23 October, 2009 — IPS ipsnews.net
WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (IPS) – The Barack Obama administration claims that construction of a second Iranian uranium enrichment facility at Qom began before Tehran’s decision to withdraw from a previous agreement to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in advance of such construction. But the November 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate on Iran’s nuclear programme tells a different story.
The Iranian decision to withdraw from the earlier agreement with the IAEA was prompted, moreover, by the campaign of threats to Iran’s nuclear facilities mounted by the George W. Bush administration in early 2007, as a reconstruction of the sequence of events shows.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters Sep. 25 said, ‘We know construction of the facility began even before the Iranians unilaterally said they did not feel bound by that [IAEA] obligation.’
The U.S. intelligence assessment of the period, however, makes it clear that Iran did not begin construction on the Qom enrichment facility until long after its public change of policy on informing the IAEA.
The published key judgments of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear programme contained a little-noticed statement that the intelligence community judged that Iran’s ‘covert’ uranium conversion and enrichment activity had ‘probably been halted in response to the fall 2003 halt’, and ‘probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007’.
That clearly implied that U.S. intelligence had found no evidence of any undeclared covert enrichment facility.