Transcript: CIA director William Burns on "Face the Nation," Feb. 26, 2023

February 26, 2023


CBS News

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Director, thank you for making time. 

CIA DIRECTOR BILL BURNS: Nice to be with you, Margaret. 


DIRECTOR BURNS: Well, I mean, obviously more ammunitions to the aggressor in this conflict to Vladimir Putin's Russia, wherever it comes from, and we also have evidence that the Iranians are providing, you know, lethal equipment and munitions, that the North Koreans are doing the same thing as well. So wherever that lethal assistance comes from, it prolongs a vicious war of aggression.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You- I want to come back to something you just said about Iran. You've said in the past, there's the beginnings of a full-fledged defense partnership between Russia and Iran. Exactly how far does the alliance go?

DIRECTOR BURNS: Well, it's moving at a pretty fast clip in a very dangerous direction right now, in the sense that we know that the Iranians have already provided hundreds of armed drones to the Russians, which they're using to inflict pain on Ukrainian civilians and Ukrainian civilian infrastructure. We know that they've provided, you know, ammunition for artillery and for tanks as well. And what we also see are signs that, you know, Russia is proposing to help the Iranians on their missile program and also at least considering the possibility of providing fighter aircraft to Iran as well. That creates obvious risks not only for the people of Ukraine, and we've seen the evidence of that already, but also risks to our friends and partners across the Middle East as well. So it's, you know, quite disturbing set of developments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have Iran's leaders made the decision to pursue a nuclear weapon?

DIRECTOR BURNS: To the best of our knowledge, we don't believe that the Supreme Leader in Iran has yet made a decision to resume the weaponization program that we judge that they suspended or stopped at the end of 2003. But the other two legs of the stool, meaning enrichment programs, they've obviously advanced very far, you know, over the past couple of years--

MARGARET BRENNAN: 84 percent purity reportedly.

DIRECTOR BURNS: They've advanced very far to the point where it would only be a matter of weeks before they can enrich to 90 percent, if they chose to cross that line. And also in terms of their missile systems, their ability to deliver a nuclear weapon, once they developed it, has also been advancing as well. So the answer to your question is no, we don't see evidence that they made a decision to resume that weaponization program. But the other dimensions of this challenge, I think, are growing at a worrisome pace too. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Israel has said they believe Iran has enough fuel for four bombs, and the enriched uranium that was found recently was at 84 percent purity- that's very close to 90 percent, what you need for a nuclear weapon. So how far are they from testing? Or are you saying because they haven't chosen to pursue a weapon that-- 


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're not near that point?

DIRECTOR BURNS: Yeah. And they're still a ways off, at least in our judgment in terms of their ability to actually develop a weapon. But their progress on enrichment is quite troubling, as I said before.