Evidence of Iran’s nuclear arms expertise mounts

Evidence of Iran’s nuclear arms expertise mounts

Long denied access to foreign technology because of sanctions, Iran has nevertheless learned how to make virtually every bolt and switch in a nuclear weapon, according to assessments by U.N. nuclear officials in internal documents, as well as Western and Middle Eastern intelligence analysts and weapons experts.

Iran’s growing technical prowess has been highlighted by a secret memo, leaked to a British newspaper over the weekend, that purportedly shows Iranian scientists conducting tests on a neutron initiator, one of the final technical hurdles in making a nuclear warhead, weapons analysts said Monday.

There was no way to establish the authenticity or original source of the document, which is being assessed by officials at Western intelligence agencies and the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Even so, former intelligence officials and arms-control experts said that if it is a genuine Iranian government document, it is a worrisome indication of an ongoing, clandestine effort to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Iran has steadfastly denied seeking nuclear arms. [continued…]

Israeli MI chief: Iran has enough nuclear material for bomb

Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said Tuesday that Iran has over the last year accumulated enough materials to create a nuclear bomb and warned: “The technological clock has almost finished winding.”

Speaking at The Institute for National Security Studies, Yadlin said that Iran had embarked on a “measured and sophisticated strategy for a solid nuclear infrastructure, by spreading out in facilities both overt and covert, while simultaneously developing a military capability that would allow a breakthrough when it so decides.”

According to Yadlin, there are three clocks now ticking with regard to Iran’s contentious nuclear program — those of technology, diplomacy, and of the stability of the Islamic regime. [continued…]

Iran intends to go forward with espionage trial of 3 Americans

Three Americans who were accused of espionage after entering Iran illegally during a hiking trip will be put on trial, Iran’s foreign minister said Monday, raising the stakes in a case likely to exacerbate tensions with the United States.

The announcement comes after Iran last week demanded the release of 11 Iranians who it says are being held by the United States — a possible signal that Tehran wants to use the Americans as bargaining chips. The development also coincides with an international stalemate over Tehran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration has warned Iran that it faces tougher sanctions over its uranium-enrichment activities unless it accepts a proposed deal by Dec. 31.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki did not say when the trial would begin or specify the charges, saying only that the Americans had “entered Iran illegally, with suspicious objectives.” [continued…]

Ayatollah Rafsanjani? Not anymore, it appears

“Fararu,” an Iranian news website, has posted a directive that is said to be from the deputy news director of Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

The directive reportedly calls on the agency’s news sections to refer to Iran’s former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an ayatollah and a rival of Iran’s current president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, as hojatoleslam, which is a lower religious title.

The directive also notes that Rafsanjani’s job title is the head of Iran’s Expediency Council and says the move is aimed at unifying the reporting of Rafsanjani’s titles by the new agency. (Rafsanjani also heads the Assembly of Experts, which is in charge of selecting and dismissing Iran’s supreme leader.)

But some analysts believe the IRNA directive is part of a government campaign against Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani has backed the opposition, criticized the crackdown against opposition members, and said publicly that the Islamic republic is facing a crisis. [continued…]

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