Congress: Iran threat grows with hard-liner Ah­madine­jad

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Rowan Scar­bor­ough

Iran has be­come a greater threat to the United States since the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, who is pre­sid­ing over a se­cre­tive weapons pro­gram ca­pa­ble­of­pro­duc­ing12nu­cle­ar­weapons if the na­tion’s ura­nium en­rich­ment con­tin­ues, says a con­gres­sional re­port re­leased on Aug. 23.

“Iran poses a threat to the United States and its al­lies due to its sponsorshipof ter­ror, prob­a­blepur­suitof weapons of mass de­struc­tion and sup­port for the in­sur­gency in Iraq,” said the 29-page bi­par­ti­san re­port from the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Intelligence.

The re­port com­bines pre­vi­ously pub­lished intelligence and com­mit­tee as­sess­ments. It is de­signed to spot­light Iran’s rad­i­cal Is­lamic regime,whichap­pearsto­beona col­li­sion course with the West over its nu­clear pro­gram.

Mr. Ah­madine­jad has re­fused a de­mand from the United Na­tions to stopen­richin­gu­ra­nium.That­stance raises the risk of eco­nomic sanc­tion­san­dapre-emp­tiveU.S.airstrike on Iran’s net­work of atomic cen­ters.

The re­port says: “The profile of theIra­ni­anthreathas­in­crease­dover the last year due to the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, who­has­madepub­lic­threat­sagainst theUnit­edS­tate­sand Is­rael, the­con­tin­u­a­tionofIra­ni­an­nu­cle­ar­weapons re­search, and the re­cent at­tacks by Hezbol­lah, an Ira­nian ter­ror­ist proxy, against Is­rael. [. . .] Iran thus bears sig­nif­i­cant re­spon­si­bil­ity for the re­cent vi­o­lence in Is­rael and Le­banon.”

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Peter Hoek­stra, Michi­gan Repub­li­can, added, “That Iran has an­nounced it will con­tinue its pro­gram of nu­clear en­rich­ment,in­vi­o­la­tiono­faU.N.res­o­lu­tion, demon­strates it will not be sat­is­fied un­til it poses a threat to the en­tire world.”

The re­port sug­gests that Iran playedaroleinHezbol­lah’sat­tackon Is­rael last month, but said the ev­i­dence is not firm.

“The­ex­tent­towhichIrandi­rected the July/Au­gust 2006 Hezbol­lah at­tacks against Is­rael is un­known, as are pos­si­ble Ira­nian ob­jec­tives for pro­vok­ing hos­til­i­ties with Is­rael at this point in time,” the re­port said. “Cer­tainly, Iran could ben­e­fit if the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s at­ten­tion was di­verted away from Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.”

Iran has on hand 85 tons of pro­cesse­du­ra­ni­umthat­could­been­riched and used in 12 nu­clear weapons,and­could­stock­pilee­nough plu­to­nium for 30 weapons per year with spent fuel from a Rus­sian-sup­plied re­ac­tor at Bushehr on the Per­sian Gulf.

Rus­sia has promised to in­ven­tory and col­lect the spent fuel rods. But theHousere­port­says,“Iran’srecord of non-co­op­er­a­tion with the [In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency] and its years of se­cret nu­clear ex­per­i­ments raise ques­tions as to whetherIran­can­be­trust­ed­to­honor an agree­ment on the dis­po­si­tion of spent fuel rods.”

The re­port, “Rec­og­niz­ing Iran as a Strate­gic Threat: An Intelligence Chal­lenge for the United States,” re­peats a com­plaint from a 2005 bluerib­bon com­mis­sion that the U.S. in­tel­li­gencecom­mu­ni­ty­does­not­know enoughaboutIran’snu­cle­arpro­gram and those of other rogue na­tions.

“The United States lacks crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion needed for an­a­lysts to make many of their judg­ments with con­fi­dence about Iran and there are many sig­nif­i­cant in­for­ma­tion gaps,” the com­mit­tee re­port said.

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