The Times quoted Western intelligence sources as saying the Iranians completed their research program to create weaponized uranium back in 2003.
Contrary to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate report which claimed that Iran halted its nuclear activities because of the threat of an American invasion following the occupation of Iraq, the real reason for the halt was that the Iranians had figured out how to detonate a warhead that could be fitted on its long-range Shehab-3 missiles, according to the Times.
“If the Supreme Leader takes the decision [to build a bomb], we assess they have to enrich low-enriched uranium to highly-enriched uranium at the Natanz plant, which could take six months, depending on how many centrifuges are operating,” an intelligence source told the Times. “We don’t know if the decision was made yet.”
Aside from the Natanz plant, the source speculated that Iran may have built a number of small, secret facilities which store materials that can be developed for a nuclear bomb, the Times reported.
American officials briefed Israel last week on the administration’s ideas for intensifying sanctions against Iran if it fails to respond to U.S. President Barack Obama‘s offer of dialogue.
In his meeting with Israeli officials, U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones indicated that Tehran has until the UN General Assembly in the last week of September to respond. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a similar message during his visit here earlier this week. If no satisfactory answer is received, the Americans said, they would work to form an international coalition to impose harsh sanctions on Iran.
A senior source in Jerusalem said the American message to Israel in these talks was to “lower its profile” and refrain from “ranting and raving” about Iran in public until the international evaluation on Iran takes place at the end of September. “Until that date, we must give diplomacy a chance,” the official said.
“If they want to, they will be able to set off a uranium bomb within six months,” an analyst with Germany’s intelligence service, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), told the magazine.
“Nobody would have thought this possible some years ago,” an intelligence official told Stern.
The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demands to suspend uranium enrichment.
Some analysts say Iran may be close to having the required material for producing a bomb, but most say the weaponization process would then take one to two years due to technical and political hurdles.
“Weaponizing” enrichment would not escape the notice of UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), unless it was done at a secret location.
Until now there have been no indications of any such covert diversion, a point made by the IAEA’s incoming director-general shortly after his election earlier this month.
Current IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said it is his “gut feeling” that Iran is seeking at least the capability to build nuclear weapons, in order to protect itself from perceived regional and U.S. threats.
Libyan leader: Peaceful nuclear program should be encouraged
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says Iran should be encouraged to pursue its nuclear program as long as it is for peaceful purposes.
He said it is “unjust” to stop Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, but that it must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States and Israel say Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its program is for generating power.
Libya in 2003 abandoned its own program to develop nuclear and chemical weapons.
North Korea suspected of helping Burma
Editor’s Note: The following report is excerpted from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium online newsletter published by the founder of WND. Subscriptions are $99 a year or, for monthly trials, just $9.95 per month for credit card users, and provide instant access for the complete reports.
LONDON — MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, believes North Korea is helping Burma, the world’s other pariah state, to build a nuclear weapon, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
This not only breaks international laws against providing such assistance but the decision by both countries to work together on developing Burma’s nuclear capability has increased tension around the Pacific Rim.
Defense Analyst Bertil Linter said: “Both countries have absolutely no interest in obeying UN arms embargos.”
Linter added: “North Korea is one of the few countries still trading militarily with Burma now that China has become reluctant to sell certain types of equipment to the junta. It is becoming increasingly clear that Burma is intending to become one of a new generation of rogue states threatening nuclear war.”
This week NSA satellites, which monitor the South Pacific, have been tracking a heavily laden North Korean cargo ship, Kang Name 1, which sailed from the guarded military port at Changyon south of the country’s capital, Pyongyang. It is heading towards Burma.
The ship left North Korean water two weeks ago. Satellite surveillance images had been downloaded to NSA and GCHQ, Britain’s spy in the sky.
Keep in touch with the most important breaking news stories about critical developments around the globe with Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence news source edited and published by the founder of WND.
From its base outside Cheltenham, some of GCHQ’s 7,000 specialists have become part of a major intelligence gathering operation against the 16,000-ton ship.
U.S. Naval warships and at least one U.S. Navy submarine are tracking the rusty-hulled freighter.
Long-range surveillance planes have shadowed it down the South China Sea as it heads towards the Bay of Bengal in Burma.
After being sifted and analyzed, the GCHQ specialists send the surveillance data to MI6 for further study.
The material includes documents and video footage showing newly built tunnels being constructed in the Arakan Yoma mountain range in the country. MI6 analysts believe the tunnels could be part of the controversial nuclear program by the Burmese junta.
Thakhin Chan Tun, a former Burmese ambassador in North Korea and now an outspoken critic of the regime, has confirmed the claim.
“To put it bluntly, Burma wants to get the technology to develop a nuclear bomb.” he said last week.
With concerns rising about a possible North Korean long-range missile test this weekend, two independent scientists say the regime may be using an old Soviet ballistic missile to boost a rocket capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States.
But the scientists say that if North Korea does have such a Russian-made ballistic missile in its arsenal, it could modify the rocket into a two-stage missile that could reach Seattle, Wash., carrying a 900-kilogram warhead, or San Francisco carrying a 700-kilogram charge.
The design of a long-range missile tested by North Korea last April “represents a very significant advance in rocket technology,” said Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Ted Postol and Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Wright in a June 29 assessment published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Using data and imagery from North Korea’s April 4 launch, Postol and Wright calculated that the second stage of the North Korean rocket had the external dimensions, engine power and key features of an SS-N 6, a Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile first deployed in 1968.
Their theory is at odds with U.S. officials’ skepticism of the recent North Korean long-range missile launch, dismissed as a failure.
Missile expert and former U.N. arms inspector Mike Elleman cautioned against assuming that the similarities between the external dimensions of the North Korean second stage and the SS-N 6 mean that the two are the same technology.
But Elleman added that the coincidence is hard to explain.
Geoffrey Forden, another missile expert with MIT, sees merit in the Russian missile theory and believes North Korea may have its own production line for SS-N 6 missile components.
In an apparent mistake, President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod stated during an interview yesterday there are nuclear weapons in Iran which are a threat to the entire world.
No country has ever claimed Iran currently has a nuclear arsenal. A 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate previously claimed Iran halted its nuclear weapons-related work in 2003, although that report was highly criticized. Other American agencies have stated Iran could obtain nukes by 2013 or later.
Israel maintains Iran could have enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year, although other Israeli estimates put the timeline at 2012.
Axelrod, meanwhile, said yesterday in little noticed comments to ABC News that there are already nuclear weapons in Iran.
“I think the president’s sense of solicitude with those young people has been very, very clear, and we’re very mindful of that,” said Axelrod.
Axelrod was responding to a question from ABC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos about whether U.S. talks with Iran’s leadership would undermine the opposition movement in Tehran.
The White House did not immediately respond to a WND query about whether the U.S. has new information indicating Iran possesses nuclear weapons.
An Israelis security official said there was no indication Iran currently possesses a nuclear weapon.
Axelrod wasn’t the only Obama administration official yesterday to declare the U.S. is still open to discussions with Iran over its disputed nuclear program despite Tehran’s violent crackdown on post-election protests.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said yesterday the legitimacy of the Iranian government is not the “critical issue” in Washington’s dealings with Tehran.
“We are concerned for our own national interests to ensure that Iran doesn’t pursue its nuclear program,” she told CBS News. “It is in the United States’ national interest to make sure that we have employed all elements at our disposal, including diplomacy, to prevent Iran from achieving that nuclear capacity.”
Rice said Iran must decide whether to end its alleged nuclear weapons program and rejoin the international community or “face increased isolation and pressure.”