Is Iran really a nuclear threat?
As certain American and Israeli politicians and some elements of the news media continue to sound the drumbeat for an invasion of Iran, more and more worldwide intelligence indicates that claims of an Iranian nuclear threat may be more rhetoric than substance. Reports and statements from U.S. and Israeli Intelligence agencies as well as the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) paint a significantly different picture than what Americans are fed through some national news media reports. Before considering why there is such a difference we must first understand what the differences are:
U.S. Intelligence: "Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003"
In spite of all the hype from certain media outlets and a few politicians about Iran building nuclear weapons, U.S. Intelligence and defense agencies unanimously agree that Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003 and has not attempted to build a nuclear weapon since. Here are the facts:
1. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which represents a consolidated report from 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies concluded: "We judge with high confidence that in fall of 2003, Iran halted its nuclear weapons program"
2. The 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, the most recent one conducted, confirmed that Iran has not restarted its program and is still not trying to make nuclear weapons
3. On the January 8 th Face the Nation broadcast, Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, was asked about the Iranian nuclear intent. He stated flatly: "Are they trying to make a nuclear weapon? No"
The 2007 NIE and subsequent material conclude that Iran's decision to abandon nuclear arms was not a political decision but a direction derived primarily from a rational cost benefit basis.
IAEA: "The [uranium enrichment] facility has operated as declared by Iran"
One of the key areas of media and political rhetoric involves claims that Iran is enriching uranium to use for nuclear weapons. However, the facts about uranium enrichment and reports from the IAEA about Iran's current program present a different story. Here are some key points that are rarely mentioned during the rhetoric:
- The creation of nuclear weapons requires tons of uranium enriched to a 90% composition level
- Iran enriches that amount of existing uranium to only a 3% composition level for nuclear power
- Iran would have to enrich the uranium it uses for nuclear power to a level 30 times higher if it intended it to be for weapons grade use
- Iran does enrich about three hundred pounds of uranium annually to just over 20% for use in a medical reactor that produces radioisotopes to treat cancer,
- Iran would need ten times the amount of 20% enriched uranium enriched almost five times greater to produce a nuclear weapon