U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran Concludes that Iran's Nuclear Weapon Effort was Halted in 2003

December 3, 2007

Publication Type: 

  • Policy Briefs

The declassified summary of a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, released on December 3, 2007, concludes with "high confidence" that Iran's efforts to build a nuclear weapon were suspended in 2003, a reversal of previous intelligence estimates that Iran was actively pursuing such weapons. If Iran were to restart its nuclear weapon program, which the NIE assesses with "moderate confidence" has remained inactive since 2003, then Iran probably could not produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single weapon before 2015. According to the NIE, the timing of Iran's 2003 suspension "indicates that Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach." The NIE is based on information received since 2004, beginning with a set of Iranian drawings and ending with intercepted calls between Iranian military commanders. The NIE was prepared by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. U.S. National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell later distanced himself from these findings during testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on February 5, 2008. McConnell said he would change the way Iran's nuclear program was described.

Read reactions and analysis from around the world:

White House spokesman Stephen Hadley briefs the press on the NIE, 12-3-07.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman says France's position on Iran remains unchanged, 12-4-07.

Anthony Cordesman, CSIS: "Understanding the Key Judgments in the New NIE on Iranian Nuclear Weapons," 12-4-07. (PDF)

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert argued that there is no logical explanation for Iran’s investment in its nuclear program other than nuclear weapons, and that as a result, Israel believes that "the purpose of the Iranian nuclear program is to achieve nuclear weapons." Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also took issue with the NIE, saying that while Iran may have halted its military nuclear program in 2003, it is Israel's estimation that Iran has since "continu[ed] with its program to produce a nuclear weapon." Steven Erlanger and Graham Bowley, the New York Times, 12-5-07.

Israel Insists That Iran Still Seeks a Bomb - Steven Erlanger and Graham Bowley, the New York Times, 12-5-07.

A Wisconsin Project op-ed assesses the NIE:  "In Iran We Trust?" The New York Times, 12-6-07.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman denies NIE allegation that Iran had a nuclear weapon program until 2003, 12-9-07.

According to the National Council for Resistance in Iran, an Iranian opposition group, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate is correct that Iran halted nuclear weaponization research in 2003, but incorrect that the work remained suspended until at least the middle of 2007. The NCRI claims that Iran's Supreme National Security Council shut down Lavisan-Shian, its main nuclear weapon research center, in August 2003, but then resumed nuclear weapon work at various locations in 2004. The equipment from Lavisan was first relocated to the Center for Readiness and Advanced Technology, a military compound in the Lavisan district of Tehran. Radiation measurement devices were then moved to Malek-Ashtar University in Isfahan and to a defense ministry hospital in Tehran.  [Note: The NCRI is the political wing of the Mujahedin e-Khalq.]  Marc Champion and Jay Solomon, the Wall Street Journal, 12-11-07.

Iranian Resistance Group Says Iran Resumed Weapon Program - Marc Champion and Jay Solomon, the Wall Street Journal, 12-11-07, p. A4.