NEW YORK – Amid the disclosure this week that the Obama administration has allowed Iran to continue secret efforts to enrich uranium and stockpile the heavy water needed to produce a plutonium nuclear weapon, a leading expert on the Iranian nuclear program remains concerned that Tehran could build a deliverable atomic bomb now.
“I believe Iran already has a nuclear weapons capability,” Clare Lopez, a former CIA career operations officer who serves as the vice president for research and analysis at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, told WND.
Lopez noted that five years ago the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report on Iran’s nuclear program that listed the various technical components in a nuclear weapon that Iran had under development.
“We know for a fact that Iran already has the nuclear-capable missiles, including nose cones configured to carry nuclear weapons,” she said. “We also know that the IAEA years ago reported that Iran was working on forming the hemispheres of a bomb, as well as experiments testing the explosive charges required to set off a nuclear reaction implosion sequence.”
On Tuesday, Iranian officials announced the country is preparing to launch into space three new satellites, prompting U.S. defense experts to speculate the Iranian satellite program is a cover for pursuing illicit intercontinental ballistic missile technology the Islamic Republic could use to deliver a nuclear weapon over long distances.
Help from North Korea
Lopez pointed out that Iran could easily obtain nuclear weapons technology from North Korea.
“We have documented evidence Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials have attended North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests,” she stressed. “Further, North Korea has offered for sale virtually any technology the country has ever developed.”
On March 10, 2016, retired Admiral William E. Gortney, former commander, United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, testified about North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“North Korea’s recent hostile cyberspace activity, nuclear testing, and continued ballistic missile development represent a dangerous threat to our national security,” Gortney told the committee in his prepared remarks. “North Korea’s recent nuclear test and satellite launch demonstrate Kim Jong Un’s commitment to developing strategic capabilities, as well as his disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions.
He said the North Korean communist regime’s “efforts to develop and deploy the road-mobile KN08 ICBM have profound implications for homeland missile defense, primarily because the missile obviates most of the pre-launch indicators on which we have traditionally relied to posture our defenses.”
“While the KN08 remains untested, modeling suggests it could deliver a nuclear payload to much of the continental United States,” Gortney continued.
The Washington Free Beacon reported in March 2015 Iran is believed to be hiding the development of nuclear weapons technology at a mountain military base in North Korea near the Chinese border as part of a technical cooperation pact signed by Iran and North Korea in September 2012.
Iran ICBM capable by 2020
Gortney also testified that he remained concerned about Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
“Iran poses multiple significant security concerns to the United States, and I remain wary of its strategic trajectory. Last year’s conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a welcome development, but, Iran’s continuing pursuit of long-range missile capabilities and ballistic missile and space launch programs, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, remains a serious concern,” Gortney said.
“Iran has successfully orbited satellites using a first- generation space launch vehicle and announced plans to orbit a larger satellite using its ICBM- class booster as early as this year,” he continued. “In light of these advances, we assess Iran may be able to deploy an operational ICBM by 2020 if the regime chooses to do so.”
Lopez also explained she was concerned that North Korea might share with Iran the technology necessary to launch successfully an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the U.S., even before Iran had an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States.
On April 24, WND reported that North Korea now has two satellites orbiting over the United States capable of performing a surprise EMP attack at an altitude and trajectory that evade U.S. National Missile Defenses.
An EMP could be triggered by a nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude. The pulse could knock out the U.S. national electrical grid system and all life-sustaining critical infrastructures, including the Internet.