US intelligence estimates Iran has overcome technical difficulties in uranium enrichment, shortening to 2010 the date for enough bomb-grade material – CBS

debkafile adds: This new assessment is down from the original 2015 date and closer to the Israeli intelligence 2009 estimate – although PM Ehud Olmert said this week that Iran is far from a technological breakthrough. CBS’s sources note that Iran could meet or beat that date, depending on further technical progress in operating a uranium enrichment plant now under construction. According to Pentagon officials quoted in the broadcast, the window has narrowed for Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, which could involve the US in a war against a much tougher opponent than Iraq.
debkafile‘s military sources report that the revised US estimate rests on word that the Iranians have overcome the difficulties stalling the operation of the P2 centrifuges at the Natanz plant at the requisite speeds for producing weapons-grade uranium. The low-grade material was good enough for a primitive device, but not a bomb.
Even with sufficient bomb-grade uranium, Iran must still master the technology for building a bomb or a warhead which can be delivered by air or missile. All the timelines released thus far, including the CBS disclosure of Fri. April 27, are no more than estimates. None of the intelligence agencies, American, Israeli, or even Iranian, can precisely date the moment of breakthrough, or predict when Tehran will acquire the technology it lacks on the black market.
Olmert’s estimate that Iran’s nuclear program is far off and can be halted by diplomacy and sanctions was offered in a speech this week to American Jewish leaders. Wide of the mark, it was produced as anodyne for an audience nervous of a US-Israeli war against Iran. The CBS reference to a possible Israeli pre-emptive strike involving the US was a roundabout way of intimating that American military action against Iran involving Israel has moved closer to reality. The Olmert government would not dream of going it alone against Iran, as did Menahem Begin in 1981, when he ordered the bombing of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor.
Tehran obviously expects an American attack in the summer months, judging by the threat issued Thursday by deputy interior minister Mohammad Baqer Zoldghadr, favorite for taking charge of the Revolutionary Guards. Should the US attack, he said: “Nowhere would be safe for America with (Iran’s) long-range missiles… we can fire tens of thousands of missiles every day.” He added: “With long-range missiles Iran can also threaten Israel as America’s ally” and US Middle East bases.

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