Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during a meeting with a group of commanders and personnel of the Iranian Air Force in Tehran on February 5, 2024

Expert Believes Current Conditions May Encourage Iran to Build Nukes

Friday, 02/09/2024

The United States and Israel should tell Iran it risks an “overwhelmingly powerful strike” if it moves to make a nuclear weapon, leading weapons expert David Albright told Iran International.

In an interview on Thursday, Albright warned that a “convergence of factors” means “this is the time that “Iran may decide to make nuclear weapons.”

“You have a situation where the security incentives for Iran to build nuclear weapons have increased,” he pointed out. “The transparency of the nuclear program has decreased significantly.. Their nuclear weapons capabilities have grown over the last several years… And it's also a point in time where people's attention is elsewhere. The Iran nuclear issue barely makes the newspapers these days.”

David Albright is a world leading weapons expert and the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security. He was associated with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the late 1990s and raised questions about the evidence that led to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Speaking with Iran International’s Fardad Farahzad, Albright called the current moment “a point of extreme danger”, where Iran can make a “crude” nuclear explosive in six months.

“By crude I mean, you can't put it on a ballistic missile and hope that it will survive,” he said. “But it would work underground as a test. And most importantly, it would just signify through, say, a week that Iran was a nuclear weapons power.”

In the past two decades, every US president has announced that a “nuclear Iran” will not be tolerated, often stressing that “all options are on the table” to prevent the regime in Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons. And in the meantime, Iran has advanced its nuclear capabilities in every respect.

The argument in some policy circles is that Iran would have to do tests to become ‘nuclear' and that would give the US government (or Israel) the time it needs to find a response. But Albright believes the evidence suggests otherwise.

“Iran does not need to do a nuclear test to build a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Their original weapons program that ended around 2003 was a program that was designed to avoid the need to conduct a ‘full scale’ test… they can test the components, the subcomponents, and then test the whole assembled device minus the weapons grade uranium, and have a way to know if that test was successful, which we call a cold test.”

David Albright, weapons expert and the founder of the non-governmental Institute for Science and International Security

There is no evidence at the moment to suggest Iran has had a ‘cold test.’ But it is something that can happen with relative ease and in a short time, according to Albright.

Which leads, inevitably, to the question: is there anything that can be done?

“President Biden, backed up by the Israeli government, should say that we are watching you, Iran, even though we have other priorities,” Albright said. “and if you move to make nuclear weapons, we're going to launch an overwhelmingly powerful military strike.

“And that's desperately needed is to empower the IAEA. They're the people on the ground that can look for suspicious activities. If Iran is going to make a nuclear weapon, it's going to have to divert at some point in the six month process the enriched uranium. And the IAEA can look for indications of diversion, insist on being at the sites, resist being excluded from the sites.”

But would any of these work?

“We know from past experience that Iran won't give in completely to this kind of pressure,” Albright said, “but it does get nervous. And that's part of the purpose is to throw the Iranian regime off balance and then in parallel, make sure that the Iranian regime understands that overwhelming military force could be applied.”

There is another side to this ‘threat’, though: it could convince the Iranian regime that it could survive only if it becomes a nuclear power –like North Korea, as some ultra hardliners in Iran would like to say.

But Albright believes a “balancing act” is possible if the US and Israel move swiftly to make the regime understand “it's not in its interest to build nuclear weapons” before it reaches a definite conclusion that it has to have “nuclear deterrent” against the US and Israel.

“We're worried that the US and Israeli intelligence agencies are distracted,” Albrighrt told Iran International, “and Israeli intelligence isn't foolproof, as this attack on October 7th proved in a very dramatic way. 

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