CIA Director: Iran Never Resumed Nuclear Weapons Program
In 2018, the US unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and six other nations, claiming without evidence that Tehran had secretly resumed its nuclear weapons program and imposing "maximum pressure" economic sanctions on the southwest Asian nation.
William Burns, director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said on Wednesday that contrary to four years of claims by Washington, Iran never resumed the nuclear weapons program it abandoned in 2004.
"Our best intelligence judgment is that the Iranians have not resumed the weaponization effort that they had underway up until 2004 and then suspended, so that's something, obviously we at CIA and across the US intelligence community keep a very, very sharp focus on," Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Burns said the same thing in December at the Wall Street Journal's annual CEO Council, according to CBS News.
However, that hasn't stopped senior US officials from repeatedly claiming, even in the Biden administration in which Burns serves, that Iran has been nearing a "breakout" point and would be capable of building a nuclear bomb within weeks. For Israeli officials, the claims go back even further.
Israeli military intelligence actually reached a similar conclusion last fall, with director Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman telling Israel's Walla News at the time that "To the best of our knowledge, the directive has not changed and they are not heading toward a breakout. They are not heading toward a bomb right now: It may be in the distant future."
"There is an enriched amount [of uranium] in volumes that we have not seen before and it is disturbing," Hayman said. "At the same time, in all other aspects of the Iranian nuclear project, we see no progress - not in the weapons project, in the financial area, not in any other sector."
After the Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 and reimposed destructive economic sanctions against Iran, Tehran began backing away from the commitments it had made under the deal, which included accepting strict limitations on the quality and quantity of uranium-235 it could refine.
Iran says its handful of nuclear facilities are for pursuing nuclear power and medical research.
Iran had a nuclear weapons program, but gave it up in 2004, although the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN nuclear watchdog, said experiments continued until 2009. The following year, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's leading political, legal and religious figure, issued a ruling declaring the use of nuclear weapons, and all weapons of mass destruction, to be against Islam.
After US President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, talks began on reviving the 2015 deal, with Biden saying he believed Iran was still pursuing a bomb and that the JCPOA was the best way to prevent it from acquiring one. While nearly all the major issues had been resolved by early 2022, a revival of the deal has yet to occur, reportedly because the US refuses to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its list of terrorist organizations and because the two sides cannot agree on a monitoring mechanism.
A new round of JCPOA talks began late last month in Doha, Qatar, instead of Vienna, Austria, but reportedly yielded little progress on the core remaining issues.
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