The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and U.S. defense and intelligence officials have said that they believe that Iran has not made a decision on whether to acquire nuclear weapons. The New York Times reported on Sunday the difficulties that intelligence officials encounter when coming to that conclusion but that officials are still confident that Iran’s leaders have not given the go-ahead:
Publicly and privately, American intelligence officials express confidence in the spy agencies’ assertions. Still, some acknowledge significant intelligence gaps in understanding the intentions of Iran’s leaders and whether they would approve the crucial steps toward engineering a bomb. […]
American intelligence analysts still believe that the Iranians have not gotten the go-ahead from Ayatollah Khamenei to revive the program.
“That assessment,” said one American official, “holds up really well.”
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported in January that Israeli intelligence (Mossad) concurs with this assessment, and the Times quoted an American official confirming that report:
“Their people ask very hard questions, but Mossad does not disagree with the U.S. on the weapons program,” said one former senior American intelligence official, who, like others for this article, would speak only on the condition of anonymity about classified information. “There is not a lot of dispute between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities on the facts.”
And the AP reports today that Israeli intelligence and defense officials have also confirmed this view:
Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran. The officials, who are privy to intelligence and to the discussion about the Iranian program, said this is the prevailing view in the intelligence community, but there are also questions about whether Tehran might be hiding specific bomb making operations.
Yet, Israelis also agree with U.S. intelligence and the IAEA that Iran is moving toward a nuclear weapons capability. The Israeli officials’ concern, the AP reports, “is about allowing the Iranian program to reach the point where there is enough enriched weapons grade material that a bomb could quickly be assembled, within a year.”
President Obama shares these concerns as well. In a recent speech, Obama ruled out a policy of containing a nuclear-armed Iran, warning that an Iranian bomb posed a threat to the U.S. and its allies, as well as the international non-proliferation regime. But at this point the Obama administration believes that a diplomatic end to the crisis is “best and most permanent way” to end the standoff.