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Chariman Mullen on Iran’s Nuclear Capability (Updated)

John on March 2, 2009 at 11:48 am

Asked on CNN if Iran had the capability to make a nuclear weapon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen said he believes they do:

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A few hours later the Secretary of Defense came out sayingThey’re not close to a stockpile, they’re not close to a weapon at this point, and so there is some time.” For its part, Iran dismissed Mullen’s statement as “propaganda.” So what’s really going on here?

All of this is lead up the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which will be issued next month. Given President Obama’s stated desire to talk to Iran “without preconditions” one might suspect the pressure is on for a generally rosy assessment. The alternative, a bad NIE, would put pressure on Obama to let the Israelis demolish Iran’s nuclear sites, something President Bush already prevented once.

Jumping into the NY Times article linked at Hot Air we discover:

The “key judgments” of the National Intelligence Estimate [the one issued in 2007], which were publicly released, emphasized the suspension of the weapons work.

The public version made only glancing reference to evidence described at great length in the 140-page classified version of the assessment: the suspicion that Iran had 10 or 15 other nuclear-related facilities, never opened to international inspectors, where enrichment activity, weapons work or the manufacturing of centrifuges might be taking place.

Today, Reuters has a story saying there are still several important technical hurdles that could delay Iran from producing a bomb as much as 2-5 years. However, the same article notes:

Assuming Iran had a bomb agenda, which it denies, military diversions would more likely be carried out at a covert plant. That would be almost inconceivable for the IAEA to ferret out since Iran does not observe the agency’s Additional Protocol allowing snap inspections beyond declared nuclear sites.

In other words, if those suspected sites do exist, we won’t know until it’s too late.

Right on time, Mohammed ElBaradei at the IAEA is saying he’s “hopeful” that Obama’s new openness to talks will help him make progress with Iran on the following raft of issues:

  • refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can yield fuel for power plants or, if reconfigured, for atom bombs.
  • refusing to allow U.N. inspector checks beyond declared nuclear installations.
  • refusing to let inspectors go to a heavy water reactor under construction to verify Iranian design data to ensure it will be put only to peaceful uses.
  • refusing to provide documentation, access to officials for interviews and relevant sites to check intelligence allegations of “possible military dimensions” to its nuclear fuel program.

It sure sounds like they’re up to something. Anyway, I’m putting my money on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs rather than ElBaradei at this point. Let’s hope Obama gets a real NIE instead of the political garbage Bush got in 2007.

Update: Sec. of State Clinton says diplomacy is a waste of time with Iran. I can’t believe I’m saying this but “Go, Hillary!”

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Category: Foreign Affairs |

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