Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz
JERUSALEM – Israel has “incriminating” information Iran has continued its nuclear weapons program, a senior Israeli security official told WND, directly contradicting last week’s U.S. intelligence report stating Tehran suspended its ambition in 2003.
“The Iranians continue their push for nuclear weapons in specific ways, including the acquisition and development of missiles,” said the official who has access to classified Israeli defense material and intelligence reports on Iran.
“Iran hides its nuclear weapons program but it continues nonetheless,” he said, indicating the U.S. estimate may have been “politically motivated.”
The security official said Israel possesses “incriminating” information that Iran continues its purported drive to obtain nuclear weapons.
But he said the government here has not yet decided what to do regarding the information and material Israel purportedly possesses.
The official said the U.S. estimate has “many holes in it.” He said Israel is “gravely concerned” the report may remove the U.S. military option against Iran from the table, and is likely to be the foundation for Russian and Chinese vetoes against further sanctions on Iran scheduled to be discussed tomorrow at the United Nations.
The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, which represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, released its report last week judging with “high confidence” that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
The report judged with “moderate confidence” that Iran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.
“But we do not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons,” stated the NIE report.
The report totaled nine pages. The first page was a colored cover with no information. Four pages gave the background history of the NIE, with one page focusing on the scope of the report on Iran and another page including a coded chart on how to read the report. One page compared the report to a previous estimate.
Only two pages focused on the report’s key judgments on Iran, which were worded as blanket statements and which were not backed up by any specific information released in the report.
The NIE report said some agencies judged Iran could produce enough enriched fissile material to make a nuclear weapon within two years – in line with some Israeli estimates – while other agencies, including the State Department’s Intelligence and Research office, believe the earliest likely time Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium would be 2013.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today delicately criticized the NIE report, stating in a Knesset briefing Israel’s stance on the Iranian nuclear issue would not change despite the American report.
He said Israel would continue to work alongside the International Atomic Energy Agency to “expose covert Iranian activities” and investigate its military program to develop nuclear weapons.
Olmert raised some questions about the U.S. report: “According to the assessment, Iran had a nuclear weapons program until at least 2003 and there is no positive report giving any explanation of where this program has disappeared to,” he said.
Olmert’s speech was a major departure from his previous public composure toward Israel’s relationship with the U.S. The Israeli prime minister routinely states his government is “on the same page” with the Bush administration.
Israeli security officials, speaking to WND, said there were enormous holes in the NIE report that are very easy for the Jewish state to point out. One official said he was confident that “in time” the report would be “exposed as faulty.”
Numerous news reports in recent days have attempted to punch holes in the NIE report.
London’s Sunday Telegraph quoted a senior British official stating the UK believes Iran deliberately fed misinformation to the U.S. about its nuclear program.
The official expressed skepticism about the findings in the NIE report.
“We are skeptical about the report’s findings. It’s not as if the American intelligence are regarded as brilliant performers in that region,” the official was quoted as telling the Telegraph.
“[The Iranians] say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They say black is white,” the official was quoted as saying.
In an interview today with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said the report ignored Iranian uranium enrichment activities at the Iranian city of Natanz because that project was not secret.
Editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times also questioned the NIE report. The Los Angeles Times quoted an expert questioning whether the report sufficiently stressed Iran’s enrichment activities.
Meanwhile, at today’s Knesset session, lawmakers here blasted the report and questioned America’s commitment to Israel and its front against Iran.
“It cannot be that Bush is committed to peace as was declared at Annapolis, and then the Americans propagate such an intelligence report which contradicts the information we have proving Iran intends to obtain nuclear weapons,” stated Minister Yitzhak Cohen, a member of the Shas party, a key coalition partner in Olmert’s government.
Cohen compared the NIE report to what he said were faulty reports released by the U.S. during the Holocaust that Jews were not being killed in spite of information possessed by American intelligence of the existence of concentration camps.
“In the middle of the previous century the Americans received intelligence reports from Auschwitz on the packed trains going to the extermination camps. They claimed then that the railways were industrial. Their attitude today to the information coming out of Iran on the Iranians’ intention to produce a nuclear bomb reminds one of their attitude during the Holocaust,” stated Cohen.
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