Paul KerrKhan Network: Steve Coll in New Yorker

As far as I can tell, the New Yorker hasn’t posted Steve Coll’s piece on the Khan network yet, but they have a Q&A transcript on their website that’s worth checking out.

This excerpt about the time frame for an Iranian nuclear weapon is interesting:

Q: The question of how fast can’t be answered definitively, but could you give us a sense of the estimates and how reliable you think they are?

A: John Negroponte, the director of National Intelligence, has said, in his most recent public assessment, that the American intelligence community believes that Iran may acquire a nuclear capacity some time in the next decade, meaning from 2010 or 2011 onward. From my reporting, I gather that in private briefings the Bush Administration’s intelligence analysts focus on a five-to-seven-year window, although they emphasize that there’s a fair amount of uncertainty about this estimate. I think the one assertion that the intelligence community seems comfortable with is that it’s not this year or next year and probably not the year after that. However, the more that is discovered about Iran’s research, the more some analysts wonder whether Iran might be able to move faster than the official forecast indicates.

Comments

  1. CKR (History)

    The Manhattan Project designed two nuclear weapons, operating on different principles of forming a supercritical mass, in 26 months. It cost $2 billion mid-1940s dollars. They did not have anything like the computing power of modern pcs, nor did they have all the hints and guesses now generally available about how to make a bomb.

    Iran has been fiddling with various aspects of bomb-making for a decade or more. Presumably they have picked up some more information along that way.

    So in some theoretical way, yes, Iran could have a bomb in two more years.

    However, when we consider their progress so far and their economic and technical capabilities to mount another Manhattan Project, not this year or the next is a pretty good estimate. Maybe longer.

  2. hass (History)

    Watch the intentional resort to ambiguity.
    Nuclear “capacity” is a nice ambiguity that implies “weapons” but doesn’t actually say it since there’s no evidence. Instead, we’re given timelines to nuclear “capacity” and told of the threat posed by Iran’s “nuclear ambitions” – nevermind that both are perfectly legal under the NPT

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