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NEI: Iran Not after Nuclear Arms

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TEHRAN, Feb 18 (ICANA) – The latest US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has reiterated its 2007 position that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not after nuclear arms.
Friday, February 18, 2011 7:46:17 PM

US spy agencies have concluded in the report that Iran has not decided whether to develop atomic weapons, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the new document on Wednesday as a "memorandum to holders" of the 2007 report.

Clapper, testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee about threats to the United States, did not reveal many details of the new assessment of Iran, which officials said would not be published by the government in an unclassified form.

But the spy chief did offer a summary of U.S. concerns.

"Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so," he said.

Iran's progress in research and development, particularly its capability to enrich uranium, "strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons," Clapper said.

"These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so."

But he said U.S. agencies believe a "central issue" remains whether Iranian leaders have the will to build a bomb.

Iran has been at loggerheads with the United States and other Western powers over its nuclear program, which Tehran insists is solely for the peaceful generation of electricity.

 

'RESUMED INTERNAL DISCUSSIONS'

 

The principal assessment at the heart of the National Intelligence Estimate update, one official told Reuters, is that Iranian leaders "resumed internal discussions" at some point between 2007 and 2011 about whether to move ahead and build a nuclear weapon.

The 2007 report -- key elements of which were published by the administration of President George W. Bush -- said that, until the autumn of 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

But U.S. agencies said in the 2007 report they had "high confidence" that "Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program" in late 2003 and "moderate confidence" it had not been restarted as of mid-2007.

Many conservative foreign policy experts criticized the 2007 report as inaccurate and for undermining efforts by some U.S. and Israeli officials to build support for harsher sanctions against Iran or for a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Several officials said the U.S. government has believed for some time that Iran has been conducting research and development -- including uranium enrichment efforts -- that could be used for civilian or military nuclear purposes.

Some U.S. officials and Israeli officials have said they believe that, over the last year, Iran's nuclear progress has been slowed by mysterious attacks on Iranian scientists and by the effects of a computer virus known as Stuxnet which targeted control systems at its nuclear installations.

The 2007 NIE report on Iran reversed the US intelligence community's previous assessment in 2005 that Tehran was running a covert nuclear weapons program.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely aimed at peaceful purposes, but Washington and its allies have repeatedly accused Tehran of intending to run a nuclear arm program.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has made clear that atomic weapons are against core principles of Islam, mainly due to their mass destructive nature.

The Islamic Republic says that as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has the right to use peaceful nuclear energy.

In June 2010, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran's financial and military sectors under Western pressure.

In 2007, Israeli leaders reacted in shock and anger to the publication of the NIE report, which disputed their long-standing claims of "an Iranian nuclear threat."

Tel Aviv, which reportedly houses an arsenal of some 200 nuclear warheads, views Tehran's nuclear program as a mortal threat.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly threatened to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities out of existence, but the release of the 2007 report significantly weakened their drive for war.

This is while the Islamic Republic, since its establishment in 1979, has gone to war only once, to defend itself against an Iraqi offensive in 1980, whereas Israel has invaded Lebanon, bombed Syria and Iraq, and regularly bombed and attacked the Gaza Strip at will.

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