March 11, 2009
Iran has yet to decide whether to build a nuclear bomb and currently lacks the weapons-grade highly enriched uranium needed to do so, top US intelligence officials told lawmakers on Tuesday.
But Tehran is enriching uranium in defiance of global sanctions and is “mastering” the know-how to build long-range missiles that can carry nuclear bombs to their targets oceans away, said director of intelligence Dennis Blair.
[efoods]And most spy agencies believe Tehran will probably be able to produce highly enriched uranium somewhere in the 2010-2015 timeframe, with the US State Department’s apparatus setting the early date at 2013, he said.
“Although we do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons, we assess Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop them,” said Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And he acknowledged that the US view was at odds with that of staunch ally Israel: “The Israelis are far more concerned about it, and they take more of a worst-case approach to these things from their point of view.”
To build a nuclear arsenal, Iran would need a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, would need to be able to build a warhead — a process it froze in mid-2003 and likely has not resumed — and would need long-range missiles.
US intelligence agencies have concluded that “Iran has not decided to press forward on all three tracks,” Blair said.