The United States has confirmed long-time Israeli intelligence reports that Iran is close to achieving the ability to produce a nuclear bomb. Less than a year ago, American intelligence officials dismissed Israeli claims as inaccurate.
“Iran is now either very near or already in possession of sufficient low-enriched uranium to produce one nuclear weapon, if the decision were made to further enrich it to weapons grade,” said Glyn Davies, the U.S. envoy to United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna. This “moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity,” Davies added.
In his first meeting with the IAEA since his appointment by U.S. President Barack Obama, Davies stated, “We have serious concerns that Iran is deliberately attempting, at a minimum, to preserve a nuclear weapons option.” Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also has stated more than once that the State of Israel should be annihilated.
Davies’ comments were perhaps the strongest ever to be used by an American official since Iran has gone full-speed ahead with its nuclear program, which remains unsupervised by the United Nations agency.
The U.S. government, prompted by increasing pressure in Congress, wants the U.N. to impose stiffer sanctions against Tehran to pressure it into cooperating, but Russia and China have objected. Both countries have invested billions of dollars in the Iranian nuclear plants, one of which is beginning to enrich uranium that can be used for a nuclear weapon.
In what may be a related matter, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Russia on Tuesday on a secret mission, apparently over Russian arms deals with Iran and Syria.
The international community has speculated for more than a year on whether Israel will attempt a pre-emptive strike on Iran. President Obama has maintained that diplomatic strong-arming, economic sanctions and offers of trade benefits can persuade Iran to drop its uranium enrichment project.