The Times of London reported yesterday (Aug. 3) that unnamed Western intelligence sources have concluded that Iran has perfected the technology to build and detonate a nuclear weapon. At a minimum, this confirmation would appear to repudiate a 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate that Iran had terminated its research program to acquire nuclear arms in 2003.
According to the sources of the Times, it would take just six months for Iran to assemble the weapon if the country’s Supreme Leader approved taking this step. Most alarming, the report states that the weapon could be delivered by Iran’s Shebab-3 ballistic missile.
This leads to the question about what the Obama Administration should do about the U.S. missile defense program to defend both U.S. and allied territories. Currently, the Obama Administration is scaling back the program in ways that are consistent with discounting the Iranian nuclear-armed missile threat. If it is doing so on the basis of the earlier U.S. intelligence estimate, it should reconsider. The fact is that intelligence gathering is not a perfect science. Therefore, it is best that the Obama Administration and Congress err on the side of caution and build non-threatening defenses to protect the U.S. and its allies. Even if the Iranians verifiably abandon their nuclear and missile programs, the worldwide trends in the proliferation of nuclear and missile technology remain ominous and U.S. missile defense capabilities would still be useful.
On this basis, Congress should reject the Obama Administration’s proposed missile defense budget cuts. It must work quickly because it is getting late in the legislative calendar and, more importantly, relative to what could be an ominous development in the nuclear missile threat.