A CIA report issued to Congress in March warns that economic penalties have done little to slow Iranian nuclear activities that could support nuclear-weapon development, the Washington Times reported yesterday.
“During the reporting period , Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure and continued uranium enrichment and activities related to its heavy-water research reactor, despite multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions since late 2006 calling for the suspension of those activities,” says the report, which was authored by the CIA Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center and endorsed by the National Intelligence Council.
The report reasserts a 2007 intelligence conclusion that Iran halted its formal nuclear-weapon design and development efforts in 2003, but says that “we do not know whether Tehran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons” although it was probably weighing the option. The Middle Eastern state has said its nuclear ambitions are strictly peaceful.
Iran generated roughly 1,220 pounds of low-enriched uranium last year, a “significant” boost from the estimated 165 pounds produced in 2007, CIA analysts said in the report. Low-enriched uranium can serve as nuclear power plant fuel, but Iran could produce nuclear-weapon material if it continued running the material through its enrichment centrifuges.
The CIA criticized China for proliferating weapon-usable technologies to Iran and other countries.
“Chinese entities — which include private companies, individuals, and state-owned military export firms — continue to engaged in WMD-related proliferation activities,” the report states, adding that Beijing has tightened trade regulations on sensitive equipment but its “enforcement continues to fall short.”
“Chinese entities continue to supply a variety of missile-related items to multiple customers, including recent exports to Iran and Pakistan,” according to the report (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, May 7).
Some U.N. sources and one non-U.S. intelligence service believe Iran would need no more than six months to enrich enough nuclear-weapon material for a bomb, says a separate Senate Foreign Relations Committee report issued this week.
“There is no sign that Iran’s leaders have ordered up a bomb. But unclassified interviews conducted by a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff make clear that Iran has moved closer to completing the three components for a nuclear weapon-fissile material, warhead design and delivery system,” CNN quoted the report as saying.
“Deadlines have come and gone with Iran, and so have predictions about when it might have a nuclear weapon,” the report states.
“Iran has gone from having no capability to enrich uranium six years ago to operating nearly 4,000 centrifuges at an underground facility near Natanz in the central part of the country,” it adds. “The centrifuges are enriching uranium to reactor-grade, with 1,600 more machines ready to go online.”
“Many nations in the region already fear an ascendant Iran. Simply producing a large enough stockpile of low-enriched uranium for one or more weapons could confer on Iran new leverage over the critical region. It also could motivate some of its neighbors to seek their own nuclear capability,” says the report (Charley Keyes, CNN, May 7).
Meanwhile, Russia yesterday urged Iran to reassure the international community that its nuclear program is geared strictly toward generating electricity, ITAR-Tass reported.
“We want to be 100 percent sure it is true” that Iran’s nuclear efforts have “no military dimension,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Washington. “Therefore, we support the efforts of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] in Iran and call on Tehran to clarify the nature of its nuclear program as soon as possible.”
Russia, the four other U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany recently invited Iran to rejoin multilateral talks aimed at halting the Middle Eastern state’s disputed nuclear efforts.
“Iran said it would consider” new compromise proposals put forward by the six powers, Lavrov said (ITAR-Tass, May 8).