are not curbed, a senior Israeli intelligence official said Tuesday.
    Maj. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of research for military intelligence, warned parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran was getting steadily closer to developing a weapon.
    “If nothing stops Iran, the worst-case scenario is that by the end of 2009, Iran will have a nuclear weapon,” a participant in the closed session quoted Baidatz as saying.

  2. Allen Thomson

    > I model that “Get Il” shirt

    Sorry, Jackie wins in the shirt department.

    One thing that became obvious about the BOE/Israeli strike story is that there is starting to be too much stuff to keep straight in one human brain. Accordingly, I’ve started to maintain a “sourcebook” to try to keep things together.

    It’s much a work in progress, has lacunae, various sins of omission and commission, suffers from my biases as to what merits inclusion and highlighting. FWIW, it is what it is and is at (FAS is kind enough to indulge me in such things.)

    Comments, contributions, etc. are solicited and welcome, como siempre.

  3. Andrew Foland (History)

    God, I love living in the 21st Century! I can watch TV about nonproliferation at midnight!

    I really like introducing the indifference curve on add’l protocol vs centrifuges. On a related note, the metaphor of “political capital”: you’re only going to get so much, so better ask yourself what you want most.

    Although, asking for zero centrifuges might not be a bad starting point for a neogtiation…

  4. Mark Gubrud

    As I posted somewhere back there, Yale’s worst-case analysis is entirely plausible, and maybe even compelling to some people, such as those calling the shots in Israel, and here.

    It seems that if Israel and the Bush gang are intent on preventing Iran from ever coming that close to getting sufficient HEU for a bomb, and doing so by bombing Iran, then the attack will have to come soon.

    Once Iran has the LEU, moves toward war could have the effect of triggering HEU production. Bombing at that time might disrupt operations, but the LEU would probably remain available and the lost facilities could be reconstituted relatively quickly in a condition of greatly escalated confrontation and hostility if not continuing open war. From this perspective, the risks of an attack now are lower.

    On the other hand, it seems very unlikely that Iran will make any sudden moves at the present time. If the stalemate continues, Iran will accumulate its virtual deterrent (the LEU), and only a worsening of confrontation and escalation of threats will trigger a rush to overt HEU production.

    American and Israeli belligerence, hubris and hostility toward Iran are still the main obstacles to peace. The Bush gang still has the option to negotiate without preconditions and seek the kind of “grand bargain” that would establish a foundation for peace at the cost of allowing Iran to keep its virtual deterrent. This is still the best option; the crisis here is that the attack option is rapidly getting worse.

  5. Yale Simkin (History)

    I think Israel will be tempted to strike sooner, rather than later.

    They know that once Iran has a ton of LEU, either homegrown, or from the 80 tons of Bushehr fuel that the Russians may deliver, or on loan from a potential international fuel dump, a quantum moment has occurred.

    With any tiny covert or overt enrichment capability Iran will only weeks from having a Holocaust weapon, deliverable with technologies they have in hand (poor CEP is irrelevant to vaporizing a metropolitan area)

    That is simply intolerable to the Israelis.

    They simply will not allow it. The IAEA, the US, EU, whatever, needs to factor that into their equations. I really do not think that 2 years is available for diplomacy, threats, or bribes.

    This has been displayed many times over the decades. Israel really and truly has ingrained into its national psyche a willingness to accept conflict, instability, economic stress, etc as an acceptable cost vs (again) facing total annihilation.

    I am quite curious as to what Israel is thinking about Pakistan. They have barely tolerated an Islamic Bomb only insofar as its likely targets have been local enemies and it is controlled by strong dictators not particullarly belligerant to Israel.

    With Pakistan devolving into chaos and possible radical religious leadership, what will Israel do?

    The threat is only partially the bombs and launchers. HEU exists in mass quantities at various facilities and is usable at any level of expertise.

  6. SQ

    The only question I would raise about Yale’s take on Israeli perceptions and inclinations is whether they are actually capable of doing what he envisions. I have doubts about that for operational reasons, and suspect that if it were within their capabilities, they would have acted by now.

    What the U.S. could do is a different question. But the U.S. has more urgent problems at the moment.

    As for what Israel will do about Pakistan, that’s even further beyond their reach.

  7. Yale Simkin (History)

    I think Israel would hold off an attack until they feel:

    1) diplomacy and pressure have obviously failed and
    2) Iran has not yet produced more than a few hundred kilos of LEU and
    3) if the US or others won’t take military action.

    I don’t see that tomorrow, but I also don’t see them waiting until 2010.

    (The joker in the deck is Russia committing to delivering reactor fuel)