US Army General Michael Kurilla, commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), has confirmed to Senate lawmakers that Iran is now able to produce an atom bomb in less than two weeks.
Kurilla issued the warning Thursday at a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he emphasized the multiple security risks to the US and its allies from Iran and its proxies in the Middle East.
“Iran possesses the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East, with thousands of ballistic and cruise missiles, some capable of striking the entire Middle East and Levant,” he said.
“The Iranian regime now holds the largest and most capable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle force in the region.
“The advancement of Iranian military capabilities over the past 40 years is unparalleled in the region; in fact, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of today is unrecognizable from just five years ago,” he warned.
“Iran is undeterred from its malign activities, which include conventional threats to neighbors, support to violent proxy groups that spread chaos and instability throughout the region, and support to Russia’s war in Ukraine,” he added.
Not the First Warning to US Lawmakers
Kurilla’s warning follows a similar alert by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, who said last month that Iran can now produce “one bomb’s worth of fissile material [in] . . . about 12 days.”
Speaking at a meeting of the House Armed Services Committee, Kahl noted in 2018, when the Trump Administration removed the United States from the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, “it would have taken Iran about 12 months to produce . . . one bomb’s worth of fissile material.”
Now in 2023, he said, “it would take about 12 days.”
CIA Warned Iran is Nearing Nuclear Breakout
Speaking to CBS News’ “Face the Nation” last month, CIA director William Burns emphasized that Iran could enrich uranium to weapons-grade within weeks. He added, however, that the United States does not believe Tehran has made the decision to do so.
“To the best of our knowledge, we don’t believe that the supreme leader in Iran has yet made a decision to resume the weaponization program that we judged that they suspended, or stopped, at the end of 2003,” Burns said in the interview.
“But the other two legs of the stool, meaning enrichment programs, they’ve obviously advanced very far,” he said.
“They’ve advanced very far to the point that it would only be a matter of weeks before they could enrich to 90 percent if they chose to cross that line, and also in terms of their missile systems, their ability to deliver a nuclear weapon once they develop it, has also been advancing as well.
“We don’t see evidence that they’ve made a decision to resume that weaponization program, but the other dimensions of this challenge, I think, are growing at a worrisome pace too,” Burns added.
Iran was Ready to Produce a Bomb in 2022
According to a June 1, 2022, report by the Institute for Science and International Security, however, the situation is even more dire.
“Iran has crossed a new, dangerous threshold; Iran’s breakout timeline is now at zero,” the Institute warned.
“ It has enough 60 percent enriched uranium or highly enriched uranium (HEU) to be assured it could fashion a nuclear explosive,” according to the report.
“If Iran wanted to further enrich its 60 percent HEU up to weapon-grade HEU, or 90 percent, it could do so within a few weeks with only a few of its advanced centrifuge cascades.
“In parallel, within a month, it could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a second nuclear explosive from its existing stock of near 20 percent low enriched uranium. Whether or not Iran enriches its HEU up to 90 percent, it can have enough HEU for two nuclear weapons within one month after starting breakout.
“Within 1.5 months after starting breakout, it could accumulate enough for a third nuclear weapon, using its remaining near 20 percent enriched uranium and some of its 4.5 percent enriched uranium,” according to the report.
That was nearly a year ago, before Iran had begun to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent.
IAEA Warns Iran Enriched Uranium to 84 Percent
The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned last month that its inspectors in Iran had discovered uranium particles enriched to 83.7 percent purity – barely a breath from the 90 percent purity required for an atomic bomb.
The nuclear watchdog agency discovered the change during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at Fordow, ahead of the March 6 meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors.
The agency also noted that Iran’s stockpile of 60 percent enriched uranium had grown by 25.2 kilos since its last quarterly report, reaching a total of 87.5 kilos of the nuclear fuel.
Israel, meanwhile, continues to maintain – as does the United States – that Iran will not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu: ‘Israel Won’t Allow Iran to Obtain Nuclear Weapons. Period.’
Speaking at a joint news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “The Jewish people will not allow a second Holocaust. The Jewish State will do everything necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Period.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Press Conference with German Chancellor Scholz: "The Jewish people will not allow a second Holocaust. The Jewish state will do everything necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Period."
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) March 16, 2023
“Of course, we’d like to do that with the concert and support and cooperation of the civilized powers of the world – the United States, the E3.
“I think we need to take a strong stance today against Iran and its quest to cross into a nuclear threshold and become a threshold state – basically, a state than can produce nuclear weapons – with the express desire to annihilate Israel,” Netanyahu urged.
“They say, ‘Death to Israel. Death to the United States’ and a danger to everyone in between. Everyone in between is Germany, the EU,” he pointed out.
“We have to act against it now,” the prime minister warned. “We have to communicate to Iran that it should not cross that threshold or there will be heavy consequences. But again – Israel will do what Israel needs to do to defend itself against those who want to annihilate the Jewish State,” Netanyahu pledged.
“Israel will also act against Iran’s aggression and terrorism. Those who perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israel and those who send them will pay a heavy price.”