The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

Travis Sharp

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On Iran's Nuclear Capabilities and Intentions, Group Urges Caution

New Intelligence Director Strikes the Right Chord


In light of congressional testimony last
week by Dennis Blair, the new Director of National Intelligence, the
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation today called on Obama
administration officials to avoid repeating several of their recent
overstatements about Iran's nuclear bomb-making capabilities and

In his testimony, Blair pointed out that the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that "Iran's
nuclear weapon design and weaponization work was halted in fall 2003,
along with its covert uranium conversion and enrichment-related
" Blair further observed that Iran resumed its uranium
enrichment efforts in January 2006, thus enabling Iran to move toward a
nuclear bomb "if it chooses to do so."

Blair then stated: "We judge in fall 2003 Tehran halted its
nuclear weapons design and weaponization activities and that the halt
lasted at least several years. We assess Tehran had not restarted these
activities as of at least mid-2007. Although we do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons, we assess Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop them.

John Isaacs, executive director of Center for Arms Control and
Non-Proliferation, cautioned government officials against inflaming an
already inflamed situation.

"Blair's careful language is a useful guide for officials to follow when discussing a very difficult situation," said Isaacs. "Negotiations with Iran
are more likely to bear fruit if the Iranians don't feel like the
United States is officially accusing them of being dead-set on going

Several statements by the Obama administration last week sharply
contrasted with Blair's nuanced approach. For example, during his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta addressed Iran's pursuit of nuclear weaponry. "From all the information I've seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability," said Panetta.

Even President Barack Obama was forced to correct himself regarding Iran during a press conference last week. Obama first referred to Iran's "development of a nuclear weapon" before quickly rephrasing it mid-sentence as Iran's "pursuit of a nuclear weapon."

"There is no sense in publicly speculating on Iran's intentions," Isaacs concluded.

Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)3 non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to enhancing international peace and security in the 21st century. The Center is funded by grants from private foundations and the generosity of thousands of individual donors.