US: Iran may have fuel for crude nuclear weapon

The news comes ahead of a Sept. 23 deadline set by the US for Iran to agree to talks.

United States military and intelligence officials have revealed that Iran may possess enough fuel to assemble a crude nuclear weapon, although how quickly such a device can be built remains unclear.

Given the pace of Iran’s uranium enrichment, some observers are advising President Barack Obama to begin preparing military options.

The development comes as a Sept. 23 deadline set by Mr. Obama for Iran to agree to talks nears. So far Iran has offered little substantive response.

The New York Times reported that Iran “has created enough nuclear fuel to make a rapid, if risky, sprint for a nuclear weapon."

In interviews over the past two months, intelligence and military officials, and members of the Obama administration, have said they are convinced that Iran has made significant progress on uranium enrichment, especially over the past year…
It is unclear how many months — or even years — it would take Iran to complete that final design work, and then build a warhead that could fit atop its long-range missiles. That question has been the subject of a series of sharp, behind-the-scenes exchanges between the Israelis and top American intelligence and military officials, dating back nearly two years and increasing in intensity in recent months.

The Times adds, however, that “new intelligence reports delivered to the White House say that the country has deliberately stopped short of the critical last steps to make a bomb.”

The revelation comes as the US and other world powers have put pressure on Iran to respond to an offer to talks, as the Christian Science Monitor reported:

Officials from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain) as well as Germany met in Frankfurt Wednesday. They issued a statement calling on Iran to formally accept, within weeks, the negotiations that the international community has called for since April.
President Obama and other world leaders have set a deadline for Iran: before this month's UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 23. If Tehran doesn't agree to talks by then, it risks the imposition of what would be a fourth round of economic sanctions. Such sanctions, international leaders say, would deeply damage the Iranian economy this time.

Iran responded by presenting a new proposal for talks. The content of that proposal has not been made public, but Lauren Rozen writes on the Politico blog:

Iran’s formal written response to international powers on prospective nuclear negotiations “does not have anything really promising in it,” a diplomatic source who had seen the document told POLITICO on condition of anonymity.
“It basically proposes negotiations on non-nuclear issues,” the diplomat said.

An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal warns that time is running out, and that the Obama administration should consider a military option:

Given Iran's shortening nuclear timetable and diplomatic challenges for forging an international consensus on sanctions, we urge Mr. Obama simultaneously to begin preparations for the use of military options. Now is the time for the president to reinforce his commitment to "use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," as he stated in February. We believe only a credible U.S. military threat can make possible a peaceful solution.
of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.