WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (IPS) – Iran is unlikely to be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a nuclear weapon until at least 2013, according to a U.S. government intelligence estimate made public Thursday.
The estimate, which sets a notably later date for Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear capability than other claims that have recently been circulated in the media, was prepared by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair submitted it in written testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February.
The publication of the estimate comes at a particularly sensitive time in Washington, as the U.S. debates how best to proceed in dealing with Iran in the wake of June’s disputed election and the Iranian government’s subsequent crackdown on protesters.
Many Iran analysts have called for the U.S. to do nothing for the time being while the political situation within Iran develops – holding off on its planned engagement with Tehran while at the same time avoiding confrontational measures such as the imposition of additional sanctions.