Iran paper describes work on nuclear detonation devices in 2007

The Washington Post reports that the Iranians worked for four years on a neutron initiator, an essential part of a trigger for nuclear warheads.  A document under review shows that work continuing through 2007, all during the period when the US intelligence community claimed in a controversial national intelligence estimate (NIE) that the Iranians had ceased work on nuclear weapons in 2003.  Called a “smoking gun” by one Post source, the document exposes that 2007 NIE as a piece of political hackery that put the entire world at risk:

Western and U.N. nuclear officials are evaluating a secret Iranian technical document that appears to show the country’s nuclear scientists testing a key component used in the detonation of a nuclear warhead, according to intelligence officials and weapons experts familiar with the document.

The document, if authenticated, could rank as one of the strongest pieces of evidence pointing to a clandestine Iranian effort to build nuclear weapons, said former intelligence officials and weapons experts. They were responding to a published report of alleged sophisticated research by Iran on one of the final stages in the construction of a nuclear device.

Excerpts from the technical paper, first reported on the Times of London Web site late Sunday, detail a four-year program by Iranian scientists to develop and test a neutron initiator, a device used to trigger a nuclear explosion.

Although the document is undated, the Times quoted foreign intelligence officials as saying it was written in 2007, more than four years after U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran stopped research on a nuclear warhead.

In 2007, the NIE handicapped George Bush from seeking tougher sanctions and other methods of curtailing the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  Even at that time, European governments scoffed at the notion that Iran had stopped working on nukes.  The Bush administration protested that the reversal of the CIA was politically motivated, a charge which Democrats in Congress rejected as they used the NIE to paint Bush as a dangerous warmonger.

If Iran was developing a neutron initiator, then they were working on nuclear weapons.  The Post explains that a neutron initiator has no other purpose.  Even if, as one former inspector suggested, the Iranians just wanted to “get their research ducks in a row,” it shows that the Iranians have actively attempted to produce a workable bomb design.

All they would need after achieving that would be some enriched uranium to complete a device that could be either launched on a missile, or more likely, smuggled into a target by one of its proxy terrorist armies, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or other terrorist groups.  I wonder where they might find that uranium?  Possibly at the secret enrichment facility that US intel had already discovered before the 2007 NIE?

After the invasion of Iraq, Congress seemed very interested in the politicization of intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein’s WMD capabilities.  Will Congress take an interest in how the US intel community suddenly and inexplicably reversed itself on Iran in 2007, and managed to deflect American efforts to contain a threat that now looks close to dawning on the entire world?