Iran, Russia, and the bomb.

Author:Handley, John
Position:Critical essay


By Rens Lee (senior fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute) Reviewed by John Handley

Assessing the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Rens Lee described the document's benign view of Iran's nuclear capabilities as "probably unwarranted" when it concluded "with moderate to high confidence" that Iran has neither a nuclear weapon nor the fissile material to create one. After questioning the NIE statement that "Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003," he commented at length on Iran's black market activity, the interdiction of four different smuggling operations that involved attempts to secure highly enriched uranium, the proliferation relationship between Iran and the former USSR, and the counter-proliferation work of the Materials Protection Control and Accounting Program. Lee noted with concern the "few hundred radiation monitors deployed along Russia's 12,500 mile border" and pointed out that only one-third of the program's planned stations had been established by the turn of the century. Further strengthening his challenge to the NIE, Lee referred to the puzzling 2002 comments of General Yory Baluyevsky--now chief of the Russian general staff--that as of that date Iran already had non-strategic nuclear weapons. Some 22 months later, General Baluyuvsky reversed his position, claiming Iran could not develop nuclear weapons "in the near or distant future."

From those facts, Lee concluded that U.S. policymakers should not disregard Iran's quest for nuclear weapons, even the non-strategic variety, since such a weapon could be delivered to any of several...

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