The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) will state this week that Iran is on the brink of being able to produce a nuclear weapon, thanks to foreign help, the Washington Post reported Monday.
The newspaper based its report on discussions with nuclear experts and Western diplomats, who cited secret intelligence that was handed over to the IAEA the past several years.
The IAEA report, expected to be released this week, confirms Israel’s warnings, once contradicted by the United States, that Iran continued nuclear weapons research in 2003 after it ostensibly halted experiments under international pressure.
Despite the progress by Iran, many Obama administration officials still take the position that Iran can be “engaged” and convinced to halt its nuclear program. Other voices also maintain that it is not certain that Iran will use its technical knowledge and production of enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
The reaction from Iran to the Monday morning report was not surprising. Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister and its former top nuclear official, charged that the IAEA is “under pressure from foreign powers.” He added, “Let them publish and see what happens.”
The intelligence reports collected by the Washington Post offer evidence that Iran’s secret nuclear development was much more ambitious and successful than believed by others, except perhaps for Israel, according to former IAEA official David Albright.
“After 2003, money was made available for research in areas that sure look like nuclear weapons work but were hidden within civilian institutions,” Albright was quoted as saying at a private conference of intelligence professionals last week.
He said that IAEA officials have concluded that Iran “has sufficient information to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” using highly enriched uranium.
Iran has succeeding with help from its friends, particularly from Vyacheslav Danilenko, a former Soviet nuclear scientist, and scientists from North Korea and Pakistan.
Danilenko’s has told IEA officials he helped Iran but insisted he thought the Islamic Republic’s goals were for civilian use of nuclear power.