A Smoking Gun on Iran’s Nuclear Program? (Updated)
Just in time for the Iranians’ latest dilatory reaction to the IAEA’s draft response to its nuclear program, the Times of London has reported that it has obtained documents that prove rather clearly that Iran has continued its nuclear weapons development program:
Confidential intelligence documents obtained by The Times show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb.
The notes, from Iran’s most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion. Foreign intelligence agencies date them to early 2007, four years after Iran was thought to have suspended its weapons programme.
An Asian intelligence source last week confirmed to The Times that his country also believed that weapons work was being carried out as recently as 2007 — specifically, work on a neutron initiator.
The technical document describes the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which independent experts confirm has no possible civilian or military use other than in a nuclear weapon. Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint.
This would contradict the finding of the now notorious 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that found that Iran had ended its nuclear weapons development program in 2003, a finding questioned by other Western intelligence services.
Assuming the report is true while it dispels some of the ambiguity about Iran’s nuclear program, it doesn’t make Iran more likely to respond to the overtures of the West or others trying to induce them to end their nuclear program, I doubt that it will make sanctions more likely to be imposed, and it doesn’t render a military strike against Iran more effective in forcing the Iranians to end their nuclear weapons development. Primarily, it means that we’ll know what’s happening while it’s happening.
Sky News has confirmed that the document obtained by The Times is genuine:
Sky News foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall said: “Sources confirm that the document is genuine. However, the Government and the US will be reluctant to wave it about just yet.
“There’s three weeks to go until President Obama’s end-of-the-year deadline for his policy of engagement with Iran.
“The big push for sanctions will not begin until January. No-one wants to pre-empt that.”
The Times concludes its editorial on the Iranian nuclear weapons development program with a quotation from Winston Churchill:
Anticipating the end of America’s brief post-war nuclear monopoly, Churchill also declared: “We ought not to go jogging along improvident, incompetent, waiting for something to turn up, by which I mean waiting for something bad for us to turn up.” Sixty years later, that is precisely what Western diplomacy is doing.