The 2013 DNI on Iran’s Nuclear Program

James-Clapper

The Director of National Intelligence submitted the annual report on the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” today. The report can be accessed here and following are key passages that are relevant to Iran’s nuclear program, compliments of the Ploughshares Fund Early Warning mail-out, which I encourage everyone to sign up for.

–On Iran: “We assess Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

–“We judge Iran’s nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran…In this context, we judge that Iran is trying to balance conflicting objectives. It wants to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities and avoid severe repercussions—such as a military strike or regime threatening sanctions.”

–While Iran has enhanced its uranium production capabilities, “we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered.”

Interesting Iran-related takeaways from this latest US intelligence community assessment include the notion that Tehran’s decision-making process with regard to its nuclear program can be influenced, as Laura Rozen reported today, and that while it has grown increasingly autocratic at home, much of Iran’s foreign strategy is described as defensive, according to this analysis by Mideast expert, Trita Parsi. “This is not to say that Clapper discounts or dismisses the challenge Iran poses to the U.S.,” wrote Parsi today, “but his assessment is devoid of the panic-stricken and sensationalist narrative that hints of the coming Iranian land invasion of the U.S. and its desire to destroy Western civilization.”

Following is the DNI’s assessment of Iran’s WMD-Applicable Capabilities (more on this later):

We assess Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.

Tehran has developed technical expertise in a number of areas—including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles—from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.

Of particular note, Iran has made progress during the past year that better positions it to produce weapons-grade uranium (WGU) using its declared facilities and uranium stockpiles, should it choose to do so. Despite this progress, we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered. We judge Iran’s nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran. Iranian leaders undoubtedly consider Iran’s security, prestige and influence, as well as the international political and security environment, when making decisions about its nuclear program. In this context, we judge that Iran is trying to balance conflicting objectives. It wants to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities and avoid severe repercussions—such as a military strike or regime threatening sanctions.

We judge Iran would likely choose a ballistic missile as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon, if one is ever fielded. Iran’s ballistic missiles are capable of delivering WMD. In addition, Iran has demonstrated an ability to launch small satellites, and we grow increasingly concerned that these technical steps—along with a regime hostile toward the United States and our allies—provide Tehran with the means and motivation to develop larger space-launch vehicles and longer-range missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and it is expanding the scale, reach, and sophistication of its ballistic missile arsenal. Iran’s growing ballistic missile inventory and its domestic production of anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and development of its first long-range land attack cruise missile provide capabilities to enhance its power projection. Tehran views its conventionally armed missiles as an integral part of its strategy to deter—and if necessary retaliate against—forces in the region, including US forces.

Photo: National Intelligence James Clapper. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is an Iranian-born journalist based in Washington, DC.