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Intel Community Reports On Iran's Nuclear Program


By Jim Garamone

Intel Community Reports on Iran's Nuclear Program

A new intelligence estimate that says Iran stopped its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003 is good news, but also presents cause for concern, President Bush's national security advisor said today.

Stephen Hadley briefed White House reporters today on the report, which was produced by the office of the director of national intelligence.

The estimate is the intelligence community's judgment given the available information. All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies - including eight within the Defense Department - participated in the effort.

While the Iranian government continues closure of its covert nuclear weapons program, the country re-started its uranium enrichment program in 2005. The material made from this could be used to fuel bombs.

The estimate is complicated, Hadley said. "On one hand, it confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons," Hadley said. "On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that it does not happen. But it also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons remains a very serious problem."

The estimate strengthens the Bush Administration's contention that Iran can be persuaded to stop its program via diplomacy. "And it suggests we have the right strategy: intensified international pressure, along with a willingness to negotiate a solution that serves Iranian interests while ensuring the world that it will never have to face a nuclear-armed Iran," he said.

The bottom line for the strategy is the international community must turn up the pressure on Iran with "diplomatic isolation, United Nations sanctions and with other financial pressures, and Iran has to decide that it wants to negotiate a solution," Hadley said.

Hadley summarized the key judgments in the estimate. The first is that the intelligence community "has high confidence" that Iran had a covert nuclear weapons program that it has never acknowledged and continues to deny. "The intelligence community has high confidence that Iran halted its covert nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003 and they have moderate confidence that they have not restarted that program as of mid-2007," Hadley said.

The estimate has high confidence in the judgment that Iran's halt and other nuclear related decisions was directed primarily in response to increased international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work involving uranium enrichment, Hadley said.

The estimate admits that analysts "do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop weapons, but they assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," Hadley said.

While pressure, sanctions and other international efforts seem to move Iran along, the estimate says that convincing Iranian leaders to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons "will be difficult," the national security advisor said.

The United States has been asking nations around the world to continue to put pressure on Iran to end its nuclear weapons program since Iran resumed its nuclear enrichment effort, Hadley said.

"If we are to avoid the grim choice between accepting an Iran on the path to nuclear weapons or considering the use of force, we need to intensify our pressure on Iran while making clear that if they do suspend enrichment, there is an opportunity for better relations with the international community," Hadley said.

ENDS

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