The British government said yesterday that Tehran could still be developing a nuclear weapon, and called into question a key American intelligence finding that work on building an Iranian bomb had stopped in 2003.
For the first time, a senior British diplomat cast doubt on the US National Intelligence Estimate published last November which reported “with high confidence” that Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme had been halted in autumn 2003…
“When the NIE came out many of us were surprised at how emphatic the writers of it were – that all the activity stopped in 2003 and the medium confidence that it had not been resumed,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “I haven’t seen any intelligence that gives me even medium confidence that these programmes haven’t resumed. It’s an uncertain picture.”
The comments appeared to reflect the findings of an independent British assessment of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear programme, completed after the American assessment was published.
Follow the link for details of a contentious, accusatory briefing held recently by IAEA chief investigator Olli Heinonen that featured “an organisational chart linking a variety of nuclear weapons projects. A document on the organisation ‘includes 10 to 15 pages of instructions on how to communicate, setting out in particular rules for correspondence excluding the use of people’s names.'” Another document claimed the weapons program was pursued into 2004, months after the NIE claims it was shut down. The information supposedly comes from the “laptop of death” supplied to the U.S. by an Iranian dissident in 2005, about which Ed wrote here; Arms Control Wonk notes that Heinonen included evidence corroborating the laptop data from other countries at the same briefing but sneers that it’s probably “echo chamber” material and may be old news anyway. Into the hall of mirrors we go, then, with Iranian stooge Mohammed ElBaradei on one side, spinning furiously to avoid war at whatever cost, and on the other an Iranian opposition eager to sink the mullahs and armed with ever more fantastic claims. How lucky do you feel?