News / Middle East

    US Defense Spy Chief: Iran Undecided on Nuclear Bomb

    Gary Thomas

    In an exclusive VOA interview, the Pentagon's top intelligence official says there is no evidence that Iran has made a final decision to build nuclear weapons.  But the chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) adds that much about Iran's inner workings remains murky.

    Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess says the key finding that Iran has not yet committed itself to nuclear weapons, contained in a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), is still valid.

    Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Jr., USA, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
    Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Jr., USA, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

    "The bottom line assessments of the NIE still hold true," he said.  "We have not seen indication that the government has made the decision to move ahead with the program.  But the fact still remains that we don't know what we don't know."

    General Burgess says it is difficult to ascertain the intentions of Iran's leaders or the level of political infighting among the country's leadership.  But he adds that Tehran's statements and behavior have only fueled suspicion in Western capitals.

    "The fact is, Iran is not dealing straight up," he added.  "So they can say whatever they would like.  I'm an intelligence professional.  My job is to verify.  And so we continually work on trying to verify what it is the Iranians say.  But they are engaged in use of words that is not moving this in a positive direction."

    The 2007 NIE, a consensus judgment of all U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran halted nuclear weapons design work in 2003.  The study sparked a fierce controversy with critics charging that the NIE was flawed and asserting that Iran is clearly on a path to become a nuclear power.  Some recently published news reports quote unnamed sources as saying that many of U.S. President Barack Obama's advisors are skeptical of the intelligence estimate.

    Iran has been pushing to enrich uranium, a critical step in building nuclear weapons, but continues to insist that it is for peaceful nuclear energy. 

    Talks with Iran on the nuclear issue have been frustrating for Western negotiators.  In October, it appeared that an agreement had been reached for Iran to send its uranium to a third country for enrichment.  But then Tehran backed away from the deal.

    General Burgess likens Iran's behavior to bargaining in a bazaar, saying that by walking away, Tehran hopes to get a better deal.

    "I think that there is always an idea in their head that they can either ultimately get what they've put on the table or move the ball further in their direction.  And I think that's clearly one of their aims," he explained.

    Given the hidden nature of decision-making in Tehran, it is difficult to say how protests by the country's reformist movement might be affecting the government's nuclear ambitions.  But Burgess says the movement is resilient and will be difficult to suppress.

    "There is a reform movement in Iran.  It has legs," he said.  "It is attempting to get its message out.  I do not see indication that that movement has been stamped out or put totally under the direction of the government.  They still have a voice.  They are still attempting to get their message out.  And so this will be an interesting dynamic for us to follow in that country."

    The Obama administration has been careful in its support of the protestors so as not to compromise the activists' efforts in the eyes of the Iranian government.  At the same time, the United States is considering new sanctions aimed specifically at the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.  The Revolutionary Guards has not only spearheaded the crackdown on the protestors, but also plays a critical role in Iran's nuclear program.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora