Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Insurance Policy

I've worried that enrichment could be a red herring to keep us hoping Iran is years from possessing nuclear weapons. Given that Iran has to worry about crossing red lines that provoke American or Israeli strikes, the mullahs have reason to prepare for crossing those lines:

Were I an Iranian nutball, under those circumstances, I'd want at least a few atomic warhead on hand before I announce capabilities to produce atomic weapons-grade material. Which would mean I'd have had to have bought some from either North Korea or Pakistan--or possibly even from some broke custodian of Russia's arsenal.

If Iran can announce both the ability to make nuclear bomb material and the possession of actual nuclear weapons--perhaps by detonating one in a test on their own territory--Tehran would quite possibly deter an attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

If Iran can deploy some secure nuclear missiles just as they get close to the ability to enrich Uranium so they can make as many warheads as they need, it may be too late to stop Iran from going nuclear. Iran would need to buy nuclear material or warheads to carry out this strategy.

So is this report true?

Several Western intelligence organizations are investigating whether a ship that recently travelled from North Korea to Iran had several dozen tons of enriched uranium hidden in its cargo, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

The suspected move is seen by some intelligence officials as an effort to hide traces of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) program to develop nuclear weapons, which the U.S. believes North Korea is secretly pursuing.

If confirmed, North Korea's transfer of the materials to Iran would only add to rising proliferation concerns, which have been stirred by the country's launch of a long-range Taepodong 2 missile last week.

According to one Western intelligence source, the ship in question left North Korea last December and travelled through the Indian Ocean. The cargo was then shipped to a location near Tehran.

We argue over precisely where Iran is on the nuclear weapons path without really thinking of what Iran might do to reach their destination by an alternate means. If we focus on the apparent bottleneck while Iran secretly bypasses that step with purchased raw material, we'll be blindsided by Iran's nuclear break out.