Iran has been working toward building a nuclear weapon for years, while lying about and concealing its activities, according to a report released Tuesday by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Jerusalem did not rush to respond to the UN agency's report. The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement on Tuesday that Israel is studying the report and will issue a response later. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his cabinet ministers not to discuss the report with the media until further notice.
Government officials said that Israel is waiting with its response because it wants to evaluate the world's response to the IAEA findings and does not want to appear to be leading the international community.
A diplomatic source in Vienna, where IAEA headquarters are located, told Haaretz last night that the document was "the most damning report ever published by the IAEA, and only one conclusion can be drawn from it: Iran is working to acquire a nuclear weapon."
The report, which was submitted to the 35 member states of the IAEA Board of Governors, details tests and acquisition of materials and technology that suggests Iran has continuously worked to produce a nuclear weapon since 2003.
A 13-page annex to the report details intelligence and IAEA research that shows Tehran conducting research into every aspect of making a nuclear weapon, including fitting a warhead onto a missile. This appendix was based on more than 1,000 pages of intelligence and other information given to the agency by the intelligence communities of 10 countries, which are not named. But media reports have previously cited Israeli intelligence as making a major contribution to the subject.
The annex describes activities carried out by Iran that point clearly to efforts to develop nuclear weapons. "While some of the activities identified in the Annex have civilian as well as military applications, others are specific to nuclear weapons," it said.
Some of the states that contributed source material for the report gave the IAEA documents and charts in Farsi that were similar to documents confiscated in Libya from the smuggling network of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. This indicates the degree of care Tehran took in the design, development and testing of components for a nuclear explosive device.
Khan provided Iran with the technology for the construction of centrifuges for enriching uranium. The report shows that he also provided the know-how to create a mechanism for a nuclear bomb and to fit the nuclear payload onto a missile.
The most damaging information in the report demonstrates that Iran obtained a "document which describes, inter alia, processes for the conversion of uranium compounds into uranium metal and the production of hemispherical enriched uranium metallic components" that form the core of the nuclear weapon.
The agency confirmed that Iranian scientists received designs to build a hemispherical nuclear weapon and began doing the research needed to learn how to actually build it. Iran also carried out both theoretical and practical tests for the synchronized detonation of a large number of detonators, which is needed to create a fissile chain reaction in the nuclear core of an implosion-type nuclear device and to direct the resultant shock waves in order to hit the target and cause widespread damage. The experiments were carried out in a closed, protected chamber built for the purpose at the Parchin military complex, about 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran.
In response to the report's findings, Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni said, "Now that the truth has been laid before the world, Israel must enlist the free world to stop Iran. Determination and political wisdom are essential at this time in order to stop it."
Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and army chief of staff, said, "This is a very serious report that represents an opportunity for the free world, and chiefly the United States, to take action. It is a test for the foreign policy of the Western world, led by President [Barack] Obama. It should be seen as an opportunity to change the trend, a change that is not the exclusive task of Israel."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the recent extensive media reports about a possible Israeli strike against Iran had caused needless panic. He also castigated remarks on the issue by former high-ranking defense officials.
"The hoopla over the Iran issue must be examined," Barak said in an interview yesterday with Israel Radio. "We must ask ourselves, 'What did we accomplish? Was this a deep or a superficial discussion?' The way the dialogue was conducted, and people's behavior, including that of former important office-holders, was sometimes disgraceful.
"When you hear a senior journalist telling the public we could have 100,000 dead, or a major newspaper claiming Israel could be destroyed, or an important MK saying the cemeteries won't suffice, I ask myself what's going on," Barak continued. "The sowing of panic is at its peak, even though we are the strongest [country] in the region and will remain so for the foreseeable future. War is not a picnic, but there is no scenario for 50,000 dead, or for 5,000 dead - and if everyone stays in their homes, maybe not even 500 dead."
In contrast, military censor Brig. Gen. Sima Vaknin-Gil said in a speech at the University of Haifa yesterday that she had no problem with public discussion in Israel about a possible attack on Iran. "As long as it's a discussion of opinions about one kind of action or another, it is approved," she said. "No confidential information has been disclosed up to now, and no senior official in the establishment has discussed the issue."
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