Wednesday, March 29, 2006

U.S. intel: Sanctions won't stop Iran nukes

Insight Magazine:
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that U.N. Security Council sanctions would fail to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Officials said the intelligence community assessed that Iran remains determined to acquire a nuclear weapon and would endure penalties to ensure success. They also said several of Iran's allies, particularly China, North Korea and Russia, would either ignore or circumvent sanctions. READ MORE

"I think that the estimate would say that there may be the potential there to dissuade them [with economic sanctions], but right now they appear to be very, very determined," said Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence and former director of the National Security Agency.

The assessment was relayed to the White House as the Security Council prepares to discuss the Iranian nuclear file. Officials said the intelligence assessment has been supported by the National Security Council.

Officials said the intelligence community remains uncertain in how far Iran has advanced in its nuclear weapons program. They said the community relies largely on such technical tools as satellite reconnaissance and communications intercepts. Most of the human intelligence has been provided by the Iranian opposition.

"We see that Iran has become more belligerent than ever and we link this to advances in both its missile and nuclear programs," an official said. "We also think Iran is prepared to deal with any sanctions."

The intelligence community has drafted a series of possibilities regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program. The most benign scenario is that Iran has yet to produce fissile material while the most dire assessment sees Tehran as already possessing a nuclear warhead.

"The biggest concern is that Iran developed a very extensive network of secret facilities, which they took steps to hide by burying them underground and otherwise making them difficult to find via satellite imagery," Rose Gottemoeller, a former senior official and director of the Moscow office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in an interview with RFE/RL.

As a result, officials said, the administration has sought to identify sanctions that would hurt Tehran immediately. They said one option was to block gasoline imports to Iran in the hope that this would spark massive unrest.

"The truth is our non-military options appear very meager," an official said.