7 August, 2009 — Spacewar
Iran bomb-grade uranium not expected before 2013: State Dept
The State Department’s intelligence bureau has concluded that Iran will not be technically capable of producing weapons grade uranium for nuclear weapons before 2013, the US intelligence director has told Congress. The assessment by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research was included in written responses to questions submitted to Congress by the Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair. Even though Iran has made significant progress in enriching uranium, the State Department bureau ‘continues to assess it is unlikely that Iran will have the technical capability to produce HEU (highly enriched uranium) before 2013,’ Blair said. In his earlier testimony to Congress, Blair has said Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb as early as 2010 or as late as 2015, and noted that INR believed it would not be before 2013 ‘because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.’ In the update, he said the judgement was based on an estimate of when Iran would have the functional ability to perform the enrichment rather than when it might make a political decision to produce HEU. The US intelligence community ‘has no evidence that Iran has yet made the decision to produce highly enriched uranium, and INR assesses that Iran is unlikely to make such a decision for at least as long as international pressure and scrutiny persist,’ the document said. ‘INR shares the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Iran probably would use military-run covert facilities, rather than declared nuclear sites, to produce HEU. Outfitting a covert enrichment infrastructure could take years,’ the document said. The document, which was submitted in April, was released to the Federation of American Scientists in response to a freedom of information request.
Washington (AFP) – A devastating US military strike against Iran’s nuclear and military facilities ‘is a technically feasible and credible option,’ a retired general asserted in an article published on Friday.
Retired air force general Charles Wald, a former deputy commander of US forces in Europe, said US policy makers must prepare for a ‘Plan B,’ including the military’s role, should diplomacy fail.
‘A peaceful resolution of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions would certainly be the best possible outcome,’ Wald wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
‘But should diplomacy and economic pressure fail, a US military strike against Iran is a technically feasible and credible option,’ he said.
Wald’s views were in striking contrast with those of the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders, who have warned repeatedly that military action against Iran would be highly destabilizing.
In a related development, the State Department’s intelligence arm has concluded that Iran is unlikely to have the technical capability to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons before 2013, according to a newly released congressional document.
US intelligence chief Dennis Blair has said Iran could have the technical means to produce bomb-grade material as early as 2010, although there is no evidence it has made a political decision to do so.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has sought to engage Iran diplomatically, but prospects of a breakthrough have been clouded by political turmoil in Iran over President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s disputed re-election.
‘Many policy makers and journalists dismiss the military option on the basis of a false sense of futility,’ Wald wrote.
‘They assume that the US military is already overstretched, that we lack adequate intelligence about the location of covert nuclear sites, and that known sites are too heavily fortified,’ he said. Wald’s views were in striking contrast with those of the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders, who have warned repeatedly that military action against Iran would be highly destabilizing.
‘Such assumptions are false,’ he said.
Wald argued that serious military preparations for a strike could in themselves help persuade Iran to end its nuclear defiance ‘without firing a single shot.’
Pressure could be applied by deploying additional aircraft carrier battle groups and minesweepers to waters off Iran and conducting military exercises with allies, he said.
If that failed, he said, the US Navy could blockade Iran’s Gulf ports, cutting off gasoline imports that constitute a third the country’s domestic consumption.
‘Should these measures not compel Tehran to reverse course on its nuclear program, and only after all other diplomatic avenues and economic pressures have been exhausted, the US military is capable of launching a devastating attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities,’ he wrote.
Wald acknowledged there were ‘huge risks to military action,’ including that Iranians would rally around ‘an unstable and oppressive regime’ and that reprisals and regional unrest would follow.
‘Furthermore, while a successful bombing campaign would set back Iranian nuclear development, Iran would undoubtedly retain its nuclear know how,’ he said.
‘But the risks of military action must be weighed against those of doing nothing,’ he said.”