Don’t trust the intel when it comes to Iran’s nuke program

Washington officialdom believes Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons based on little more than wishful thinking.

Two years ago, senior Reagan and Clinton administration officials warned that Iran probably already has nuclear weapons. As they wrote in “Underestimating Nuclear Missile Threats from North Korea and Iran” in the National Review on Feb. 12, 2016:

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“Iran is following North Korea’s example — as a strategic partner allied by treaty and pledged to share scientific and military technology. Iran sacrificed its overt civilian nuclear program to deceive the Obama administration, to lift international sanctions, to prevent Western military action, while a clandestine military nuclear program no doubt continues underground. That is why Iran, under the nuclear deal, will not allow inspection of its military facilities and prohibits interviewing scientists — it is concealing the dimensions and status of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

“We assess, from U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency reports and other sources, that Iran probably already has nuclear weapons. Over 13 years ago, prior to 2003, Iran was manufacturing nuclear-weapon components, like bridge-wire detonators and neutron initiators, performing non-fissile explosive experiments of an implosion nuclear device, and working on the design of a nuclear warhead for the Shahab-III missile.

“Thirteen years ago Iran was already a threshold nuclear-missile state. It is implausible that Iran suspended its program for over a decade for a nuclear deal with President Obama.”

The above assessment is by Ambassador R. James Woolsey, President Clinton’s director of Central Intelligence; Dr. William Graham, President Reagan’s White House science adviser, leader of NASA and recently chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission; Fritz Ermarth, a national security adviser to President Reagan and chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and Ambassador Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

These stellar intelligence officers, strategic thinkers and scientists played major roles in helping to win the Cold War. Perhaps we should listen to them now about Iran:

“Iran probably has nuclear warheads for the Shahab-III medium-range missile, which they tested for making EMP attacks. … Iran already has the largest medium-range ballistic-missile force in the Middle East.

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“Iran could be building a nuclear-capable missile force, partly hidden in tunnels, as suggested by its dramatic revelation of a vast underground missile-basing system last year. Iran is building toward a large, deployable, survivable, war-fighting missile force — to which nuclear weapons can be swiftly added as they are manufactured.

“And at a time of its choosing, Iran could launch a surprise EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack against the United States by satellite, as they have apparently practiced with help from North Korea.”

Recently, David Albright, former nuclear inspector for the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Olli Heinonen, former IAEA deputy director general, published an Institute for Science and International Security report based on Iran’s secret nuclear-weapon archives clandestinely obtained by Israel’s Mossad: 

“The archive shows that the AMAD program intended to build five nuclear warhead systems for missile delivery and possible use in preparation for an underground nuclear test; an actual test would require a decision to proceed. The program was also partially designed to have its own independent uranium mining, conversion, and enrichment resources. The documentation indicates that Iran's nuclear weaponization efforts did not stop after 2003 … .

“The United States incorrectly assessed with high confidence in a 2007 declassified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that ‘in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.’ Based on the information in the archives, Iran's nuclear weapons program continued after 2003. … Moreover, the 2007 NIE also incorrectly asserted that Iran had not re-started its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007. … However, there is no evidence that the program was ever fully halted, even up to today.

“The information in the archive evaluated so far does not answer the question of what the current status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program is … .”

Assessments that Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons assume, erroneously, that our intelligence is perfect; that Iran’s civilian nuclear program is all there is; that no clandestine nuclear weapons program exists in Iran’s numerous underground military facilities — including unaccounted-for uranium and plutonium facilities to fuel nuclear weapons, as in North Korea.

Where Iran is concerned, our intelligence community appears to have learned nothing from its spectacular failures that grossly underestimated the nuclear threat from North Korea. Does the intelligence community even want to know the truth about Iran’s Islamic bomb?

Senate Republicans and House Democrats soon will argue over modernization of U.S. strategic nuclear forces to deter Russia and China. But Iran and North Korea may not be deterrable, and may sell nuclear weapons to terrorists.

And a catastrophic EMP attack can be made against the United States with a single nuclear weapon delivered by balloon, or launched off a freighter, or by satellite — anonymously. Deterrence is no defense against such threats.

The Department of Homeland Security’s so-called National EMP Strategy appears to be little more than a box-checking exercise to minimally comply with the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act and urgent demands by Congress and the public for national EMP preparedness.  Alarmed by the lack of progress, the U.S. Air Force has formed an Electromagnetic Defense Task Force, that convened in August and recently published a report — warning that nuclear and natural EMP pose an existential threat, and calling for immediate and highest-priority action from the White House to protect the nation.

Our divided house must at least agree to harden — against EMP and cyber warfare — the national electric grid that sustains the lives of 327 million Americans.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission. He served on the staff of the House Armed Service Committee and at the CIA. He is the author of a new book, “EMP Manhattan Project: Organizing For Survival Against An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe.”