Intelligence Agencies Claim Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program
Der Spiegel is reporting that the Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany’s intelligence agency (BND), believes that Iran is about a year from testing a nuclear weapon:
As far as Iran is concerned, it is closer to being able to carry out a nuclear explosion than was previously thought. That is the opinion of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND. It’s a view shared by the relevant Israeli intelligence agencies — the Mossad and Israel’s military intelligence agency. According to their estimates, Iran could be in a position to carry out a nuclear bomb test — similar to those that North Korea recently carried out — within a period of approximately one year.
“According to the current assessment of the Mossad and Israeli military intelligence, Iran has solved all the technical problems associated with the assembly and operation of the centrifuges,” Israeli intelligence expert Ronen Bergman told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “It can produce low-enriched uranium and is theoretically capable of producing highly enriched uranium.” Highly enriched uranium is required to build a nuclear bomb.
If Iran continues at the current pace, “it could have enough highly enriched uranium for a test bomb by mid-2010,” says Bergman, the author of the 2008 book “The Secret War with Iran.”
The BND, whose information is likely to have come in part from the Israelis, takes a similar view of the situation. “The BND estimates that Iran, under ideal conditions, would be in the position to produce a nuclear test bomb under laboratory conditions within a period of less than five years,” a BND spokesman told SPIEGEL ONLINE. But the BND makes an important caveat: “That would still be a long way from a nuclear bomb or a weapons system.”
It’s somewhat difficult to determine whether this is one intelligence estimate or two. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on the same story:
The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, has amassed evidence of a sophisticated Iranian nuclear weapons program that continued beyond 2003. This usually classified information comes courtesy of Germany’s highest state-security court. In a 30-page legal opinion on March 26 and a May 27 press release in a case about possible illegal trading with Iran, a special national security panel of the Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe cites from a May 2008 BND report, saying the agency “showed comprehensively” that “development work on nuclear weapons can be observed in Iran even after 2003.”
According to the judges, the BND supplemented its findings on August 28, 2008, showing “the development of a new missile launcher and the similarities between Iran’s acquisition efforts and those of countries with already known nuclear weapons programs, such as Pakistan and North Korea.”
The article goes on to condemn the 2007 U. S. NIE that found that Iran had suspended its program in 2003 in no uncertain terms:
The court’s decision and the BND’s reports raise the question of how, or why, U.S. intelligence officials could have come to the conclusion that Iran suspended its program in 2003. German intelligence officials wonder themselves. BND sources have told me that they have shared their findings and documentation with their U.S. colleagues ahead of the 2007 NIE report — as is customary between these two allies. It appears the Americans have simply ignored this evidence despite repeated warnings from the BND. This suggests not so much a failure of U.S. intelligence but its sabotage.
The politicized 2007 NIE report undermined the Bush Administration’s efforts to rally international support for tough action against Iran. The world’s best hope is that the Obama Administration is not being fed the same false sense of security.
In the light of this report it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold that Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons.
I find this story very interesting in the light of several other stories that have come out in recent months including North Korea’s recent missile test, Russia’s repeated statements of its lack of ability to influence Iran to abandon its nuclear development program, even yesterday’s report of a cure for radiation sickness. For one thing, apparently the BND is thinking along lines similar to those I’ve suggested. It may be more appropriate to consider the North Korean and Iranian development programs together rather than in isolation.
A dangerous world is becoming even more dangerous quickly.
Above Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.