Iran’s Nuclear Intentions

A few big things have come out recently with regard to Iran’s nuclear program.  While some were long awaited and highly anticipated, such as the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), none turned out to be particularly earth shattering. A new NIE on Iran’s nuclear program will remain classified, but reportedly walks back the conclusions of the controversial 2007 NIE, which stated that Iran had ceased its nuclear weapons activities in 2003.  Reports indicate that while Iran may not have made the ultimate decision to build a nuclear weapon, due to internal politics and external pressure, it is likely working on the components of such a device. "We believe Iran is moving to the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability," Robert Einhorn, the State Department's senior adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said at a briefing today.  Due to the inefficient nature of Iran’s uranium enrichment technology, though, Einhorn says that "it would make no sense" for Iran to make the decision to build a nuclear weapon at this point. Likewise, the most recent report (GOV/2011/7) of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to express concern over the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, noting that some of these activities may have continued past 2004.  According to the IAEA, Iran continues to deny a number of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, including implementation of the Additional Protocol and modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part to its Safeguards Agreement; suspension of enrichment and heavy water related activities; and "clarification of the remaining outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear program." Additionally, IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano reported Monday that Iran may have engaged in nuclear weaponization studies more recently than previously thought. "Unfortunately, I cannot say a lot on this issue. But I can tell you that we have received information…" since the last board meeting in December, Amano said, "we have received some information raising further concerns." Tomorrow, Army Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee to deliver his assessment of world threats facing the US. His prepared statement, released today, suggests that any new news from the US is likely to be equally optimistic.