U.S. Intelligence Agencies Have No Evidence That Iran is Building a Bomb

Recent assessments by U.S. spy agencies have remained consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that found that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years early. Officials say that 2007 assessment was reaffirmed in a 2010National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

There is agreement among American, Israeli and European intelligence officials that Iran has been enriching nuclear fuel and developing the necessary infrastructure to become a nuclear power. What is supposedly unclear though is whether Iran will resume their program, which was halted in 03, to develop a nuclear warhead. Iranian officials maintain that their nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

In Senate testimony on Jan. 31, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, stated that U.S. officials believe that Iran is preserving its options for a nuclear weapon, but that there was no evidence that it had made a decision one way of the other.

“They are certainly moving on that path, but we don’t believe they have actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Clapper told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made similar statements in recent television appearances.

Israeli officials have challenged the 2007 intelligence assessment, saying they do not believe that Iran ever fully halted its work on a weapons program.

U.S. analysts acknowledge that these assessments are based on limited information. David A. Kay, who was head of the C.I.A.’s team that searched for Iraq’s weapons programs after the United States invasion, was cautious about the quality of the intelligence of the current American assessment.

“They don’t have evidence that Iran has made a decision to build a bomb, and that reflects a real gap in the intelligence,” Mr. Kay said. “It’s true the evidence hasn’t changed very much” since 2007, he added. “But that reflects a lack of access and a lack of intelligence as much as anything.”

Despite clear evidence of a weapons program Iran’s enrichment activities have raised suspicions, even among skeptics.

“What has been driving the discussion has been the enrichment activity,” said one former intelligence official. “That’s made everybody nervous. So the Iranians continue to contribute to the suspicions about what they are trying to do.”





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