WASHINGTON Aug 9 The United States still
believes that Iran is not on the verge of having a nuclear
weapon and that Tehran has not made a decision to pursue one,
U.S. officials said on Thursday.
Their comments came after Israeli media reports claimed U.S.
President Barack Obama had received a n ew National Intelligence
Estimate saying Iran had made significant and surprising
progress toward military nuclear capability.
Later, I sraeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggested that
the new U.S. report, which he acknowledged might be something
other than a Nat ional Intelligence Estimate, "transforms the
Iranian situation into an even more urgent one."
But a White House National Security Council spokesman
d isputed the Israeli reports, saying the U.S. intelligence
assessment of Iran's nuclear activities ha d not changed since
int elligence officials del ivered testimony to Congress on the
issue ear lier this year.
"We believe that there is time and space to continue to
pursue a diplomatic path, backed by growing international
pressure on the Iranian government," the spokesman said. "We
continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a
U.S. officials would not directly comment on whether there
was a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which is a
compilation of views of the various U.S. intelligence agencies.
The last formal NIE on Iran in 2007, partially made public
by the administration of President George W. Bush, became highly
controversial because it said Tehran ha d halted nu clear
weaponization work in 200 3, a lthough other aspects of the
overall program continued. A l ater update to that report
retained that central assessment, sources have previously said.
James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said
in congressional testimony in January: "We assess Iran is
keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by
developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it
to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not
know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear
Another U.S. official said the United States regularly
exchanges intelligence reporting with its allies, which would
The United States has been concerned that Israel may conduct
a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear sites, adding to turmoil
in the Middle East.
Israel sees an atomic armed Iran as a threat to its
existence and there is persistent speculation over whether it
will launch a pre-emptive military strike against Iranian
Tehran denies it is trying to build nuclear bombs, saying it
is enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes.
Washington has tightened sanctions on Iran and sought to
ramp up international diplomatic pressure to curb Tehran's
Barak told Israel Radio: "There probably really is such an
American intelligence report - I don't know if it is an NIE one
- making its way around senior offices (in Washington)."
"As far as we know it brings the American assessment much
closer to ours ... it makes the Iranian issue even more urgent
and (shows it is) less clear and certain that we will know
everything in time about their steady progress toward military
Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East's only
nuclear arsenal, says little time remains before Iran achieves a
"zone of immunity" in which Israeli bombs would be unable to
penetrate deeply buried uranium enrichment facilities.