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Monday, November 07, 2011

Iran: On the brink of nuclear weapons

In what will undoubtedly be an "unexpected!" surprise to the intel hacks who wrote the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), here, the WaPo reports IAEA says foreign expertise has brought Iran to threshold of nuclear capability
Intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings.

Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction, the officials and experts said. Crucial technology linked to experts in Pakistan and North Korea also helped propel Iran to the threshold of nuclear capability, they added.

The officials, citing secret intelligence provided over several years to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the records reinforce concerns that Iran continued to conduct weapons-related research after 2003 — when, U.S. intelligence agencies believe, Iranian leaders halted such experiments in response to international and domestic pressures.
Not a shock to most of us, but it appears the NIE from 2007 proved grossly incorrect.

Heads ought to roll, but usually don't.

Pertinent section of the 2007 NIE (I added the emphasis):
A. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program 1; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran’s announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work.
• We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.
• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)
• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.
• We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.
Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged
previously.

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