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Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Reconsidering Iran’s nuclear ambitions

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A sensible news report on Iran’s nuclear ambitions has finally emerged. From the Los Angeles Times:

As U.S. and Israeli officials talk publicly about the prospect of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, one fact is often overlooked: U.S. intelligence agencies don’t believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb.

A highly classified U.S. intelligence assessment circulated to policymakers early last year largely affirms that view, originally made in 2007. Both reports, known as national intelligence estimates, conclude that Tehran halted efforts to develop and build a nuclear warhead in 2003.

The most recent report, which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.

U.S. spy agencies also have not seen evidence of a decision-making structure on nuclear weapons around Khamenei, said David Albright, who heads the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security and is an expert on Iran’s nuclear program.

Albright’s group estimates that with the centrifuges Iran already has, it could enrich uranium to sufficient purity to make a bomb in as little as six months, should it decide to do so.

It is not known precisely what other technical hurdles Iran would have to overcome, but Albright and many other experts believe that if it decides to proceed, the country has the scientific knowledge to design and build a crude working bomb in as little as a year. It would take as long as three years, Albright estimated, for Iran to build a warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.

In December 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate judged with “high confidence” that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. It judged with “moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

As George Friedman said, very clearly, a month ago (here):

Moreover, while the Iranians may aspire to a deterrent via a viable nuclear weapons capability, we do not believe the Iranians see nuclear weapons as militarily useful. A few such weapons could devastate Israel, but Iran would be annihilated in retaliation. While the Iranians talk aggressively, historically they have acted cautiously. For Iran, nuclear weapons are far more valuable as a notional threat and bargaining chip than as something to be deployed. Indeed, the ideal situation is not quite having a weapon, and therefore not forcing anyone to act against them, but seeming close enough to be taken seriously. They certainly have achieved that.

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Written by M. James

February 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Posted in News, Politics

Tagged with , , , , ,

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