They said in a new National Intelligence Estimate that, contrary to previous assessments, Iran's secret program to build a nuclear weapon was mothballed in 2003.
Not so fast. Iran may not have an active nuclear weapons program now. But the new NIE also says Iran is "continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so." Once Tehran has mastered the ability to enrich uranium, building a bomb wouldn't take long.
The international inclination to ease up on sanctions, to let Iran continue its uranium enrichment program, may grow. That's a bad idea. There are plenty of strong reasons to keep the pressure on Iran.
Amid the spectrum of reactions to the new U.S. report, the most compelling came from a senior official close to the International Atomic Energy Agency, quoted in The New York Times. "To be frank, we are more skeptical," the official said of the report. "We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran."
... Officials reportedly will use the new report to redouble efforts to dig out more information about Iran's decades of nuclear deceit.
Even a cursory reading of IAEA reports on Iran over the past few years would lead to the undeniable conclusion that Tehran is still hiding much about its nuclear efforts.In November, the agency reported that while a few of the blanks finally had been filled in, many more remained. The IAEA reported that it still was "not in a position to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran." It demanded Iran's full cooperation on a tougher set of inspection rules. But Iran hasn't followed those rules since early 2006. As a result, the agency reported that its knowledge about Iran's current nuclear program was "diminishing."
...Without full access, without the ability to inspect all of Iran's nuclear facilities, without answers on all of its past clandestine nuclear activities, the IAEA can't -- and shouldn't -- let Iran off the hook. Nor should the rest of the world.