One burning question in the global effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power is this: How long would it take for the Islamic Republic to build a bomb?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says up to six years. Others say two or three. The answer is important because time is a critical asset in formulating a global response to an Iranian nuclear threat.
The U.S. administration has dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday to Congress urging legislators to oppose the agreement being negotiated in the Swiss resort town of Montreux. It says the Israeli leader offered no alternatives and the emerging pact is the best way to give the world enough time to react, should Tehran try to build a bomb.
Still, the debate over time is understandable. Views differ on whether Iran wants to make nuclear weapons, and if so, how far into the game it is.
Tehran has much of the enabling technology but says it is not interested in such arms. The U.S. and its allies say it has not decided to make them but could do so. And the U.N’s International Atomic Energy Agency says it has evidence pointing to past work on such weaponry by Iran — but cannot say for sure how far it has advanced.