Obama Administration Says Iran Still Three to Five Years From Usable Nuclear Weapon

A revealing exchange at today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Iran’s nuclear program that featured some of the Obama administration’s defense policy heavy hitters. Things got interesting when director of military intelligence, Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, said Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb in one year.

This led a number of SASC committee members to assume that Iran could have a nuclear bomb in one year, which is not the case. He was referring only to uranium enrichment. Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin, asked for further clarification: If Iran made the decision today to develop a nuclear bomb, how long would it take them to do so?

To produce enough highly enriched uranium would take Iran one year, said vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. James Cartwright. To develop a “deliverable weapon that is usable tactically… something that can actually create a detonation, an explosion that would be considered a nuclear weapon” would take “another two to three, potentially out to five years.”

Sen. John McCain said he was somewhat astonished as every report he’s seen said a year to 18 months. To clarify, and Levin specifically asked what the intelligence community’s best assessment was, if Iran decided to simultaneously enrich uranium and develop a deliverable nuclear weapon, how long would it take?

“Three to five years is a historical estimate of how long it takes a nation with a low enriching capability to move both through the high enrichment protocols and then to things that would put it together to make it a weapon. Three to five years,” Cartwright said.

— Greg

28 Comments on "Obama Administration Says Iran Still Three to Five Years From Usable Nuclear Weapon"

  1. Are you buying this?. We know that Iran has put a satellite into orbit, and has at lease some missiles (ballistic or not) Do you think it will take them 3-5 years to put together a delivery system. Am I missing something.

  2. no thats not what they said , they said it will take them between 3 and 5 years to not only enrich the LE uranium to HE uranium , but also to develop a `bomb` that can actually be used – look at the ivy mike shot , yes it was the first `real` test of a hydrogen device , but being the size of a small building , tactically was useless – it took another 2 years for Castle Bravo to prove that the ulam-teller device could be used militarily.

  3. If Iran can smuggle weapons to Hezbollah or into Iraq (or Afghanistan), then it's game over for whatever American gets killed. It's not like a terrorist has to strike a civilian target to win. Can you imagine the "get the troops home" people using a mushroom cloud as part of their protest banners?

    Though if Iran really wanted to; they could've helped with dirty bombs by now. So maybe they're not all too bad; or they don't want to start throwing down dirty bombs or real nukes in legitimate fear of mutually assured destruction.

  4. Max – who cares what Israel's reasons are for obtaining nukes. They have them and so started the middle east nuke arms race. Simple. Now the other countries near Israel have every right to get nukes themselves. Until Israel, the US, Russia, ect get rid of all their nukes they have no right to tell other countries what they can and can't have. Just because you live in a country with nukes doesn't give you the right to dictate anything to them. Btw, Israel hasn't even signed the non proliferation treaty. I guess they don't care then….

  5. No you are not….

  6. I guess thats his way of flipping it off to the next president.

    Or was it china that said no to sanctions so he has to back pedal as not to look like the fool he has become.

    I thaught he might be decent but nope.

  7. Infantry Blue | April 14, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Reply

    The right comes and goes when you declare an intent to wipe another peaceable nation off the map, or slaughter several million innocent people in your own backyard. Simple solution, we should engage and destroy the Iranian and DPRK governments through military force. I will raise my hand to be the first to step across the border, even if I have to die for their freedom.

  8. If I was the leader of Iran I would probably develop nukes too. Their enemy Israel has had nukes for decades and i never heard any outcry from the international community about that. Let's remember that Israel started the nuke race in the middle east. Now they must live with their neighbors getting what they have. For the world to say that the Iranian people are entitled to the same security as Israel is absurd.

  9. American's always think they can tell other counties what they can and cannot do. They destroyed an entire country(Iraq) based on lies. Now they want to destroy another country based on lies too. What evidence do they have that Iran is building a nuke? I haven't seen any hard evidence. We're just supposed to take the word of some politicians just like people did before the US destroyed Iraq. All that intel was wrong. But America justifies that because their leader was a bad man. Someone America doesn't agree with. How many innocent civilians and American soldiers died because of lies? Just like America & Israel now doesn't like the leader of Iran. So America and Israel want to get rid of him and use the excuse of Iran possibly working on a nuke. Sound familiar?

    Now why didn't the US do whatever it took to stop N Korea, Pak, India, ect from getting the bomb. Oh yea, because Israel didn't push them to do it.

    Why can't America just mind it's own business and leave other countries to figure things out. Oh yea, because America thinks it's in charge of the world.

  10. I though the posters here were smart. So do they think Iran is not working with NK? You think they aren't already working on warhead designs and missiles?
    Or did everyone buy into the NIE Report of 2007? The first thing I believe Israel tested was a neutron bomb in 1979. NK tests seem low yield too and many pundits speculate NK and Iran would go for nukes that they can launch and have some tactical advantage. Indians and Pakistanis have since 2000 made clear their pursuit of MRRs. They are too close to use messy nukes.

