The latest hit in the rapidly building drumbeat for war with Iran is that they could have a nuclear bomb at their disposal in sixteen days. The headline is blared across Drudge even as I type this: "Iran 'Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days'." So what's the claim based on? Could it possibly be true? In a word, no. Here's the reporting from Bloomberg on the sixteen days claim currently being trotted out by the administration.
Iran will move to "industrial scale" uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.
"Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days," Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.
The small amount of uranium that Iran just announced producing was enriched using 164 centrifuges. The 50-54,000 centrifuges Rademaker is talking about? They do not exist. Here's the AP article Rademaker's basing these numbers on, in case you might be curious. (All emphases mine, of course.)
Deputy Nuclear Chief Mohammad Saeedi said Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges at its facility in the central town of Natanz by late 2006, then expand to 54,000 centrifuges, though he did not say when.
"We will expand uranium enrichment to industrial scale at Natanz," Saeedi told state-run television.
Saeedi said using 54,000 centrifuges will be able to produce enough enriched uranium to provide fuel for a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant like one Russia is finishing in southern Iran.
In theory, that many centrifuges could be used to develop the material needed for hundreds of nuclear warheads if Iran can perfect the techniques for producing the highly enriched uranium needed.
Iran, which has made no secret of its plans to ultimately expand enrichment to around 50,000 centrifuges to fuel reactors, is still thought to be years away from a full-scale program.
This 'sixteen days' claim is nothing short of a sick, fear mongering lie, designed to push public opinion in a pro-war direction. Iran is not now and will not soon be sixteen days away from producing enough material for a nuclear bomb. Andy Grotto, a Senior National Security Analyst with the Center for American Progress pegs five years as the minimum amount of time it will take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon. And the State Department is even less optimistic about the abilities of Iran's nuclear program. As John Aravosis has pointed out, their own website says that "it will be ten years before Iran has a bomb."
Josh Marshall and others may choose to point out that people like Rademaker are known for their dishonesty. That's fine -- there's value to that. But this claim is a straight-up lie, and it doesn't take a background check on Rademaker's character and honesty to prove it. At the end of the day, the unavoidable fact is that, on matters of war, the administration of George W. Bush is not to be trusted. They have proven over and over and over again that when they want to go to war, the truth will not stand in their way.