Apocalypse not now: ‘No nuke threat from Iran in 2012’

Iranian students hold up their hands as a sign of unity as they form a human chain around the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) to show their support for Iran's nuclear program in Isfahan. (REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl)
The world can breathe easy in 2012, as Iran is unlikely to progress to building a nuclear weapon this year, says a US-sponsored report. Due to Tehran’s inability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium, and, of course, to the sanctions from the West.

­A draft report of the Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS), obtained by Reuters, offers a more temperate view of Iran’s nuclear program than the institute’s previous account on the matter. The report is financed by a grant from the US Institute of Peace.

According to the agency, the ISIS now says that sanctions and the fear of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel have worked as a deterrent.

“Iran is unlikely to decide to dash toward making nuclear weapons as long as its uranium enrichment capability remains as limited as today,’ the agency quotes the new document as saying. “Iran is unlikely to break out in 2012, in great part because it is deterred from doing so”.

However, the most recent document on Iran’s nuclear program dated January 18, 2012 and available on the ISIS website, offers a very different view.

“In fact, Iran has already made a series of important decisions that would give it the ability to quickly make nuclear weapons,” states the Reality Check: Shorter and Shorter Timeframe if Iran Decides to Make Nuclear Weapons report by the institute’s chairman David Albright and his colleagues Paul Brannan, Andrea Stricker and Andrew Ortendahl. “The international community should not take ease in the absence of this final decision since Iran has already overcome many obstacles on the path to finally acquiring nuclear weapons. Whether or not Iran will ultimately build nuclear weapons depends greatly on what is done now.  Given Iran’s steady, albeit slow progress, downplaying the threat can end up serving to undermine the development of non-military methods to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons.”

The IAEA has failed to produce any evidence of Iran’s concrete plans to develop a nuclear arsenal while Tehran insisting its nuclear facilities are used solely for civilian purposes without any intention to produce weapon-grade uranium.

But the tension around Iran’s nuclear program has recently escalated, with fresh US and EU sanctions against the country and the EU slapping an embargo on new oil contracts with Tehran.

In return, Iran threatens to turn the sanctions tables by immediately stopping oil supply to Europe and blocking the major oil route – Strait of Hormuz, through which some 35 per cent of global oil tanker traffic passes.

The US has said it will use military force to lift the blockade, should Iran choose to impose one.

Tehran recently held some of the biggest naval exercises in the region in years, unnerving some Gulf nations. Earlier this month, Iran announced it would also hold drills in the Strait of Hormuz in February.