A new report prepared for the U.S. Congress indicates that neither the U.S. nor Israel knows exactly where all of Iran’s nuclear facilities are.
According to the report, parts of which were presented Wednesday by Bloomberg, this places in question the effect a military strike in Iran could have on its nuclear facilities.
The report by U.S. congressional researchers says that Iran's “workshops” for making nuclear centrifuges and components for the devices are widely dispersed and hidden.
According to Bloomberg, analysts for the Congressional Research Service wrote in the report that neither Israel nor the U.S. is certain of the locations of all such facilities. The report is based on interviews with current and former U.S. government officials familiar with the issue who were not identified.
Israel's capability to halt or set back Iran's nuclear program through a military strike has been central to the debate over whether it should undertake such a mission alone.
The likelihood of dispersed facilities complicates any assessment of a potential raid's success and makes it “unclear what the ultimate effect of a strike would be on the likelihood of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons,” the report found.
The authors noted that one U.S. official said in April 2011 that there “could be lots of workshops in Iran.”
Last month, according to Bloomberg, a former U.S. government official with “direct experience” in the issue told the researchers that “Iran's centrifuge production is widely distributed and that the number of workshops has probably multiplied many times since 2005 because of an increase in Iranian contractors and subcontractors working on the program.”
Meanwhile, negotiations between Iran and the group of P5+1 – consisting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – are expected to resume in April.
Tehran signaled ahead of the talks that it is willing to allow “permanent human monitoring” of its nuclear sites and “full transparency” if the West agrees to sell it enriched uranium and provide civilian nuclear assistance.
Iran did not specifically say it would suspend its uranium enrichment program – a key demand by Washington and Jerusalem to avert a potential military strike – but analysts say the condition of uranium sales implies the issue will be “on the table.”
Iran has also threatened to retaliate if it were to be attacked by either Israel or the U.S. A recent report on an Iranian website described how the Islamic Republic would repulse a ground attack against it.