Iran's nuclear program: 4 things you probably didn't know

Do the US and Israel believe that Iran has a nuclear weapons program?  Did President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really promise to "wipe Israel off the map"?  The answers may surprise you.

4. The US and Israel both say Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.

It is perhaps the most important fact that is often ignored in the debate over war with Iran: Both US and Israeli intelligence agree that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.  

Just last month, National Intelligence Agency Director James Clapper wrote in a report to the Senate Armed Services Committee that "Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons... should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."  

When asked in a hearing by Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan to confirm that "Iran has not yet decided to develop nuclear weapons," Mr. Clapper did so, saying “That is the intelligence community’s assessment …," and he reiterated that he has doubts about whether Iran is attempting to create a nuclear weapon when pressed further by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R) of South Carolina.  Gen. Roland Burgess of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who also appeared at the hearing, agreed with Clapper's assessment.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made statements even more to the point than Clapper's in January.  In the January 8 edition of CBS's Face the Nation, Mr. Panetta said flat out, "Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No."

Israeli intelligence also does not believe that Iran is currently pursuing a nuclear weapon.  In January, Haaretz reported that Israel believes Iran "has not yet decided whether to translate [its efforts to improve its nuclear power] capabilities into a nuclear weapon - or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile."  That same month, Israeli military intelligence chief Gen. Aviv Kochavi told a Knesset hearing that Iran is not working on building a nuclear bomb, reported Agence France-Presse.

(h/t: David Morrison)

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