A recently published report by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iran is still working on building a nuclear weapon despite some technical setbacks and international resistance -- and the Pentagon say it's still concerned about Iran's ambitions. The mandated report to congress reads, "Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so."
"Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure and continued uranium enrichment and activities related to its heavy water research reactor, despite multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions since late 2006 calling for the suspensin of those activities," the report says.
The CIA's new characterization of Iran's nuclear program stands in contradiction to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which determined the country halted its nuclear production efforts in 2003.
The CIA report is unable to determine if Tehran has come to a decision about whether or not to build a bomb.
Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell says the U.S. remains concerned about Iran's ambitions. "They have not done enough to convince any of us that, indeed, their aims are purely peaceful," Morrell told Pentagon reporters Tuesday. "That is why this government, after extending an outstretched hand to Iran now for the better part of a year, has now pivoted. And though we haven't shut the door to engagement, we are clearly pursuing the pressure track."
A February report by the IAEA, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, decries a series of failures by Iranian officials to comply with requests that would guarantee its nuclear projects are not for the purpose of building a weapon. "Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities or its work on heavy water related," the report reads. "Contrary to the request of the Board of Governors and the requirements of the Security Council, Iran has neither implemented the Additional Protocol nor cooperated with the Agency in connection with the remaining issues of concern, which need to be clarified to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme."
Perhaps just as disturbing as Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions are their chemical and biological warfare capabilities. "We judge that Iran is capable of weaponizing chemical warfare agents in a variety of delivery systems," the CIA report says. In addition, "Iran probably has the capability to produce some biological warfare agents for offensive purposes, if it made the decision to do so."
Iran is still far from having the ability to fire intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but it does have a stockpile of shorter and medium range misses that if outfitted with a warhead could pose a grave threat to countries in the region, including Israel. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said repeatedly he would like to see Israel wiped from the map.
But according to the CIA report Iran has stated its intentions to put a satellite into orbit and it has dedicated $250 million towards that goal. Rocket technology needed to put a satellite into orbit is very similar to the technology needed for an ICBM. The CIA concludes that Iran has attempted to put a number of satellites into space, but it can't confirm if any of those efforts were successful, despite February 2009 press reports claiming Iran managed to launch the Omid satellite.
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