Wall Street Journal: A senior Pentagon official said Iran has amassed enough fissile material to produce at least one nuclear weapon, signaling a growing international consensus on the extent of Tehran's nuclear activities.
The Wall Street Journal
By JAY SOLOMON
A senior Pentagon official said Iran has amassed enough fissile material to produce at least one nuclear weapon, signaling a growing international consensus on the extent of Tehran's nuclear activities.
Last week officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, said that they believe Tehran has amassed enough low-enriched uranium to produce one nuclear bomb, though the agency said Iran would still face numerous technical challenges to produce the highly enriched, or weapons-grade, material needed for a nuclear bomb.
In recent years, Washington and the IAEA have often differed over significant international nuclear issues, including the extent of Iraq's nuclear program. Tehran maintains its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes.
"We think they do, quite frankly," have enough fissile material to make a bomb, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "And Iran having a nuclear weapon, I've believed for a long time, is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world."
The State Department struck a less definitive tone on the issue. "There are differing views … sometimes inside government," spokesman Robert Wood said Sunday. "We are concerned they are getting closer."
Both U.S. and IAEA officials have stressed in recent days that Iran could still be far from developing a bomb. They noted that Tehran would need to perform the technically difficult task of enriching its uranium into weapons-grade material. Currently, Iran produces low-enriched uranium through its centrifuges, which is technically legal under IAEA rules, though Tehran has been sanctioned by the U.N. for failing to notify the body of all its actions.
"They're not close to a stockpile" of weapons-grade uranium, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "They're not close to a weapon at this point. And so, there is some time."
The Obama administration is reviewing its Iran policy. President Obama and other senior U.S. officials have suggested they are willing, in a break with former Bush administration policy, to hold direct talks with Tehran while continuing to increase economic pressure on Iran.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making her first diplomatic trip to the Middle East this week, and Iran's nuclear program is expected to be high on her agenda in talks with Israel, Russia and European countries. The U.S. has signaled it might slow down its development of a missile shield in Europe if Moscow were to provide greater assistance in international efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Washington says the missile shield is largely aimed at protecting Europe from Tehran's long-range weapons.