DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports from Washington that broad circles in the US administration and intelligence take the view that Iran will be deterred from dashing forward with its own underground test – rather than encouraged – by North Korea's underground nuclear test of Monday, May 25,.
This view challenges the approach represented in the previous article, which maintains that the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs are closely synchronized and that Iran drew a strong incentive from Pyongyang's test to rush its own test forward.
A Middle East countdown to some time after July 10 had therefore started, 50 days from the date of the long-range Sejil-2 missile test fire from a launching pad in northern Iran.
However the opposite opinion in Washington contended that, four days after their test, North Korean nuclear planners discovered they had still not attained control of the impact of their nuclear explosion.
Those US circles explain that from the estimated 20-kiloton device tested, the North Koreans hoped for a 2-kiloton impact. Instead, they suggest, the yield was no more than a quarter of that target.
The Kim Jong-Il regime had to accept that it is nowhere near mastering the process for making a warhead or payload ready for delivery by missile or aircraft, complete with packaging and “weaponizing” to the right dimensions and fitted with a triggering mechanism, the Washington circles say.
The Iranian nuclear experts, who were invited to watch the test at the northern Kilju site near the Chinese border will have learned, say those US circles, that the North Koreans were over-hasty in conducting a live nuclear test before they were ready – possibly because of domestic political difficulties. They succeeded in setting their program back rather than forward.
This should be a cautionary lesson for Tehran and show its planners how far they still have to go before embarking on the drastic step of an underground test, and so turning their backs on the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and the Non-Proliferation Treaty of which they are a signatory.
On the other hand, those American sources add, Iran was forced to appreciate that tests are essential for advancing on the goal of nuclear weaponry. There is no other way to judge the impact of a nuclear explosion or the measure of control.