- NEW YORK (Reuters)
- The CIA has told the White House that it can no longer rule out the possibility
that Iran is now able to make a nuclear weapon, The New York Times reported
- The Times reported that the new assessment was a sharp
departure from earlier evaluations and was not based on information showing
Iranian progress in building a bomb but on decreasing U.S. certainty that
it was able to effectively monitor Iran's progress in making a nuclear
- Rather than developing the technology and creating nuclear
materials needed to build a bomb, Iran appeared to be trying to acquire
the knowledge and materials on the black market, primarily from former
Soviet republics, the officials told the Times.
- The CIA has difficulty tracking those black market transactions
and thus is hedging its analyses of Iran's progress.
- Washington has worked to weaken ties between Iran and
Russia, but has made little headway.
- Because of the uncertainty, officials were considering
ordering a National Intelligence Estimate to assess Tehran's nuclear capacity,
to which all agencies in the intelligence community would contribute, the
- Russia, which has large stockpiles of nuclear fuel and
weapons, has been known to sell nuclear and missile technology to Iran,
and helped with its atomic energy program.
- There is fear that Russia may be expanding that trade
to include heavy water and graphite technology. Those concerns led the
Clinton administration to impose sanctions on two Russian scientific institutions.
- Iran has denied that it was cooperating with the controversial
institutions to develop missiles and nuclear weapons. In fact, Iran denies
having a nuclear weapons program at all and insists that it has been a
member in good standing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty since 1970.
The pact bars states without nuclear weapons from acquiring them.
- Russia has denied helping Iran develop nuclear weapons.
- While there is disagreement over what Iran has acquired,
there is widespread agreement that Tehran would like to build a nuclear
- David Albright, a nuclear analyst based in Washington,
told the Times that Iran was likely seeking a nuclear weapon as part of
an arms race with its rival, Iraq. ``Iran has made it clear that it will
not be the last major country in the region to develop nuclear weapons,''