Some U.S. al­lies fore­see a nu­clear-armed Iran

World not speak­ing with one voice in re­sponse to regime’s ac­tiv­i­ties

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY GE­ORGE JAHN

VI­ENNA | The United States and its Euro­pean al­lies agree that Iran might be seek­ing the ca­pac­ity to make atomic arms as it forges ahead with its nu­clear pro­gram. They dif­fer on whether Iran is ac­tively work­ing to build a bomb.

Com­ments by U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials in­di­cate that Washington still thinks Iran stopped such se­cret weapons work nine years ago.

Bri­tain, France and Ger­many dis­agree, even though their of­fi­cials are keen to show that they and the United States speak with one voice on the con­cerns that Iran may want to pro­duce nu­clear arms.

Such di­ver­gence could mean trou­ble for the West’s strat­egy to keep Iran nu­clear weapons-free.

The United States and, more force­fully, Is­rael have warned that armed at­tack is pos­si­ble if Iran is seen to be ac­tively work­ing on a bomb. But the lack of con­sen­sus among al­lies could com­pli­cate mak­ing any such as­sess­ment.

Pub­licly at least, the United States is stand­ing by a 2007 U.S. in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ment that said Iran had aban­doned at­tempts to de­velop a nu­clear bomb in 2003.

A re­vised re­port last year re­mains clas­si­fied. In out­lin­ing its find­ings to Congress last year, Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Di­rec­tor James Clap­per avoided any sug­ges­tion that Washington now thinks it erred in its 2007 as­sess­ment.

In­stead he fo­cused on Iran’s ex­pand­ing uranium en­rich­ment and other pro­grams mon­i­tored by the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency as key con­cerns. Mr. Clap­per said it is “tech­ni­cally fea­si­ble” but “prac­ti­cally not likely” that Tehran could pro­duce a nu­clear weapon in one or two years if its lead­ers de­cide to build one.

IAEA chal­lenges U.S. view

2003 and that some may still be on­go­ing.”

The IAEA has not said what sus­pect work was con­ducted when.

In its most re­cent re­port last week, the agency re­peated sus­pi­cions Iran may have: con­ducted high-ex­plo­sives test­ing to set off a nu­clear charge; worked on com­puter mod­el­ing of a core of a nu­clear war­head; pre­pared for a nu­clear weapons test; or worked on de­vel­op­ment of a nu­clear pay­load for a mis­sile that could reach Is­rael.

Is­rael is the most public in back­ing the view that weapons work is con­tin­u­ing in Iran, as it seeks to en­er­gize in­ter­na­tional public re­solve to counter Tehran’s nu­clear drive and pos­si­bly pave the ground for an armed strike.

For­mer Mos­sad chief Danny Yatom told the As­so­ci­ated Press that the Amer­i­cans have pri­vately ac­knowl­edged that their 2007 as­sess­ment was wrong.

“The Ira­ni­ans have never stopped their ef­forts to achieve mil­i­tary nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity,” he said.

Other U.S. al­lies are more cir­cum­spect but also back the IAEA view that se­cret weapons work may be con­tin­u­ing.

A Bri­tish of­fi­cial told the As­so­ci­ated Press that London and Washington had the same anal­y­sis on Iran. But the of­fi­cial, who asked for anonymity in ex­change for com­ment­ing on the con­fi­den­tial re­port, said Bri­tain agreed with the IAEA as­sess­ment.

Public state­ments by some Bri­tish of­fi­cials go even fur­ther. Dur­ing a visit to Washington in Jan­uary, De­fense Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said his “work­ing as­sump­tion is that [Ira­ni­ans] are work­ing flat out” to pro­duce a nu­clear weapon.

Diplo­mats ac­cred­ited to the IAEA, who also asked they not be named be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the is­sue, said France and Ger­many also be­lieve some work con­tin­ued past 2003 and pos­si­bly into the present.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence role

Com­pli­cat­ing the picture are signs U.S. of­fi­cials may be con­tin­u­ing to act as a main in­tel­li­gence source for the IAEA’S case that Iran’s weapons work is con­tin­u­ing even while pub­licly stand­ing by ear­lier con­clu­sions that Iran stopped nine years ago.

A se­nior in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cial re­fused to say di­rectly whether Washington is pro­vid­ing in­tel­li­gence that backs up such sus­pi­cions. He did say, how­ever, that the United States is one of the main sources on Iran’s atomic weapons work.

There is more clar­ity about Iran’s nu­clear-en­rich­ment pro­gram.

Iran has en­riched tons of fuel-grade ma­te­rial since its clan­des­tine pro­gram was dis­cov­ered 10 years ago. Its to­tal low- and higher-level stock­pile is now enough for four weapons and is grow­ing daily.

“They have the know-how, the tech­nol­ogy, the in­fra­struc­ture, ev­ery­thing,” he said. “Once they de­cide to build a bomb, they will be able to build a bomb un­less some­body stops them.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Di­rec­tor of U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity James Clap­per has expressed con­cern about Iran’s uranium en­rich­ment work.

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