When an unclassified summary of the 2007 intelligence estimate on Iran’s nuclear program was made public, stating that it had abandoned work on a bomb, it stunned the Bush administration and the world.
But the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies believe that Iran has yet to decide whether to resume a parallel program to design a nuclear warhead — a program they believe was essentially halted in 2003 and which would be necessary for Iran to build a nuclear bomb. Iranian officials maintain that their nuclear program is for civilian purposes.
David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director, concurred with that view at the same hearing. Other senior United States officials, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made similar statements in recent television appearances.
There is a real argument that Iran’s primary goal is to pursue effective nuclear energy. Although Iran has the third largest oil reserves and the second largest gas reserves they lack a domestic refining ability which forces Iran to rely on imported gasoline. A domestic nuclear energy capability would diversify their economy away from oil, establish energy independence, reduce Iran’s susceptibility to fluctuations in oil prices, and enhance a growth rate that while impressive, significantly trails their neighbors on the south side of the Persian Gulf. Further, nuclear energy would establish a national industry that would bolster Iran’s 12.5% (probably grossly understated) unemployment rate, a weak point for Ahmadinejad in the Presidential elections.
Saudi Arabia is looking to 2020 to have online its first nuclear power plant and potentially to 2030 to construct up to 60 reactors, a rather optimistic forecast for an already overburdened electrical grid system, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Ground-breaking for the first nuclear reactor site is to take place in 2014. Not only is Saudi Arabia involved in developing nuclear energy for civilian use but so are Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Besides their increasing energy demand, there also is a political motivation to pursue nuclear energy seriously. The reason is that the Arab states do not want to fall behind Iran and Israel in developing nuclear technologies.
Iran strongly denies that its nuclear program is to make nuclear weapons and has expressed similar reasons as the Saudis for wanting to pursue nuclear development as an alternative source of energy, given that its fossil fuel resources similarly are finite.
Yet, there has been no concern expressed by Western countries over other Arab countries’ intentions of developing nuclear energy as has occurred over Iran’s program, although the Saudis have expressed publicly the possibility of using their nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons if Iran does.