In his updated testimony to Congress Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has now further shifted a possible date as to when Iran may have achieved capabilities of producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) to “not before 2013” (from “between 2010 and 2015” claimed in February last year).
“While Iran made significant progress since 2007 in installing and operating centrifuges, INR (the Bureau of Intelligence and Research) continues to assess it is unlikely that Iran will have the technical capability to produce HEU before 2013. INR shares the Intelligence Community’s (IC’s) assessment that Iran probably would use military-run facilities, rather than declared nuclear sites, to produce HEU.”
The analysis is based on Iran’s technical capability and is not a judgment about when Iran might make any political decision to produce HEU.
According to responses to questions posed by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee members at a February 12 hearing, the US intelligence community “has no evidence that Iran has yet made the decision to produce highly enriched uranium, and INR assesses that Iran is unlikely to make such a decision for at least as long as international pressure and scrutiny persist.”
The now declassified document had been submitted already in April and was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) through a Freedom of Information Act request yesterday. It can be found on FAS’s web site.
The documents renders highly speculative claims made earlier this year by David Albright and Jacqueline Shire at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) that Iran may actually achieve breakout capability (i.e., the capacity of producing weapon-grade uranium by further enriching low-enriched uranium, LEU) by early next year largely unsubstantiated. It had in the meantime also been questioned by experts. The co-incidence of the latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, ISIS’s analysis (both February 19) and Admiral Blair’s initially classified testimony (February 12) is also quite remarkable.
When Iran’s arch enemy Iraq had been attacked and invaded six years ago by an American- and United Kingdom-led multinational coalition (“of the willing”) the Iranian government under the “reformist” President Mohammad Khatami suspended, according to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (“with high confidence”), a covert military nuclear program. After having been put on an “axis of evil” by former President G. W. Bush, the Islamic Republic regarded a “cost-benefit rather than a rush to a weapon” policy for the sake of security and integrity of the country a higher value.
Now, after his heavily disputed re-election, and facing enormous domestic problems and strong resistance even among his hardliner, or “principlist”, fellows, old and new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be well-advised to further slow down Iran’s allegedly peaceful nuclear program. After mass demonstrations following the possibly stolen election, the Iranian people might no longer show any solidarity with the hardliners if being attacked by Israel later this year (God forbid!).
See also on this blog
Peer Review about information leakage for political reason (and other issues).
President Obama’s U-turn about an unavailing attempt of the American Civil Liberties Union of getting pictures of abused prisoners in US American camps in Iraq and Afghanistan released.