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      US Report: Iran Nuke Program More Advanced Than Thought

      The new National Intelligence Estimate says that Iran has improved its nuclear research and methodology – and has gotten better results
      By David Lev
      First Publish: 8/9/2012, 10:24 AM

      Qoms Nuclear Site
      Qoms Nuclear Site
      NASA

      A report in Ha'aretz Thursday, citing American officials, said that a new U.S. report says Iran has made a great deal of progress in its nuclear program in recent months. According to the report, U.S. President Barack H. Obama has seen the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report, prepared by U.S. government intelligence groups.

      According to Ha'aretz, the report was submitted to Obama several weeks later than scheduled – in order to update it with new information relating to the vast improvements in Iran's nuclear research in recent months. The report is said to have come to conclusions similar to those held by Israel's intelligence community – that Iran is almost at the “point of no return” in development of a nuclear weapon.

      The new NIE report was sharply different than one issued in 2007, which claimed that Iran had suspended its nuclear program altogether. That report significantly damaged Israel's case against Iran among Western countries, deferring not only the idea of using force to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capability, but even softening the demand for sanctions against Tehran. The new report said that Iran had significantly improved its research methodology, access to development tools, and testing procedures, and had seen a concomitant improvement in results.

      A report in Yediot Achronot said that Israel had recently received messages from Saudi Arabia, saying that the Saudis would shoot down Israeli planes bound for Iran if they flew over Saudi airspace. However, Israeli officials said they saw that message as part of Washington's efforts to discourage Israel from taking unilateral action against Iran.

      Earlier this week, former Mossad head Danny Yatom called on the government to ensure that Israel coordinated with the U.S. on all matters relating to Iran. “Despite the fact that Israel is an independent country, and in the end attacking Iran would be a decision Israel would have to make on its own, it would be very important to secure U.S. support for an action like this,” Yatom said.