Iran Will Have Nukes Soon, Says Policy Expert

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Iran will be able to produce two nuclear bombs a year by March of next year, a much different timetable than the Bush administration and the international community have envisioned, a top policy expert from the American Foreign Policy Council, asserted on Friday.

"The timeline is much compressed than what the Washington Post or national intelligence tells you. Five to 10 years -- that's simply not true," said Ilan Berman, the Policy Council's vice president for policy. "All the problems with Iran get much, much worse the closer Iran gets to a bomb."

The Iranian government has insisted that it is enriching uranium for peaceful energy purposes, but Berman called the Tehran regime the "world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," and said there is understandable fear about the Iranian nuclear program becoming weaponized.

The United Nations Security Council has called for a halt to the program and U.N. weapons inspectors toured Iran's facilities in April, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has restricted the inspectors' access to enrichment sites over the last few months.

International sanctions against Iran are unlikely, said Berman because China and Russia, which both have veto power in the United Nations Security Council, have strong economic ties to Iran's oil exports.

He suggested that the U.S. quickly seek economic sanctions against Iran outside the auspices of the U.N., as opposed to the current diplomatic route preferred by the State Department.

"Diplomatically, I think we're headed for serious problems," Berman said, warning that even if the U.S. moved toward sanctions this autumn, it would be too late to avert Israeli intervention.

That Israeli intervention, Berman told Cybercast News Service, would occur even without support from the U.S. "[The Israelis are] going to bomb. They will take out a few of (Iran's nuclear) sites, not all of them, but some."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that the U.S. and international community "have time to act" in terms of Iran.

During a press conference at the State Department Thursday, Rice repeated the importance of negotiations to defuse the tensions with Iran. "There is agreement that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon, should not have a nuclear weapon, must not have a nuclear weapon and that the goal of the international community must be to achieve an outcome to this problem by diplomatic means and we are committed to that diplomacy."

"The United States has been committed to the negotiations that have been going on now for the better part of a year," Rice added. "We have been supporting those negotiations actively, so it is not as if we are not involved in the diplomacy that is going on here," she said.

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