Iran Nuclear NewsIran is exploring nuclear weapons, watchdog says

Iran is exploring nuclear weapons, watchdog says

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Wall Street Journal: The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said it has uncovered new information indicating that Iran is exploring ways to militarize its nuclear program, including ways to affix atomic weapons onto long-range missiles.

The Wall Street Journal

By JAY SOLOMON

WASHINGTON—The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said it has uncovered new information indicating that Iran is exploring ways to militarize its nuclear program, including ways to affix atomic weapons onto long-range missiles.

The quarterly report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, also said Tehran continues to expand its production of nuclear fuel, despite a recent slowdown that Western diplomats attributed to a cyber attack on Iran’s Natanz uranium-enrichment facility.

The IAEA said Iran is trying to move more advanced centrifuges into its Natanz facility that could significantly reduce the amount of time Tehran would need to produce weapons-grade fuel. The IAEA report didn’t say if and when Iran would be able to deploy these more advanced machines.

The IAEA presented Iran in 2008 with intelligence it had obtained—both from Western intelligence officials and independently—that indicated Iran had been exploring ways to affix nuclear weapons to its long-range Shahab missiles.

Iran rejected the IAEA’s information as fabricated. But the IAEA said in its quarterly report that new information has been obtained that increased the concerns that Iran was exploring ways to militarize its nuclear program.

“Based on the agency’s analysis of additional information since August 2008, including new information recently received, there are further concerns which the agency also needs to clarify with Iran,” said the report, which was also sent to the U.N. Security Council.

The IAEA didn’t specify when the new intelligence was obtained. But U.S. and European officials briefed on the report said it was recent and some of it was tied to Iran’s long-range missile program.

These diplomats said they hoped the new information could lead IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to release a report in the coming months that would more clearly state that the U.N. agency believes Iran is pursuing atomic weapons.

U.S. intelligence agencies have strengthened the language in its own reports suggesting that Iran has been exploring ways to weaponize its nuclear program.

“[The IAEA report] sets up the next step: rendering a judgment on whether Iran was—and perhaps still is—working on aspects of the possible military dimensions, or weaponization, of its growing nuclear program,” said a U.S. official Friday.

Despite the alleged cyber attack, Iran’s total stockpile of low-enriched uranium grew by more than 400 kilograms to a total of 3,610 kilograms, according to the IAEA report. That is more than enough for two nuclear weapons, should Tehran decide to enrich to higher, weapons grade levels.

A classified U.S. intelligence assessment shared earlier this month with key congressional committees asserted that Iran’s leaders were debating whether to move further toward developing nuclear weapons, possibly because of divisions over the impact of international sanctions.

The new national intelligence estimate, or NIE, said Tehran likely has resumed work on nuclear-weapons research but didn’t conclude it had relaunched a full-blown program to try to build bombs.

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