President Ahmadinejad demanded an apology from the US for accusing Iran of violating international law with the secret uranium enrichment site discovered by US intelligence.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates just gave me a short and not-so-sweet response: "Not a chance." In the interview for Sunday’s This Week, the Defense Secretary also said that he personally believes Iran intends to have nuclear weapons.
STEPHANOPOULOS: President Ahmadinejad says that President Obama is mistaken and the US owes Iran an apology. Is Iran going to get one?
GATES: Not a chance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what happens next? The president has said that this site is not configured for peaceful purposes. Now the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded, the US government concluded, that Iran had stopped it’s active nuclear weapons program in 2003. Does the president’s conclusion that this site is not configured for peaceful purposes mean that that intelligence estimate is no longer operative?
GATES: No, not necessarily. But what it does mean is that they had a covert site, they did not declare it. If this were a peaceful nuclear program, why didn’t they announce this site when they began to construct it? Why didn’t they allow IAEA inspectors in from the very beginning? This is part of a pattern of deception and lies on the part of the Iranians from the very beginning with respect to their nuclear program. So it’s no wonder that world leaders think that they have ulterior motives that they have a plan to go forward with nuclear weapons. Otherwise, why would they do all this in such a deceptive manner?
STEPHANOPOULOS: US intelligence had been tracking this site for quite some time before President Obama made it public. Is this the only secret site that we know of?
GATES: Well, I’m not going to get into that. I would just say that we’re watching very closely.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does the US government believe that Iran has an active nuclear weapons program?
GATES: I think, my personal opinion is that the Iranians have the intention of having nuclear weapons. I think the question of whether they have made a formal decision to move towards the development of nuclear weapons, uh, is in doubt.
Lots more coming on Sunday…including the latest on Guantanamo and an extended exchange on US strategy in Afghanistan in the wake of this week’s bombshell leak of General McChrystal’s stark conclusions on what it will take to win.
The reporter who broke the story (again!), Washington Post legend Bob Woodward, will join our roundtable, along with George Will, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Friedman of the New York Times, and ABC’s Chief National Security Correspondent Martha Raddatz.
Plus an exclusive response to Secretary Gates from the Republican leading the charge for more troops in Afghanistan: Senator John McCain.
See you Sunday.
- George Stephanopoulos