I don’t mean to be alarmist but I’m starting to think they’re interested in building a bomb.

Two years ago, American intelligence agencies published a detailed report [i.e. the 2007 NIE] concluding that Tehran halted its efforts to design a nuclear weapon in 2003. But in recent months, Britain has joined France, Germany and Israel in disputing that conclusion, saying the work has been resumed.

A senior American official said last week that the United States was now re-evaluating its 2007 conclusions.

The atomic agency’s report also presents evidence that beyond improving upon bomb-making information gathered from rogue nuclear experts around the world, Iran has done extensive research and testing on how to fashion the components of a weapon. It does not say how far that work has progressed…

American officials say that in the direct negotiations with Iran that began last week, it will be vital to get the country to open all of its suspected sites to international inspectors. That is a long list, topped by the underground nuclear enrichment center under construction near Qum that was revealed 10 days ago…

Most dramatically, the report says the agency “assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” based on highly enriched uranium.

This would be the same “secret” report that France’s foreign minister has been hounding IAEA chief/Iranian stooge Mohammed ElBaradei to release for weeks now, only to be met with hemming and hawing about how it’s “incomplete” and “there’s no concrete proof.” Evidently the proof was concrete enough for UN analysts to, um, put together an entire report on it, but leave it to the stooge to try to keep that rather pertinent information out of a raging international debate lest it increase pressure on Iran.

As for that portentous aside in the Times piece about there being a “long list” of suspected nuclear sites — which is entirely true, although you wouldn’t know it from the high-fiving going on over the revelation of a single secret site last week — will that list ever be published or will the public go on being misled into thinking that the UN inspections at Qom on October 25 are some sort of game-changer? Remember, the supposed “breakthrough” by which Iran would send its uranium to Russia for enrichment is important if and only if we know for certain that they’re not doing any additional enriching on the sly themselves. If there’s a “long list” of other suspected secret sites, then obviously we can’t know that. So much for the breakthrough.

Incidentally, that October 25 date is actually beyond the two-week deadline laid down by Obama last week and will come slightly more than a month after Iran first acknowledged the existence of the Qom facility, which we know gives them ample time to hide any evidence there. But who cares? This fiasco has reached a point of such absurdity that while Obama’s busy lobbying Medvedev to support sanctions against Iran, Netanyahu’s meeting secretly with Putin to kindly request that Russian scientists stop helping Iran to build their bomb. Quote:

“There has been Russian help. It is not the government, it is individuals, at least one helping Iran on weaponisation activities and it is worrisome,” said David Albright, a former weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

However, Israeli officials insist that any Russian scientists working in Iran could do so only with official approval.

Exit question: I know I’ve asked this before, but in light of the spiralling fears about a Sunni/Shia nuclear arms race in the Middle East, it bears asking again. Ever wonder how Saddam would be reacting to this if he was still in charge in Iraq?