The Corner

Why Iran’s Nuke Program Could Be Even Bigger than You Might Think

Early today, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler included a chart from my think tank, the Center for Security Policy, in a “Fact Checker” column that awarded President Obama three “Pinocchios” for making inaccurate statements about the Iran nuclear issue.

Kessler’s piece was a surprise to me because it’s basically unheard of for the mainstream media to cite data from conservatives on arms-control issues. A rival piece by PolitiFact cited the usual experts, who echoed the same inaccurate perception of Iran’s nuclear program and the nuclear talks presented by Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

When challenged today on Twitter about these contradictory pieces by a Democratic friend of mine, Kessler said:

While I don’t always agree with Kessler and I think he’s often too tough on Republicans, I believe he tries to be fair. It took guts for him to buck the Obama administration and the foreign-policy establishment by concluding the president’s statements on Iran in the SOTU were mostly untrue. Although I believe the president’s Iran statements were entirely untrue and deserve five “Pinocchios,” Mr. Kessler article is an important contribution to the current debate in Washington.

Kessler said two arms-control experts thought there were slight technical issues with the Center for Security Policy’s chart and cited comments from one of them, Ollie Heinonen, a former IAEA official who now teaches at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.

The chart:

Kessler wrote the following about Heinonen’s reaction to it:

“This graph should say that material available (red) is UF6 [hexafluoride], which can be used as such for further enrichment, Heinonen said. “The rest (blue minus red), about 4 tons uranium in various chemical forms, can be reconverted to UF6. Iran has stated that it is not constructing  such a facility. If converted, the number of “bombs” would be higher.”

I was pleased that Kessler cited Mr. Heinonen since I consulted with him when I prepared this chart. Heinonen’s comments to Kessler reflect what he told me last November, that my figures understated the status of Iran’s nuclear program. I decided not to take Heinonen’s advice to increase the estimated output of Iran’s centrifuges because I wanted this assessment to be consistent with multiple experts and I was concerned we’d be accused of exaggerating the threat. 

That said, I believe Heinonen is right: Iran probably can make more than eight nuclear weapons – possibly as many as 11 – from the uranium it has enriched since 2009. 

— Fred Fleitz followed the Iranian nuclear program for the CIA, State Department, and House Intelligence Committee. He is now a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy. Follow him on Twitter @fredfleitz

Fred Fleitz — Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs with the Center for Security Policy, a Washington, DC national security think tank. He held U.S. government national security ...

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Kat Timpf Chased Out of Brooklyn Bar

Fox News personality and National Review contributor Kat Timpf was forced to leave a bar in Brooklyn over the weekend after a woman she had never met became enraged upon learning she worked in conservative media. Timpf, who has twice previously been harassed while socializing in New York City, first described ... Read More
Film & TV

The Dan Crenshaw Moment

Given the spirit of our times, things could have gone so differently. On November 3, when Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson mocked Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch, saying he looked like a “hit man in a porno movie” — then adding, “I know he lost his eye in war or whatever” — it was a ... Read More
U.S.

The Present American Revolution

The revolution of 1776 sought to turn a colony of Great Britain into a new independent republic based on constitutionally protected freedom. It succeeded with the creation of the United States. The failed revolution of 1861, by a slave-owning South declaring its independence from the Union, sought to bifurcate ... Read More
Elections

Florida’s Shame, and Ours

Conspiracy theories are bad for civic life. So are conspiracies. I wonder if there is one mentally normal adult walking these fruited plains -- even the most craven, abject, brain-dead partisan Democrat -- who believes that what has been going on in Broward County, Fla., is anything other than a brazen ... Read More