Washington has got hold of evidence that Tehran never wavered from its drive for a nuclear weapon while engaging in diplomatic negotiation – formally in Geneva this month and under wraps with the United States.
Still protesting loudly that its nuclear program was designed purely for peaceful purposes, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s exclusive intelligence sources report that American undercover agencies in Pakistan found out that in June, Tehran asked the Islamabad government to restore their cooperation of 2004 and 2005 – or earlier, in developing and manufacturing the Ghauri-3. This is a medium-range, road mobile, liquid propellant ballistic missile, which is equipped to deploy nuclear warheads against civilian and military targets.
The discovery prompted the statement on July 20 by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff: “I fundamentally believe that they’re on a path to achieve nuclear weapons some time in the future,” and the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s projection that Iran would have the components for assembling a nuclear bomb by the end of 2009 or early 2010.
Olmert offered this estimate based on updated Israeli intelligence to the visiting Democratic presidential contender, Senator Barack Obama, Wednesday, July 23.
Iran is now on record as bidding for a nuclear weapon
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that the Ghauri-3 is a highly hybridized concoction, an offshoot of the Hatf-5 program derived from the North Korean No-dong 1.
The Hatf-5 guidance system is believed to have come from China, possibly through North Korea, which sold the technology to Pakistan and Iran.
Iran participated in the development of the Hatf-5, to which the Shahab 3 ballistic missile is similar in appearance and capabilities.
The Pakistanis developed the nuclear-capable Ghauri-3 as their answer to India’s Agni-3.
Without beating about the bush, Tehran asked Pakistan to turn over the diagrams and plans for mounting and operating nuclear warheads on the jointly-developed Ghauri-3.
Iran counted on an easy ride with the new Islamabad government, assuming that the change of administrations in Islamabad had sharply reduced President Pervez Musharraf’s clout.
Military experts estimate, that by getting hold of the Pakistan plans, Iran could have shortened the process of nuclearizing its ballistic missiles by a year at least.
To find out Pakistan’s response to Iran’s request, the White House asked Musharraf, who is formally in charge of Pakistan’s missile and nuclear warhead arsenal, for clarifications of its intelligence finding. The Pentagon also requested information from the Pakistani chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.
Gen. Kayani replied stiffly that the question should be properly addressed to the government – not the army. However, Musharraf did confirm that the Iranians had indeed made the application for nuclear warhead technology, but the government headed by Yousef Raza Gilani had turned them down.
This confirmation of US intelligence input has placed in the hands of the Bush administration proof of Iran’s quest for a short cut to weaponizing the components of its nuclear program – the closest step so far to a smoking gun.