Iran won't Build Nuclear Weapon in 2012, Says Draft Isis Report
Analysis by Institute for Science and International Security says sanctions and threat of Israeli attack are having effect.
Thursday, 26 January 2012
Iran is unlikely to move towards building a nuclear weapon in 2012 because it cannot yet produce enough weapon-grade uranium and is being deterred by sanctions and the prospect of an Israeli attack, according to a draft report by the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis).
The report by the institute founded by nuclear expert David Albright offers a more temperate view of Iran's nuclear program than some of the heated rhetoric that has surfaced since the United States and its allies stepped up sanctions on Tehran.
The Isis analysis is revealed after a prediction that Israel will attack Iran in 2012 to try and stop any nuclear bomb programme.
"Iran is unlikely to decide to dash toward making nuclear weapons as long as its uranium enrichment capability remains as limited as it is today," the report said.
The US and Iran are engaged in a war of words over sanctions, with Tehran threatening to retaliate by blocking oil shipping traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. The United States has said it will not allow that to happen. There are concerns the situation might spiral into a military confrontation that neither side wants.
The Isis report, financed by a grant from the United States Institute of Peace, says Iran had not made a decision to build a nuclear bomb. USIP is an independent, non-partisan centre created by the US Congress in 1984 that receives federal government funding.
"Iran is unlikely to break out in 2012, in great part because it is deterred from doing so," says the Isis report, which has not yet been publicly released.
The report says sanctions and the fear of a military strike by Israel on Iran's nuclear facilities have worked as a deterrent.
The institute has advised US and foreign governments about Iran's nuclear capabilities and Albright is considered a respected expert on the issue. The report tracks closely with what is known of official US government assessments.
US officials say Iran's leaders have not made the decision to build a nuclear weapon.
Much of what the Iranians are doing with their nuclear program has civilian uses but they are keeping their options open, which significantly adds to the air of ambiguity, US officials have told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Some conservative and Israeli analysts in the past have challenged these types of assessments, asserting that Iranian nuclear efforts are sufficiently advanced that they could build a bomb in a year or less.
But according to the Isis report: "Although Iran is engaged in nuclear hedging, no evidence has emerged that the regime has decided to build nuclear weapons."
"Such a decision may be unlikely to occur until Iran is first able to augment its enrichment capability to a point where it would have the ability to make weapon-grade uranium quickly and secretly."
It added that despite a report last November by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency alleging that Iran had made significant progress on nuclear weaponisation, "Iran's essential challenge remains developing a secure capability to make enough weapon-grade uranium, likely for at least several nuclear weapons".
Some European intelligence officials have disputed a US national intelligence Estimate published in 2003 that said Iran had stopped working on a programme it had launched earlier to design and build a bomb.
The Europeans maintain Iran never stopped research and scientific development efforts that could be bomb-related.
Tensions spiked after Iran announced this month that it had begun to enrich uranium deep inside an underground facility near the holy city of Qom. The secretly built facility was publicly revealed by the United States in 2009.
The Isis report says a military strike to stop Iran building a bomb would be unlikely to succeed.
Limited military options, such as air strikes against nuclear facilities, are "oversold as to their ability to end or even significantly delay Iran's nuclear program," the report says. Limited bombing campaigns would be "unlikely to destroy Iran's main capability" to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Iran has taken precautions by dispersing the centrifuges it uses for enrichment to multiple locations, has mastered the construction of centrifuges, and has probably stockpiled extra centrifuges, the institute says.
A bombing campaign that did not totally eliminate these capabilities would leave Iran "able to quickly rebuild" its nuclear program and even motivate it to set up a Manhattan Project-style crash program to build a bomb, which would only make the region more dangerous and unstable, Isis says.
The report says clandestine intelligence operations aimed at detecting secret Iranian nuclear activities, including the construction of new underground sites, are "vitally important". Known methods used by spy agencies include the recruitment of secret agents, cyber spying operations, overhead surveillance by satellites and drones, and bugging of equipment that Iran buys from foreign suppliers.
The report says another "well-known tactic" used by western spy agencies against Iran has been to infiltrate Iranian networks that smuggle nuclear-related equipment and supply them with plans or items that are faulty or sabotaged. The report says this tactic has helped the west uncover at least one of Iran's secret nuclear sites and, according to official statements by the Iranians, has caused enrichment centrifuges to break.
Other more violent covert operations strategies, particularly the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists and engineers, have "serious downsides and implications", such as a high risk of Iranian retaliation through militant attacks that could be directed against civilian targets. The US has emphatically denied any involvement in killings such as the car bombing in January of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran.
The report says that since thousands of specialists are involved in the Iranian nuclear program, assassinations are unlikely to be effective in slowing it down. It warns that Iran could construe assassinations as acts of war and use them to justify retaliation.