If Iran decides to expel IAEA inspectors and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the Isalmic nation could produce nuclear weapons in as little as six months. So says Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, whose recent comments on Iran's nuclear capabilities surprised many. Last year the IAEA chief said it would be several years before Iran would be able to build a nuke.
The most recent report by the IAEA on Iran's activities contains a number of disturbing details. The IAEA has asked for greater access and transparency, but Iran has refused. The IAEA has been denied access to various sensitive locations related to the manufacturing of centrifuges, as well as sites for research and development on uranium enrichment. The IAEA has also confronted Iran with documents it found detailing some of Iran's research activities. The documents have raised red flags concerning the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program. The IAEA report states:
"One aspect of the alleged studies refers to the conversion of uranium dioxide to UF4, also known as green salt. A second aspect concerns the development and testing of high voltage detonator firing equipment and exploding bridgewire (EBW) detonators including, inter alia, the simultaneous firing of multiple EBW detonators; an underground testing arrangement; and the testing of at least one full scale hemispherical, converging, explosively driven shock system that could be applicable to an implosion-type nuclear device. A third aspect of the studies concerns development work alleged to have been performed to redesign the inner cone of the Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle to accommodate a nuclear warhead."
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced that Israel has conducted military drills in preparation for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The Israeli military has been practicing long range missions. The military exercises allegedly involved almost 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets and other aircraft.
There has long been speculation that Israel is preparing for a possible strike on Iran. There has even been evidence to suggest that Israel may be planning a tactical nuclear strike. Such a bold move would no doubt reap the ire of the international community, and probably trigger a violent backlash or even a full-scale war. Yet it wouldn't be the first time Israel has taken such a risk. Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981 shortly before it became operational - a move that was widely condemned by the international community. More recently, Israel targeted a covert nuclear facility deep in Syrian territory.
It has become clear that Iran is heading steadily toward a confrontation with Israel. To learn more about this topic, we encourage you to watch The Coming Conflict: Israel and Iran in which Avi Lipkin shares his unique insights on Middle East affairs