Iran’s oil exports have been halved by economic sanctions, but that still leaves the regime with around $50 billion in oil income this year, according to calculations by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Nevertheless, the Iranian economy has taken a substantial hit from sanctions. Tehran’s recent currency restrictions were also a warning: In all probability the regime is battening down the hatches, husbanding foreign-exchange reserves, and preparing for a long ordeal.
Given the progress that Tehran has already made with its nuclear plans – still-hidden centrifuge manufacturing plants, enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow, a likely weaponization facility at Parchin, and an extensive ballistic-missile program – the regime faces a short, relatively inexpensive dash to the nuclear finish line.
At what point does the stockpiling of 20%-enriched uranium so diminish the time for processing weapons-grade material that Iran could become a threshold nuclear state in less than 30 days? A reasonable guess, based on the increasing number of centrifuges, is that Tehran will be there by the end of 2013.