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October 11, 2005

Has Iran Designed A Nuclear Warhead For The Shihab-3?

Topics: Iran

Does the United States have intelligence information that Iran has developed a nuclear warhead for it's Shihab-3 ballistic missle? Has the policy of the U.S. and it's allies, as well as that of the IAEA, been far too permissive in allowing Iran to proceed to a point of having both a stockpile of upgraded Shihab-3 ballistic missles, and if this latest information concerning Iran's development of a nuclear warhead is accurate, a nuclear warhead for it that now enables Iran to lob nuclear weapons at both Israel and U.S. positions in the Middle East?

A review of Iran's weapons development and of U.S and IAEA policies during the past year and a half suggest that the answer to all of the above questions is a firm - yes!

Chad at In The Bull Pen posts today on the September 24, 2005 passage by the IAEA of a resolution to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council, and that one of the nations that switched their previous 'No' vote to 'Yes' was India. The fallout between Iran and India apparently occurred when Iran nixed a previously agreed upon energy deal with India. At the time India noted it changed its vote after receiving classified intelligence from the United States to back the England sponsored resolution.

Henry Sokolski wrote in his November 2004 piece in The Weekly Standard entitled, "Enough Brinksmanship," that the key problem with Iran is that our current policy conceeds too much.

Iran, for instance, asserts that it has the right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to come within weeks of building a bomb, and we do not publicly contest this. Instead, Britain, France, and Germany, in their numerous "one-last-chance" offers, are pleading with Tehran not to exercise the right it claims. In exchange for an Iranian pledge to suspend certain nuclear fuel-making activities, the three propose to guarantee Tehran not only a supply of fresh light-water-reactor fuel for its just-completed power reactor at Bushehr, but also more such reactors and improved trade relations as well.

If this sounds like an invitation to nuclear mischief, it is. First, the fuel that the European Three would guarantee could itself be used to accelerate the making of a bomb. Fresh, lightly enriched light-water-reactor fuel is far closer to being bomb grade than is natural uranium. If Iran were to seize the fuel and divert it--as it probably could without IAEA inspectors' immediate knowledge--Iran could reduce five-fold the level of effort it would need to make bomb-grade material: With the centrifuges Iran admits having, it could make a bomb's worth of fuel in roughly nine weeks as opposed to a year. This suggests that the IAEA's current cycle of inspections at Bushehr--once every three months--is woefully inadequate.

On November 10, 2004, we wrote of Iran's defense minister's announcement that Iran was capable of mass-producing the Shahab-3, a ballistic missile capable of hitting Israel. The minister even bragged about being able to able to mass-produce the Shahab-3, just like they did with the Paykan, Iran's ubiquitous national car which had been mass-produced in Iran for decades. Iran had recently upgraded the Shahab-3 ballistic missile to a range of at least 2,000 kilometres (about 1,200 miles). Previous figures had put the missile's range at between 1,300 and 1,700 kilometres, already bringing arch-enemy Israel and US bases in the region well within range.

At that time, concerns were already being raised about Iran's nuclear ambitions, and only a few days later, on November 13, 2004, we wrote in "Iran Heading Towards Conflict" that back in September 2004, the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) reported that Iran was intending to convert 37 tonnes of milled uranium oxide ('yellowcake') into uranium hexafluoride, the 'feed' material for centrifuges that gets made into highly enriched uranium (HEU). This was viewed to be too small a quantity for a civilian program, but would provide enough material for around five nuclear weapons.

In undertaking the yellowcake conversion, Iran had gone further in breaching the arrangement it made with the EU in October 2003 when it announced that it would suspend enrichment activities, shortly after which it decided to resume assembling centrifuges. Amid calls by the US to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, the EU member states have opted to allow Iran a final opportunity to come to a negotiated solution before supporting Washington's demands for tough sanctions.

The IAEA's resolution called on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities immediately and reconsider its decision to construct a heavy-water research reactor at Arak. Tehran has insisted that the Arak reactor would be used solely for research and the production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial purposes. Experts point out that such a reactor would also provide the means to produce plutonium without the need to enrich uranium.

In June 2004, Iran had cut the IAEA seals on its existing centrifuge components and began assembling centrifuges from existing component stock. Other outstanding issues at that time involved the origin of uranium contamination found at various locations; the completeness of Iran's declaration about the acquisition of advanced P2 gas centrifuges; establishing that undeclared enrichment had not taken place at other locations and confirming that no undeclared HEU had already been imported.

And here we are today with India alluding to intelligence information obtained from the U.S. that Iran has a nuclear warhead for the Shihab-3, with reports almost a year old that Iran has been carrying out research, testing and making the Ghadr 101 and Ghadr 110 missiles with a range of 2,500 to 3,000 km (1,600 to 1,900 miles), capable of hitting cities such as Berlin, the IAEA only recently having passed a resolution to refer Iran to the UN, and a slim chance of the UN reaching a concensus to do anything about it.

As we noted back in November 2004 - "So where is all this taking us? While the UN and Europe sleep and the U.S. has been fighting the war on terror, Iran continues to move toward more terrible weapons of war for the terrorists. Whatever the outcome the fact that a terrorist state has been allowed to come so far in developing a nuclear arsenal is ........ . Well, we'll let readers complete the sentence. Comments are invited!

And by the way, let's not forget the Shihab-4 and the Shihab-5, with ranges of up to 5,000 kilometers that are capable of hitting much of Europe!

Iranian opposition group says it has new evidence that Iran is producing enriched uranium at a covert Defense Ministry facility in Tehran.

Powell: Iran Developing Nuclear Bomb

Iran nuclear missile, Is The Sharab-3 Already Developed?

Strategy Page Report: Shahib Missile Info Known In October

Posted by Richard at October 11, 2005 11:15 PM

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