Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by
mid-2014, and the US and its allies should intensify sanctions on Tehran before
that point is reached, a report by a group of US nonproliferation experts
President Barack Obama should also clearly state that the US will
take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the report
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency,
has expressed concern that Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension.
Tehran, which says the program is solely for peaceful energy purposes, calls
those allegations baseless.
The 154-page report produced by five
nonproliferation experts, “US Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle
East,” was expected to be released Monday.
“Based on the current
trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical
capability in mid-2014,” the report said.
It defined “critical
capability” as the point when Iran would be able to produce enough weapons-grade
uranium for one or more bombs without detection by the West.
Iran would have enough time to build a secret uranium enrichment site or
significantly increase the number of centrifuges for its nuclear program, said
David Albright, one of the project’s co-chairs and president of the Institute
for Science and International Security.
“We don’t think there is any
secret enrichment plant making significant secret uranium enrichment right now,”
he told Reuters. But there is “real worry” that Iran would build such a plant,
The report recommends that the US and its allies intensify
sanction pressure on Iran prior to that point because once Tehran acquires
enough weaponsgrade enriched uranium, it would be “far more difficult to stop
the program militarily.”
It also recommends that the US announce its
intention to use sanctions to impose a “de facto international embargo on all
investments in, and trade with, Iran” if Tehran does not comply with UN Security
In addition, it recommends sending a “crystal clear”
message to Iran’s leaders that US military action would prevent them from
succeeding in the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
“The president should
explicitly declare that he will use military force to destroy Iran’s nuclear
program if Iran takes additional decisive steps toward producing a bomb,” the
On the civil war in Syria, the report said the US should
emphasize to the opposition trying to oust President Bashar Assad that once it
comes to power, it will have to work with the international community to destroy
Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile.
Failure to do so would lead to
sanctions and other measures at a time when a new government would need external
assistance to consolidate control and develop the economy, the report
It also recommended stressing to the Assad government that it
should destroy the chemical weapons rather than use them and face prosecution or
have them fall into the hands of the opposition.
In addition to Albright,
the other project co-chairs were Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Prof. Orde Kittrie of the Sandra Day
O’Connor College of Law; Leonard Spector, deputy director of the James Martin
Center for Nonproliferation Studies; and Michael Yaffe of the Near East, South
Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense
They were not representing their institutions in the
A separate Congressional report states that Iran has been
running a signal intelligence listening post on the Syrian Golan Heights since
The report provides in-depth coverage – much of it based on open
sources – of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.
to be trying to expand its intelligence capabilities in the Middle East and the
Mediterranean. For instance, Iran seems to have developed a signals intelligence
(SIGINT) capability. Two Iranian-Syrian SIGINT stations funded by the IRGC
[Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] reportedly have been active since 2006, one
in the al-Jazira region in northern Syria and the other on the Golan Heights
[near Israel],” the report stated.
The electronic listening posts appear
to concentrate on supplying information to Hezbollah in Lebanon, the report
The authors of the report, which was released in December,
concluded that the technology installed in the two stations indicated that
“Iran’s capabilities are still limited, with little scope for high-level
strategic intelligence gathering.”
Recently, the IDF’s Information
Security Branch identified an increase in attempts by hostile foreign
intelligence entities to listen in on army communications.
threat includes a major attempt to eavesdrop on cellphones used by the
Although those behind the stepped-up intelligence gathering effort
were not named, an Iranian listening post in southern Syria could be one of the
The congressional report said that the Islamic Republic also
had a limited capacity to collect intelligence through reconnaissance aircraft,
but that only a few airplanes in Iran’s possession were designed for the
The document said the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security
“uses all means at its disposal to protect the Islamic Revolution of Iran,
utilizing such methods as infiltrating internal opposition groups, monitoring
domestic threats and expatriate dissent, arresting alleged spies and dissidents,
exposing conspiracies deemed threatening, and maintaining liaisons with other
foreign intelligence agencies as well as with organizations that protect the
Islamic Republic’s interests around the world.”
The report went on to
note that Iranian embassies abroad had formed headquarters for the country’s
intelligence agents, as well as for the national carrier Iran Air, branches of
Iranian banks and even private businesses.
“Every minister of
intelligence must hold a degree in ijtihad [interpreting Islamic sources such as
the Koran and the words of the Prophet Muhammad and the imams] from a religious
school, abstain from membership in any political party or group, have a
reputation for personal integrity and possess a strong political and management
background,” the report said.