Taking a break from Japan for a bit, DNI Clapper, in his prepared statement, provided an unclassified summary of the most recent NIE on Iran’s nuclear programs during the March 10 World Wide Threat hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Full text after the jump.
We continue to 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 weapons.
One of the most important capabilities Iran is developing is uranium enrichment, which can be used for either civil or weapons purposes. As reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the number of centrifuges installed at Iran’s enrichment plant has grown significantly from about 3,000 centrifuges in late 2007 to over 8,000 currently installed. At the same time, the number of operating centrifuges that are enriching uranium has grown at a much slower pace from about 3,000 centrifuges in late 2007 to about 4,800 in late 201 0. Iran has used these centrifuges to produce more than 3,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium.
Iran’s technical advancement, particularly in uranium enrichment, strengthens our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so. These advancements contribute to our judgment that Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so.
We judge Iran would likely choose missile delivery as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon. Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. It continues to expand the scale, reach and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces, many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
We continue to 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.
Senator Levin, during the questions, got Clapper to confirm that the intelligence community has a “high level of confidence” that Iran “as not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program” — which I have always believed to be defined as “all the sketchy stuff Fakhrizadeh was up to.”
Chairman LEVIN. Now, relative to Iran, Director Clapper, you mentioned in your statement that you do not, we do not know, talking about the Intelligence Community, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons. I read into that that Iran has not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program. Is that correct?
Mr. CLAPPER. Yes, sir. I would like, though, to defer a more fulsome response to a closed session.
Chairman LEVIN. Okay. But, what is level of confidence that you have that as of this time they have not decided to restart that program? Is that a high level of confidence?
Mr. CLAPPER. Yes, it is.
The contents of the NIE were described in reporting by Adam Entous in the Wall Street Journal and Greg Miller and Joby Warrick in the Washington Post, which provide a possible context for the more “fulsome” answer that Clapper deferred to a closed session.