Gates: Intelligence Shows Need To Pressure Iran
By Donna Miles
Gates: Intelligence Estimate Shows Need to Keep Up Pressure on Iran
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today pointed to the new national intelligence estimate as evidence that non-military means are the best way for the United States to deal with Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
Responding to a reporter's query during a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai here, Gates said the estimate, released yesterday, also underscores the need for the international community to continue pressuring Iran not to restart its nuclear weapons program.
"If anything, the new national estimate validates the administration's strategy of bringing diplomatic and economic pressures to bear on the Iranian government to change its policies," Gates told reporters.
The report finds that 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," national security advisor Stephen Hadley said in a Washington news briefing yesterday.
The estimate concludes that international scrutiny and pressure probably led Iran to halt work involving uranium enrichment that had previous gone undeclared.
Gates said the NIE gives the U.S. intelligence community "more confidence than ever before" that Iran had, in fact, had a nuclear weapons program before suspending it.
The secretary said the report underscores the role international pressure played in forcing that action, but expressed concern that Iran continues to "keep its options open."
"As long as they continue with their enrichment activities, then the opportunity to resume that nuclear weapons program is always present," he said.
Gates said the estimate demonstrates the need for the international community to keep up its pressure on Iran so it doesn't restart the program. He urged nations of the world "to join the United States in bringing pressure to bear on the Iranian government."
This, he said, will help "ensure that what apparently was a suspension in 2003 becomes a policy of the Iranian government and that they agree to the requirements of the international community in terms of their enrichment program."