    Isn't it clear Iran seeks to leap-frog when all the parts are together. Soon they will have both heavy water plant working and their new reactor to access plutonium. Western experts have been wrong consistently about Iran. The most accurate group was MEK, who says Iran as more facilities and is much further along than the WH thinks.

    Yes Chuck, keep going with that false equivalency game. Israel never questioned the existence of Syria or Iran. The international community didn't cry because they saw Israel's quest as one of self-preservation. Who is threatening to eliminate Iran?

    Come one, we're waiting…….

  11. Last time I checked, Iraq was NOT destroyed.

  12. The really funny thing is that the US and Israel is certain that there is a hidden Iranian program not because of any evidence (of which there is none) but simply because they know it would be the best and smartest thing for the Iranians to do.

    They cant believe anyone would be dumb enough to emulate Saddam and disarm, when faced with US and Israeli threats, sanctions, terrorist attacks and a full scale proxy war all conducted in the last 40 years with the aim of overthrowing the government.

    The real problem with Iranian nukes is that US attacks would have to stop and the dream of regime change would be over.

  13. If NK has one. Iran definitely has one on the way and SOON. If you don't think NK would help Iran, I would say you are mistaken. Iran will have a test within a year or so and then what?

  14. Our most pressing problem in this area right now is preventing Israel from unilaterally attacking and destroying Iran's nuclear sites. It would be disastrous from a foreign-policy standpoint, and probably would not be entirely successful from a tactical standpoint either. But, Israel seems to be chomping at the bit to go all the way. And, if they happen to fly-over US-controlled airspace, we could find ouselves knee-deep in alligators, to put it mildly.

  15. jacksonpolitic | April 15, 2010 at 7:24 am | Reply

    i wish we r liberal and make a peace word.iran has no NK weapon and all ppl know it, dont try to distroy the word.

  16. were all gonna die

  17. Joe Cottone sr | April 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Reply

    I for one am not buying this 3 to 5 years away bullshit. I can almost see that it will happen in a year or less that they are testing either the bomb itself or the uranium needed to do so, and in less than another year to detonate a bomb.

  18. That is the Iranian psykwar officer's motto right?If we knew this, we would attack,and also Israel.

  19. Russia was supplying them years ago,and the news reported it?Thats how I know America is lying again.

  20. Really? Just one year after 2012…

  21. Please, all you armchair nuclear experts that sit in front of Fox News and lap it up, provide us with your evidence (no matter how small) that Iran is working on Nuclear weapons. You can't? I thought so. And for all you idiots that think Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel off the map, he hasn't. He was repeating a statement from Ayatollah Khomeini that said that the Israeli regime will soon end. The regime, as in the USSR, not the people as in Russians et al. That bears no resemblance to "wipe off the map", which is just used as a propaganda tool by Israel to frighten people into obliging their foreign policy objectives. Not to mention that Ahmadinejad actually has no control over the Iranian military. That function is reserved for Ali Khamenei, who incidentally has issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons as un-Islamic. Believe what you will, but for Christ's sake do so on actual evidence, not hearsay. Too many lives are at stake.

  22. Hi,I jast say [we don’t need a nukes]


  24. Is Obama relying on the same intelligence community that he said provided President Bush bad information when he decided to go into Iraq to stop their WMD development? At least Bush took preemtive action whereas Obama seems to be content with waiting until the genie is ready to come out of the bottle. He’s taking a big risk.

  25. They already have a means of delivery.  It is called a truck.  A ship coming into New York Harbor could also work well. You can also just wrap the uranium around some TNT and you have a dirty bomb to spred  radioactive material.

  26. Their Shahab missile can hit any point in Israel. Weather they are building nukes now or not they are the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Intel has confirmed they helped the insurgency in Iraq in the past. Regime change in Iran would be good for several reasons even if they are completely innocent of any inclination to build a nuclear weapon.

  27. " To develop a “deliverable weapon that is usable tactically… something that can actually create a detonation, an explosion that would be considered a nuclear weapon” would take “another two to three, potentially out to five years.” "

    If one is talking about a Uranium 235 "Little Boy" fission bomb, the estimation of up to five years to develop a bomb, is insane. The Iranians could build a little boy within months and build several a year. If the Iranians are going down the the U235 Little Boy route, they may already several of these weapons but presumably without the U235. The only difficulty the Iranians would have in creating fully operational Little Boys, is obtaining U235.

  28. It is going to be funny watching the lefties spin thier way out of this when Iran tests a nuke, after all the Guardian and other left wing rags have all been telling us what peaceful folks they are.

    It'll all be Bush's fault just you wait, they'll blame him for not stopping it.and then say it was his fault Iran pursued atomic weapons int the first place because George was a big bad meany.

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