The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges producing enriched uranium at its Fordow underground facilities in recent months, moving it closer to being able to make a nuclear weapon.
In other words, the tough economic sanctions, political pressure and diplomatic isolation may be causing a great deal of pain for ordinary Iranians but not for their government, certainly not enough to slow down the nuclear program.
That has heightened the sense of urgency in the Netanyahu government, which has intensified its calls for greater international pressure to end the program. On Monday evening the prime minister told a group of wounded Israeli and American soldiers that Iran is "racing ahead with its nuclear program because it doesn't see a clear red line from the international community." Until the United States and others draw that red line, saying pass this point and we'll attack, the Iranians won't take any threats seriously, he has said.
The IAEA report said Iran has nearly 190 kg of higher grade enriched uranium, and 200-250 kg are needed for one bomb. Even if Iran could produce enough to make one bomb and detonate it at a test facility, it could be one to three years before it could be "weaponized" -- perfected and miniaturized enough to fit on a missile and detonate at the right place and time over a distant target.
The Fordo site is buried deep in a mountain, near to holy city of Qom and 80 miles from Tehran, to withstand a military attack. Bunker buster bombs supplied by the United States could allow the Israelis to possibly close up the access to the tunnels but reportedly only the US has a newly developed huge bunker busters – and bombers big enough to carry them -- that could possibly penetrate all the way to the centrifuges.
Netanyahu is expected to make a strong pitch to Obama later this month when he comes for the U.N. General Assembly, where he probably will speak about the Iranian threat. He feels the United States and the international community don't share his sense of urgency and that results in the Iranians believing they can stall the diplomatic negotiations with the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
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