The New IAEA Report and Iran’s Evolving Nuclear and Missile Forces

  • Nov 9, 2011

    Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons and the ability to arm its missiles and aircraft with such weapons represents the most serious risk that shapes US, Arab, Israeli and other international perceptions. It is an area in which the exact details of threat perceptions are particularly critical, although many key aspects of Israeli, US, and Gulf perceptions – as well as the perceptions of the decision makers in other states – are again impossible to determine at an unclassified level.

    The new IAEA report issued on November 8, 2011 highlights both the evident and the uncertainties involved. Reports by groups like ISIS describe what the new IAEA report says about Iran’s near term capability to manufacture nuclear weapons in detail. What is different in this IAEA report, however, is that there is an explicit annex describing the evidence that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons and putting them on nuclear warheads.  Some of the key point in the new IAEA report  provide a broad warning about Iran’s actions and intentions:

    • Once again, Iran is failing to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
    • The IAEA reports that the volume of indicators that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program are reaching a critical level.
    • There are new indicators that Iran has a well-structured and carefully organized nuclear weapons program – one the report describes in detail.
    • There are indications that Iran is preparing to produce weapons-grade fissile material at some point in the future.
    • Iran has the technology to prepare such fissile material for use in a weapon.
    • Iran also is acquiring or – has acquired – the specialized detonators and technology needed for a weapon.
    • Iran may now be able to fully integrate these technologies into a bomb.
    • Iran may be conducting simulations of key aspects of nuclear weapons development.
    • New data are provided on how far Iran is moving towards modeling weapons designs.
    • There is now further evidence Iran is developing the neutron initiators needed to sustain a fissile reaction and produce high yields from a fission weapon.
    • For the first time, the IAEA reports Iran may be preparing for a future test.
    • The report notes that Iran seems to be actively developing nuclear missile warheads.
    • The IAEA also explicitly notes that Iran needs warheads with weapons of mass destruction if these missile systems are to be an effective and lethal threat.

    The Burke Chair has prepared a report, entitled “THE NEW IAEA REPORT AND IRAN’S EVOLVING NUCLEAR AND MISSILE FORCES” that looks at these issues in detail.  The full report can be downloaded here:

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Anthony H. Cordesman