Iran has become a greater threat to the United States since the presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is presiding over a secretive weapons program capable of producing 12 nuclear weapons if the nation’s uranium enrichment continues, says a congressional report released yesterday.
“Iran poses a threat to the United States and its allies due to its sponsorship of terror, probable pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and support for the insurgency in Iraq,” said the 29-page bipartisan report from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The report combines previously published intelligence and committee assessments. It is designed to spotlight Iran’s radical Islamic regime, which appears to be on a collision course with the West over its nuclear program.
Mr. Ahmadinejad has refused a demand from the United Nations to stop enriching uranium. That stance raises the risk of economic sanctions and a pre-emptive U.S. air strike on Iran’s network of atomic centers.
The report says: “The profile of the Iranian threat has increased over the last year due to the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has made public threats against the United States and Israel, the continuation of Iranian nuclear weapons research, and the recent attacks by Hezbollah, an Iranian terrorist proxy, against Israel. … Iran thus bears significant responsibility for the recent violence in Israel and Lebanon.”
Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, added, “That Iran has announced it will continue its program of nuclear enrichment, in violation of a U.N. resolution, demonstrates it will not be satisfied until it poses a threat to the entire world.”
The report suggests that Iran played a role in Hezbollah’s attack on Israel last month, but said the evidence is not firm.
“The extent to which Iran directed the July/August 2006 Hezbollah attacks against Israel is unknown, as are possible Iranian objectives for provoking hostilities with Israel at this point in time,” the report said. “Certainly, Iran could benefit if the international community’s attention was diverted away from Iran’s nuclear program.”
Iran has on hand 85 tons of processed uranium that could be enriched and used in 12 nuclear weapons, and could stockpile enough plutonium for 30 weapons per year with spent fuel from a Russian-supplied reactor at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf.
Russia has promised to inventory and collect the spent fuel rods. But the House report says, “Iran’s record of non-cooperation with the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and its years of secret nuclear experiments raise questions as to whether Iran can be trusted to honor an agreement on the disposition of spent fuel rods.”
The report, “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States,” repeats a complaint from a 2005 blue-ribbon commission that the U.S. intelligence community does not know enough about Iran’s nuclear program and those of other rogue nations.
“The United States lacks critical information needed for analysts to make many of their judgments with confidence about Iran and there are many significant information gaps,” the committee report said.
Congress has criticized the CIA for a flawed national intelligence estimate that said Iraq still possessed large stockpiles of chemical weapons — an assessment on which President Bush largely based his decision to go to war in 2003. Mr. Bush may decide at some point that strikes on Iran are the only way to prevent the U.S.-designated terror sponsor from achieving a nuclear arsenal.
Iran possesses Shahab-3 ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel, which Mr. Ahmadinejad has threatened to destroy. Iran is developing the Shahab-4, whose range would reach parts of Europe.