'US might not know if Iran started building nuke'

'LA Times' quotes senior US officials as saying Washington not necessarily able to detect Tehran's clandestine activities.

March 11, 2012 15:59
1 minute read.
Iranian nuclear facility at Qoms

Iran Nuclear Satellite Pic 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Senior US officials doubt Washington’s ability to properly gauge the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and said that the United States would not necessarily know if Tehran had started secretly building an atomic bomb, The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.

The doubts of the “senior officials familiar with US intelligence and spying capabilities in Iran” contradict Washington’s contention that US satellites, sensors and spies will know when Iran has “crossed a red line,” marking the failure of efforts to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions through sanctions.

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Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-California) was quoted by the Times as saying that Iran has been found to have secret uranium-enrichment facilities in the past, and very well may have additional facilities undetected by the West.

“You have to assume that, if they went clandestine once, they could well go clandestine in other places,” Feinstein stated.

The House Intelligence Committee’s top Republican also expressed some uncertainty in Washington’s knowledge of Iran’s nuclear progress.

“As someone who deals with this stuff every day, I’m not sure how [US President Barack Obama] is that confident,” said Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan.

“I am confident that at some point… we would know, probably. The problem is, you wouldn’t know if that meant they’d have a weapon in three days or in three months.”

The Iranians “are learning from their mistakes, and they are getting better about how to keep things more quiet,” he said. “This is a cat-and-mouse game for them.”

Rogers cited the Syrian nuclear reactor at Deir al-Zor, allegedly bombed by Israel in 2007, as an example of a clandestine nuclear facility that the US was unaware of until just prior to its destruction.

The Times quoted Mark Lowenthal, a former senior CIA and State Department analyst, as saying Iran’s large size could make it impossible for spy satellites and surveillance drones to spot a secret bomb-making operation.

“Iran is a big country, and the idea that you can have blanket coverage – you can’t,” Lowenthal stated.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

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