CIA chief believes Iran seeking nukes

Claims NIE "tends to get oversimplified," says Teheran's willingness to pay int'l price is suspicious.

CIA director General Michael Hayden said on Sunday he believed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In an interview to NBC's 'Meet the Press,' Hayden said the CIA stood by November's National Intelligence Estimate, which assessed that Teheran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. "We stand by the judgment," he said, but added that the report "unfortunately, tends to get oversimplified in public discourse." For instance, he said, "another part of the report that we emphasized is that program that stopped in 2003. It was [clear] they were weaponizing, building the actual device. It remains a program that the Iranians continue to deny ever existed. And the other aspects of the Iranian nuclear effort beyond the weaponization - the development of fissile material, the development of delivery systems - all continue apace." Asked whether he believed the Iranians were trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, Hayden replied: "Personal belief? Yes." "Why would the Iranians be willing to pay the international tariff they appear willing to pay for what they're doing now if they did not have, at a minimum...the desire to keep the option open to...develop a nuclear weapon and perhaps even more so, that they've already decided to do that," Hayden said. "Why the continuing production of fissile material, and Natanz? They say it's for civilian purposes, and yet...states around the world have offered them fissile material under controls so they can have their...civilian nuclear program. But the Iranians have rejected that," he stated. "When you start looking at that, and you get, not just the United States, but you get the UN Security Council imposing sanctions on them, why would they go through that if it were not to develop the technology that would allow them to create fissile material not under international control," Hayden asked. Hayden acknowledged the fact that many may be skeptical of this type of reasoning, as Saddam Hussein had also been uncooperative with international efforts to monitor Iraq's nuclear program, but no nuclear weapons were eventually found after the US invasion: "[The intelligence] community...has additional burdens to carry because of the Iraq NIE in which we got so much of that estimate wrong," he said. But, he said, "In Saddam's case, he had a nuclear weapon program…he stopped it, but in - almost in a deathbed confession, he tells us that...he continued to maintain the illusion because he wanted the world, or at least the neighborhood, to think that he still had these, these weapons." "This is not court of law stuff," Hayden explained. "In terms of beyond all reasonable doubt...this is Mike Hayden looking at the body of evidence."