US Report Says Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Program in 2003

December 3rd, 2007 - by admin

Mark Mazzetti / The New York Times – 2007-12-03 23:04:49

OCA’s Planting Peace campaign is building up a national network of concerned Americans who wish to protect the environment, put an end to war and military madness, and green and re-localize the global ecology.

As media reports of a likely attack on Iran increase in frequency, we thought it would be helpful to share this link to a quick slideshow that can hopefully help Americans see the human face of Iran.

Fifty percent of our tax dollars are tragically wasted on bullets and bombs. A million Iraqis are dead because of our two trillion-dollar war. Before Cheney and Bush attack Iran, please take a look at the faces of the next innocent civilians on the Empire’s hit list. The next issue of Organic Bytes will announce our new campaign to stop the War in Iran, before it starts.

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US Report Says Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Program in 2003

WASHINGTON (December 3, 2007) — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies made public Monday concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.

The report seems likely to weaken international support for tougher sanctions against Iran and raise new questions about the credibility of the beleaguered American intelligence agencies, while reshaping the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.

The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is most likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, the report says, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that the enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.

But the new estimate declares with “high confidence” that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt “was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”

The estimate does not say when American intelligence agencies learned that the weapons program had been halted, but a statement issued by Donald Kerr, the principal director of national intelligence, said the document was being made public “since our understanding of Iran’s capabilities has changed.”

Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.

The administration called new attention to the threat posed by Iran earlier this year when President George W. Bush suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.

Yet at the same time officials were airing these dire warnings, analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency were secretly concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons work halted years ago and that international pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran was working.

The conclusions, arriving with stunning suddenness, are most likely to be a major factor in the tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program, and they come in the middle of a US presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, portrayed the assessment as “directly challenging some of this administration’s alarming rhetoric about the threat posed by Iran.”

He called for “a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.”

Rand Beers, president of the liberal-leaning National Security Network and a former adviser to Senator John Kerry, said: “The new NIE throws cold water on the efforts of those urging military confrontation with Iran.” He said the intelligence estimate showed that “the latest dust-up is unnecessarily alarmist.”

The new report has come out just over five years after a deeply flawed intelligence estimate concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program. The report led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq, although most of that estimate’s conclusions turned out to be wrong.

“Some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways might if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program,” the estimate states.

The US national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, quickly issued a statement describing the intelligence estimate as containing positive news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes.

“It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,” Hadley said. “It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”

“The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically without the use of force, as the administration has been trying to do,” Hadley said.

The new report concludes that if Iran were to end the freeze on its weapons program, it would still be at least two years before Tehran would have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. But it says it is still “very unlikely” Iran could produce enough of the material by then.

Instead, the intelligence estimate concludes it is more likely Iran could have a bomb by the early part to the middle of the next decade. The report states that the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research judgement that Iran is unlikely to achieve this goal before 2013, “because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.”

The new estimate upends a judgment made about Iran’s nuclear capabilities in 2005. At the time, intelligence agencies assessed with “high confidence” that Iran was determined to have nuclear weapons and concluded that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program.

Since then, officials said they had obtained new information leading them to conclude that international pressure, including tough economic sanctions, had been successful in bringing about a halt to Iran’s secret program.

The report comes even as the United States has been pushing for tighter sanctions against Iran, which have been supported by Britain, France and Germany, the three countries leading negotiations with Iran. Critics said it would blunt the sense of urgency over Iranian nuclear progress and intentions.

But the administration emphasized that it also underscored the apparent effectiveness of sanctions. The intelligence report “suggests that the president has the right strategy: intensified international pressure along with a willingness to negotiate a solution that serves Iranian interests while ensuring that the world will never have to face a nuclear-armed Iran,” the Hadley statement said.

“For that strategy to succeed, the international community has to turn up the pressure on Iran with diplomatic isolation, United Nations sanctions, and with other financial pressure, and Iran has to decide if it wants to negotiate a solution.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported last month that Iran was now operating 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges, capable of producing fissile material for nuclear weapons. But his report said that agency inspectors in Iran had been unable to determine whether the Iranian program sought only to generate electricity or also to build weapons.

Brian Knowlton contributed reporting.

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