VIENNA, Austria, (AP) – The U.S. has recently shared sensitive information with the International Atomic Energy Agency on key aspects of Iran’s nuclear program that Washington says shows Tehran was directly engaged in trying to make an atomic weapon, diplomats told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The diplomats said Washington also gave the IAEA permission to confront Iran with at least some of the evidence in an attempt to pry details out of the Islamic republic on the activities, as part of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s attempts to investigate Iran’s suspicious nuclear past.
The decision by the U.S. administration to declassify its intelligence and indirectly share it with Iran through the IAEA was a clear reflection of Washington’s’ drive to pressure Iran into admitting that it had focused part of its nuclear efforts toward developing a weapons program.
While the Americans have previously declassified and then forwarded intelligence to the IAEA to help its investigations, they do so on a selective basis.
Following Israel’s bombing of a Syrian site late last year, and media reports citing unidentified U.S. officials as saying the target was a nuclear installation, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei turned, in vain to the U.S. in asking for details on what was struck, said a diplomat who — like others — asked for anonymity in exchange for divulging confidential information.
Shared in the past two weeks was material on a laptop computer reportedly smuggled out of Iran, said another diplomat, accredited to the IAEA. In 2005, U.S. intelligence assessed that information as indicating that Tehran had been working on details of nuclear weapons, including missile trajectories and ideal altitudes for exploding warheads.
He said that after declassification, U.S. intelligence also was forwarded on two other issues — the “Green Salt Project” — a plan the U.S. alleges links diverse components of a nuclear weapons program, including uranium enrichment, high explosives testing and a missile re-entry vehicle, and material in Iran’s possession showing how to mold uranium metal into warhead form.
The material followed up on information on the projects shared by the Americans with key allies and the agency last year, said the diplomat
Iran is under two sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, which it started developing during nearly two decades of covert nuclear activity built on illicit purchases and revealed only five years ago.
Since then, IAEA experts have uncovered activities, experiments and blueprints and materials that point to possible efforts by Iran to create nuclear weapons, even though Tehran insists its nuclear project is peaceful and aimed only at creating a large-scale enrichment facility to make reactor fuel. Its leaders consistently dismiss allegations that they are interested in enrichment for its other use — creating fissile material suitable for arming warheads.
Instead of heeding Security Council demands to freeze enrichment, Iran has expanded its program. On Wednesday, diplomats told the AP that its new generation of advanced centrifuges have begun processing small quantities of the gas that can be used to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads.