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