Washington: A classified US
intelligence assessment says that Iran`s leaders are divided
on whether to build nuclear weapons, the Wall Street Journal
reported on Thursday.
The new national intelligence estimate, or NIE,
says that international sanctions may be a source of division
among the leaders.
According to the NIE, at least some Iranian leaders
worry that economic turmoil fueled in part by the sanctions
could spur opposition to the regime.
"The bottom line is that the intelligence community
has concluded that there`s an intense debate inside the
Iranian regime on the question of whether or not to move
toward a nuclear bomb," a US official told the Journal,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
"There`s a strong sense that a number of Iranian
regime officials know that the sanctions are having a serious
effect," the official said.
In the previous NIE report on Iran, in 2007, the US
intelligence services said that Tehran had virtually halted
its nuclear weapons development programs in 2003.
The current assessment says that Tehran likely
resumed some nuclear weapons research, but does not conclude
that it has a full program to build an atomic bomb.
The assessment was shared this week with key
congressional committees, the Journal reported.
Western powers led by the United States suspect
Iran is masking a weapons drive under the guise of a civilian
atomic program, a charge strongly denied by Iran.
Iran is currently under four sets of UN sanctions
and other unilateral punitive measures imposed by several
countries, including the United States and European Union.