ANOTHER ESTIMATE, YAWN – AT 6:02 P.M. ET: We now have another estimate about the timeline of Iran's nuclear-weapons program. From CBC:
It will take Iran at least a year and perhaps three to produce a nuclear device, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.
It will then take more time for Iran to produce a weapon and a system for getting it to a target, Gates said at the meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.
"But clearly, them getting to the threshold of having weapons is what concerns everybody, and not the other things, and in that area I would say there is a range there from [one to three] years," Gates said.
The time range is based on different intelligence estimates.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely peaceful, aimed at producing nuclear energy and medical isotopes, but the United States and many allies believe Tehran's real goal is to build weapons.
Gates also said he was disappointed that Turkey voted Wednesday against a UN Security Council resolution to toughen sanctions against Iran.
Turkey and Brazil, which also voted against the resolution, had brokered a fuel-swap agreement with Iran that they hoped would address concerns Tehran was enriching uranium for nuclear weapons.
COMMENT: It seems to me that the estimates are generally in line with what we've read, although the Israelis believe Iranian success will come sooner.
What is left out, though, is this: Iran will not need a sophisticated delivery system to use a nuclear weapon. The great nightmare of many planners is that they'll put a rudimentary nuke aboard a freighter and sail it into an American harbor, where it would be set off by a suicide group. Or, they could bring that freighter to within 20 miles of New York or Los Angeles, and fire a 1970s vintage rocket, carrying a nuclear warhead, from its decks.
Or, they could smuggle a nuke into the United States, part by part, across the Mexican border, and do a nuclear Oklahama City. You don't need a circa 2010 missile. All you need is a circa 1945 nuclear device.
June 12, 2010