While European negotiators focus on Iran’s development of enriched plutonium, U.S. intelligence officials say Tehran already has completed all of the elements required for an atomic bomb.
The news has stunned President Bush, according to Geostrategy Direct, an intelligence news service led by national security reporter Bill Gertz of the Washington Times.
“It’s an incredible piece of intelligence that overshadows everything we thought we knew on Iran’s nuclear program,” one U.S. intelligence source said.
Geostrategy says the intelligence information asserts North Korea this year transferred components to Iran to assemble a plutonium-based nuclear warhead.
The components were believed to have originated in Pakistan.
Iran insists its nuclear program is only for generation of electricity. But Washington contends Tehran’s intentions are not peaceful, pointing to an enrichment program hidden from U.N. inspectors for nearly two decades before it was officially declared in October 2003.
The CIA has been tracking for the past two years Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon, Geostrategy reports.
All of the agency’s assessments were based on how much technology and enriched uranium Iran had obtained for its first nuclear warhead.
While dismayed by Iran’s efforts, the CIA believed Iran needed at least another three years before it could assemble an atomic bomb.
“Instead, the entire Iranian uranium enrichment effort appears to have concealed a much more immediate aim,” Geostrategy says.
Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, praised Iran for its decision Wednesday to continue suspension of its enrichment program and to continue talks with the EU-3 — France, German and Britain.
In exchange, the Europeans will present plans for economic and political incentives that will become part of a final deal.
Also, the World Trade Organization rewarded Tehran for its decision by opening membership negotiations.
Iran’s chief representative to international organizations in Geneva, Mohammad Reza Alborzil, responded: “Today, this house with this decision has done service to itself by correcting a wrong.”
In late 2004, says Geostrategy, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps tested a command and control network that would permit a nuclear weapons warhead to be placed on an enhanced Shahab-3 intermediate-range missile.
The CIA believes Iran could immediately assemble several nuclear warheads for the Shahab-3 arsenal.
“This means that U.S. forces in Iraq and southern Europe are under immediate Iranian threat,” Geostrategy says. “Israel and Saudi Arabia are already under Iranian nuclear threat.”
The CIA first obtained reports in 1994 of Iran obtaining plutonium components from North Korea.
The latest information, however, comes from a new and far more reliable source, Geostrategy says.
Intelligence sources won’t elaborate, but stress that the source is from a “hostile” state, a reference to either Iran or North Korea.
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