Iran’s president wants to shed the nation’s secrecy and forge ahead openly with developing nuclear weapons but is opposed by the religious leadership, which is worried about international reaction to such a move, says an intelligence assessment shared with The Associated Press.
Until now intelligence reports had assessed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as relatively moderate on the nuclear issue compared to the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But a blunt comment by Ahmadinejad last month on Iranian state TV that “if we want to make a bomb, we are not afraid of anybody” fits the scenario laid down by the intelligence assessment.
Ahmadinejad is pushing “to shake free of the restraints Iran has imposed upon itself, and openly push forward to create a nuclear bomb,” says the assessment. But Khamenei, whose word is final on nuclear and other issues, “wants to progress using secret channels, due to concern about a severe response from the West,” says the report.
Proliferation expert David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security says his briefings from European government officials who have seen the latest US intelligence assessment on Iran seem to support the assessment shared with the AP that Khamenei is worried about how the world would react to a nuclear-armed Iran. The leadership is “worried about starting a nuclear weapons race and worried about the international impact,” said Albright.