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UPDATE: Although the U.N. Nuclear Watchdog said Friday that Iran has sped up its program to enrich uranium, U.S. intelligence analysts still think there’s no real evidence that Iran has actually made the decision to build a nuclear bomb, reports the New York Times. In 2007, the world was shocked by a National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran had abandoned its nuclear program in 2003. U.S. intelligence agencies continue to believe that is the case.
Many, including Israel, criticize the United States for being too cautious in its analysis, saying that intelligence analysts are overcompensating for the 2002 intelligence on Iraq’s purported weapons program that didn’t actually exist. Others say that the U.S. assessment is simply the result of poor intelligence work and a lack of sources within Tehran. Plus, critics say, Iran is making progress in what would be the hardest steps in building a weapon.
Still, U.S. analysts contend that it’s possible Iran wants to create “strategic ambiguity.” The strategy would allow the country to boost its power and influence in the region by making other countries constantly question whether Tehran intends to build a nuclear weapon.
Friday, Feb. 24: This isn't going to put anyone already fretting about Iran's nuclear program at ease.
In a new confidential report from the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, nuclear experts say that Iran has rapidly ramped up production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the past four months and that the agency continues to have "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
The International Atomic Energy Agency report was recently given to the agency's 35-nation board and the U.N. Security Council as the latest update on Iran's nuclear program. It was was obtained Friday by the Associated Press.
The report increases existing fears about just how quickly the Islamic republic could produce an atomic weapon, a goal Iranian officials deny they have despite the growing evidence to the contrary. The United States and European Union recently imposed sanctions on Iran to deter nuclear weapons production, to which the Islamic republic retaliated with its own oil embargoes on Britain and France.
The report also concludes that Iran has been unable to give a plausible explanation for a relatively large amount of uranium that has gone missing, a quantity that diplomats have suggested is large enough to be used for nuclear missile experiments, the AP reports.
The Associated Press has more here.