How Close is Iran to Nuclear Weapons?
In a Policy Analysis for the Washington institute, Matthew Levitt writes the following: “As details emerge of potential direct links to the attack on Israel, one thing is clear: Hamas would not have been able to plan and conduct such an operation without years of Iranian training, Iranian weapons, and hundreds of millions of dollars in Iranian funding”.
While the exact nature of Iran’s involvement in the October 7th Terrorist Attacks is unknown, there was clearly some level of coordination.
Iran’s modus operandi in the Middle East has long been to avoid direct involvement but act through proxies—Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza, and militias in Iraq—to expand its influence and achieve its policy goals. Iran is an octopus whose tentacles will be found with a finger in every jihadi pie across the middle east. As the war still wages in Gaza, one of the questions that has been at the forefront of the debate is: What will happen on the day after? What will happen after the initial elimination of Hamas has taken place? One of the key aims of this attack appears to have been the de-stabilisation of the Abraham Accords, and an effort to avoid Saudi Arabia making formal diplomatic peace ties with Israel. With these things in mind, one of the key considerations that will affect all decision making in the middle east with regard to any peace deal is the status of Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Programme.
Iran’s Nuclear Weapons
This has been recognised by the Time Magazine, as they published an article this week with the headline: “As the Israel-Hamas War Governs the World’s attention, Iran is quietly marching towards Nuclear Breakout.”. The article states that a nuclear Iran still remains the gravest long-term regional security threat to Israel, the Middle East and the US.
It also writes the following: “The diplomatic backdrop has already changed considerably for Iran’s nuclear aspirations. In the weeks and months before the Oct. 7 attack, Israel and Saudi Arabia were close to completing a normalization agreement, building off the Abraham Accords. The imminent addition of Saudi Arabia to the Abraham Accords likely motivated Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Saudi-Israel normalization would have been disastrous for Iran, Iran’s terrorist proxies, and the Iranian regime’s stated goal of destroying Israel…The Ayatollah seems to believe the West is now further distracted and perhaps more deterred from confronting Iran over its nuclear program, as full-fledged nuclear weapons creep ever closer to fruition” .
All of this leads us ask to following question: Just how close is Iran to Nuclear Weapons? There is little doubt that this question or similar must be plaguing the minds of certain members of the Mossad and CIA along with their governments as well as other countries such as Saudi Arabia. This will be one of the key pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in any peace deal that may eventually be made with Saudi Arabia.
What do you need for a Nuclear Weapon?
In order to attain nuclear weapons capability a country needs the following 2 key things:
Firstly – enriched Uranium
Secondly – Components of a successful weapon that would be able to receive the processed Uranium .
1) Enriched Uranium.
Enriching Uranium involves taking natural Uranium and increasing the concentration of the Uranium-235 Isotope. This is usually done using a piece of equipment called a centrifuge. A centrifuge spins at high speeds to separate different isotopes of uranium. The powerful the centrifuge, the smaller it would need to be and therefore the easier to conceal. This is why news articles often talk about Iran’s centrifuges. Enriched Uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and Nuclear Weapons.
Most Nuclear reactors used for power generation require uranium that is enriched to 3-4%. However, weapons grade uranium must be 85% enriched if not more. This is why it is so abundantly clear to the world that Iran is interested in much more than civil nuclear power generation. Iran have currently increased its enrichment activities to 60%. The United States and others now estimate that Iran could reach weapons-grade Uranium in a matter of weeks using the centrifuges on Iran’s Netanz Nuclear site. This timing (to reach weapons grade uranium) is often referred to in the press as Iran’s nuclear break-out time . Interestingly, in 2012, Netanyahu famously drew a red line on a graphic of a bomb at the UN, demonstrating when he would consider military action to be necessary. He drew the red line at 90% enrichment. Since that speech, the nuclear deal with America, the JCPOA, forced Iran to reduce its stockpile. However in recent years this has been built back up again. 90% enrichment has still not been reached but Iran is only a matter of weeks away. This is down to Iran’s choice, not a lack of capability, likely because they have not yet delivered a successful nuclear warhead. Therefore it is quite possible that military action against Iran could be imminent.
2) Components of a successful weapon
This breakout time does not account for technological capability and time required to build a workable nuclear warhead. According to the House of Commons Library, the time to develop a weapon like this, for Iran, is estimated to be around 1-2 years. However, the bottom line is that the information (at least in the public domain) is unclear as to the current Iranian expertise and research in this area. This time could easily be shorter than suggested.
It is not possible to quantitively estimate how far away Iran are from Nuclear weapons. What we can say for sure is that qualitatively speaking they are really not far away!
So what does this mean for Middle East Politics?
If the Saudi-Israel peace could be visualised as a donkey, there are two ways to make it move forwards. The first is dangle a carrot in front of it – this carrot is all of the lucrative possibilities of investment, trade deals, collaboration and more that would be the result of a peace deal. Secondly, however – the peace deal donkey could also also whipped and thus forced to move forwards. The threat of a nuclear Iran is such that both parties should be motivated by fear in order to make such a deal possible, instituting a united front against Iran. Even the information about Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the public domain is enough to make any country quake in their boots – who knows how much more the CIA or Mossad might be able to add to this. It is also quite possible that the current situation in Gaza could be used to bring about further cooperation between the Saudis and Israel when it comes to rebuilding Gaza’s future – another necessary piece in the same jigsaw puzzle.
The Temporary Peace (Ezekiel 38)
Ezekiel 38 describes a strange transitory peace upon the mountains of Israel just before Gog invades. As stated above the attack launched by Hamas was likely a method of de-railing any further peace talks between Israel and the Saudis. However, this only serves to show close peace had become and quite probably still is. A normalisation deal would lay the foundations to decrease tension in Judea and Samaria and bring about the situation described by Ezekiel. There are two things that must take place in parallel directly before Armageddon – Firstly, the situation of Peace and secondly, the Work of Elijah in Israel. The work of Elijah must happen during the transitory situation of peace. If we can see that a situation of peace could be around the corner, then how far might we be from the mission of the Elijah (and therefore by definition, the return of Christ to the household)? The angels are working to bring about God’s purpose with the nations and one of the tools at their disposal is undoubtably the Nuclear Capability of Iran.
Join us again next week for another edition of Bible in the News. This has been Daniel Blackburn joining you.