U.S. intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence indicating Iran’s decision to build a nuclear bomb, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
Unlike the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog saying on Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, U.S. intelligence agencies believe otherwise, The Times cited unnamed current and former officials.
The U.S. spy agencies’ latest assessments are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program, The Times reported the officials as saying.
Their assessment was also largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies, the paper added.
The paper said there was no dispute among American, Israeli and European intelligence officials that Iran had been enriching nuclear fuel and developing some necessary infrastructure to become a nuclear power.
But the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other intelligence agencies believe that Iran has yet to decide whether to resume a parallel program to design a nuclear warhead ̶ a program they believe was essentially halted in 2003, the paper noted.
Some analysts acknowledge that understanding the intentions of Iran’s leadership is extremely difficult.
“They don’t have evidence that Iran has made a decision to build a bomb, and that reflects a real gap in the intelligence,” David A. Kay, who was head of the CIA.’s team that searched for Iraq’s weapons programs after the United States invasion, said. “It’s true the evidence hasn’t changed very much” since 2007, he added. “But that reflects a lack of access and a lack of intelligence as much as anything.”
Intelligence officials and outside analysts believe there is another possible explanation for Iran’s enrichment activity, the report said.
They said that Iran could be seeking to enhance its influence in the region by creating what some analysts call “strategic ambiguity,” the paper noted.
Rather than building a bomb now, Iran may want to increase its power by sowing doubt among other nations about its nuclear ambitions, it added.
Some point to the examples of Pakistan and India, both of which had clandestine nuclear weapons programs for decades before they actually decided to build bombs and test their weapons in 1998.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said that the U.S. is using the issue of Iran’s nuclear program as a pretext for regime change.
“Under the guise of trying to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction they [the U.S.] are attempting something else entirely and setting different goals – regime change,” news agencies quote Putin as saying.
Putin described U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East as expensive, inefficient and largely unpredictable, and can disserve its ally, Israel.