William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THAT INCONVENIENT ASTERISK – AT 9:26 A.M. ET:  A new report on Iran's nuclear program appears to give us some more time to maneuver, but actually doesn't.  Some things have to be read with two eyes.  From Reuters:

(Reuters) - Iran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by mid-2014, and the United States and its allies should intensify sanctions on Tehran before that point is reached, a report by a group of U.S. nonproliferation experts said.

President Barack Obama should also clearly state that the United States will take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the report said.

With Kerry and Hagel in place?  Are we serious here?

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has expressed concern that Iran's nuclear program has a military dimension. Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, calls those allegations baseless.

The 154-page report, "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East," produced by five nonproliferation experts, was expected to be released on Monday.

"Based on the current trajectory of Iran's nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability in mid-2014," the report said.

Now, here is the key point – the definition of "critical capability."  Read closely:

It defined "critical capability" as the point when Iran would be able to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more bombs without detection by the West.

"Without detection."  In other words, Iran could actually develop a weapon before 2014, but we would know about it.  From 2014 onward, we could go blind. 

By mid-2014, Iran would have enough time to build a secret uranium-enrichment site or significantly increase the number of centrifuges for its nuclear program, said David Albright, one of the project's co-chairs and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

"We don't think there is any secret enrichment plant making significant secret uranium enrichment right now," he told Reuters. But there is "real worry" that Iran would build such a plant, he said.

COMMENT:  I frankly find this report utterly chilling.  Obama has pledged that he will never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.  But what happens if we don't know if the Iranians have them?  Do we assume they do?  Don't? 

This is one of the most disturbing reports I've read recently.

January 15, 2013