The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that new intelligence information indicates “Iran has made greater progress on developing components for its nuclear weapons program than the West had previously realized,” although it offered almost no evidence for this anonymous claim.
Using “Western diplomats and Israeli officials” as sources, Haaretz reports “the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Israel agree” that Iran has a more advanced weapons program than previously thought. In truth, there is no “new intelligence” Haaretz can point to.
The report says the new assessment arose after “Iran refused to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the base at Parchin” and satellite photographs released by an American think tank called the Institute for Science and International Security allegedly show an attempt to “clean-up” the site.
These are old accusations that have already been discounted. Similarly anonymous sources – from Israel and some other unnamed country or countries – were published in the press months ago.
As Inter-Press Service’s Gareth Porter reported in March, the photographs lack credibility, were unconvincing to at least four of six diplomatic sources sought out by the Associated Press, and were not conducive to US intelligence.
The current US assessment, according to the most recent National Intelligence Estimate, is that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not restarted it.
Haaretz‘s other piece of “evidence” of this supposedly new intelligence showing Iran’s weaponization activities comes from none other than the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen al-Khalq (MEK), which has precisely zero credibility and is officially considered a terrorist organization by the US State Department.
“Members of the group told [Britain’s Daily Telegraph] that the work of the Iranian scientists in the ‘weapons group’ is at an advanced facility involved warheads and detonators,” Haaretz reports, offering no evidence beyond the hearsay from an unscrupulous terrorist group which has openly advocated the overthrow of the Iranian government.
Just four days before this Haaretz report was published, the Los Angeles Times reported that experts see “no imminent threat of a nuclear armed Iran,” contrary to hyperbolic rhetoric and threats of preemptive attack from the US and Israel.
“This is a window that has been closing for 15 years now, and it’s always imminently about to close,” Jamal Abdi, policy director for the National Iranian American Council told the Los Angeles Times.
“I don’t see any particular breakthroughs in the Iranian program,” says Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, a nonproliferation scholar at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. “It’s been on a pretty steady course,” and “there is technically no urgency to” prepare for an attack on Iran.
“According to the U.S. intelligence community, the Iranian leadership hasn’t even made the decision to weaponize their program,” said Alireza Nader, senior policy analyst on Iran for Rand Corp. “They’ve been creating the technical know-how and the infrastructure, but they haven’t made that decision, and there is much more time than the Israelis portray there to be.”
In February the New York Times ran a front page story entitled “U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb.” It reported: “Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.”
Again in March, they reported “top administration officials have said that Iran still has not decided to pursue a weapon, reflecting the intelligence community’s secret analysis.” Another in the Los Angeles Times was similarly headlined, “U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb.”
Reports like Haaretz’s occasionally crop up using flimsy evidence – if any at all – from sketchy sources to create the impression that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, which it does not, and that Western officials believe this, which they do not.