Senior officials from the Obama administration called a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program “disturbing,” and suggested Iran's leaders are more determined than ever to pursue a nuclear weapon.
"The fact that they have increased the level of non-cooperation indicated to me that unless we can mount the international pressure to stop it, that this program is heading more and more in the direction of seeking a weapons capability," a senior administration official. "The pattern of behaviors is one that I think is very disturbing.”
“There is less and less credibility to the Iranian statement that their program is peaceful and much stronger international recognition that we are facing a country that is seeking a nuclear weapons capability," the official said.
The report states in relatively stark terms that “outstanding issues” that remain unresolved raise “concerns about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. These alleged activities consist of a number of projects and sub-projects, covering nuclear and missile related aspects, run by military related organizations.”
This is the first time the IAEA has referred to possible “ongoing activities” related to nuclear weaponization, a senior administration official observed.
Another first, the official said, the IAEA saying that “Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
This conclusion would contradict a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate from the US intelligence community suggesting that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program years before.
When asked if the White House believes the IAEA report or the 2007 NIE estimate, officials had no comment except to suggest that they were looking forward to the new NIE on Iran, which they said was in the works.
Previous IAEA reports had expressed frustration with Iran not cooperating, but the language in this one was more direct. When asked why they thought the language had changed – whether because the IAEA has a new Director-General, or some other reason – a senior administration official said, “when you look at Iranian behavior, that’s changed.”
Ever since the discovery of the secret facility at Qom, there have been serious breaches by the Iranians exceeding previous behavior, including the lack of cooperation detailed in the IAEA report and the statement by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month that, "God willing, 20 percent enrichment will start."
In his statement, broadcast on state television, Ahmadinejad then turned to Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, and said: "Begin production of 20 percent.”
On Air Force One en route to Colorado, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the report demonstrates “the failure of the Iranian government to live up to its international obligations….We've always said that if Iran failed to live up to those international obligations, that there would be consequences.”
Officials would not say, however, when the US would present a new draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council proposing new sanctions against Iran.
One official said the report was a “good news, bad news” situation.
The good news is that “the report documents significant technical problems Iran continues to have” regarding its nuclear program. The bad news, officials said, is that Iran seems more determined than ever to pursue a nuclear weapon.