The Director said Iran also has ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads against regional actors, including Israel, and is developing long-range missiles capable of hitting the United States.
The long-expected and long-feared news does not mean Iran has operational nuclear weapons yet -- at least U.S. intelligence doesn't think they have them yet -- but Washington now believes that once the Ayatollah makes the political decision to build them his scientists and engineers will be fully able to carry out his orders.
The sobering news comes one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the P5+1 deal with Iran merely set back the Iranian nuclear weapons program by six weeks.
“Although there are internal disagreements in Iran, there is no dispute in the regime about developing nuclear weapons and the goal of wiping Israel off the map,” Netanyahu told the crowd at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, reported the Times of Israel. "This agreement merely set Iran back six weeks — no more — according to our assessments, in relation to its previous position, so that the test, as to denying Iran the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, has been and remains the permanent agreement, if such [a deal] can indeed be achieved."
The big question is: Now what -- will the U.S. or Europe take decisive action to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat, will Israel, or will Iran be allowed to build The Bomb unimpeded?
There seems little evidence the U.S. will attack Iran in 2014, given how deeply invested the Obama administration is in this newly negotiated deal with Iran. Europe won't act on its own. Does that mean Netanyahu will, or has the deal tied his hands for the foreseeable future?
"Iran now has all the technical infrastructure to produce nuclear weapons should it make the political decision to do, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a report to a Senate intelligence committee published Wednesday," noted a separate Times of Israel report. "However, he added, it could not break out to the bomb without being detected."
In the “US Intelligence Worldwide Threat Assessment,” delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Clapper reported that Tehran has made significant advances recently in its nuclear program to the point where it could produce and deliver nuclear bombs should it be so inclined.
“Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas — including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles — from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons,” Clapper wrote. “These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.”
In the past year alone, the report states, Iran has enhanced its centrifuge designs, increased the number of centrifuges, and amassed a larger quantity of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride. These advancements have placed Iran in a better position to produce weapons-grade uranium.
“Despite this progress, we assess that Iran would not be able to divert safeguarded material and produce enough WGU [weapons grade uranium] for a weapon before such activity would be discovered,” he wrote....
Clapper told the Senate committee that the interim deal will have an impact on Iran’s nuclear weapons program’s progress and “gets at the key thing we’re interested in and most concerned about,” namely, Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium.
Iran had also worked hard to advance its program at the Arak heavy water facility, wrote Clapper. Its ballistic missiles, he noted, of which it has “the largest inventory in the Middle East,” are “inherently capable of delivering WMD.” And its space program gives it the means to develop longer-range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons,” Clapper wrote. But he noted that Iran’s overarching “strategic goals” were leading it to pursue the capability to do so.
The national intelligence director reiterated that imposing additional sanctions against Iran would be “counterproductive” and would “jeopardize the [interim] agreement.” He advised that additional sanctions against the Islamic Republic should only be kept “in reserve.”
Last Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the Obama administration of mischaracterizing the terms of an interim nuclear deal. “We did not agree to dismantle anything,” Zarif told CNN.