“It is my gut feeling that Iran would like to have the technology to enable it to have nuclear weapons,” Dr. El-Baradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said in an interview to the BBC on Wednesday 17.6 at the organization’s headquarters in Vienna.
“They want to send a message to their neighbors, to the rest of the world, ‘don’t mess with us,'” he said.
This was a somewhat surprising statement by the head of the IAEA who is ending his tenure in November of this year, after having denied any evidence of Iran's engagement in developing a nuclear weapon in all the official reports he submitted during his 10-year stint.
The day before, the head of Israel's Mossad external security service, Meir Dagan, gave as his opinion that Iran had already acquired the required technology. In a briefing to the Knesset Security and Foreign Relations committee, he said that Iran had already overcome the technical difficulties of constructing a nuclear weapon and that, barring technical failures, will be able to deliver a nuclear weapon against any chosen target by 2014.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly military sources note the chief of Israel's spy service bared three hitherto unknown developments in Iran's military nuclear program:
1. Iranian nuclear technicians and scientists have cracked the problems of weaponization, which means they could construct a nuclear bomb or warhead by the end of 2009 if the government ordered them to do so.
2. They are also now technically capable of mounting nuclear warheads on missiles and launching them to distant targets.
3. They need no more than three to six months for notching up enriched uranium by a further 4.5%, to weapons grade of 90%.
Tehran liable to follow North Korea's nuclear test
Dagan did not go into the sources of the technology and other assistance which helped Iran reach this point in its nuclear and missile programs. Nor did he explain how Iran could be sure it would all come together and work without conducting a nuclear test.
However, one possibility raised frequently by DEBKA-Net-Weekly in the past was collaboration between Iran and North Korea. One possibility, which our Iranian sources mentioned several times recently, is that after North Korea conducted its nuclear test in May, Tehran will soon follow suit. Dagan hinted at this when he warned in the same briefing that Iran was closely following US response to recent threats made by North Korean despot Kim Jong Il.
Furthermore, according to some international press reports, Iran may actually be in possession of six missiles and at least two nuclear warheads obtained in 2001 or 2002, which would have enabled its nuclear engineers to simply copy the missiles and the warheads' triggering mechanism.
On June 7 the Australian newspaper Melbourne Herald Sun published an interview with Sam Haider, son of Sarfraz Haider, an Australian citizen of Afghan-Iranian origin, who lived in Canberra and Sydney for almost two decades before leaving his family and moving to London and then Cyprus in 2000.
In the interview, the son claims, and also presents documentation to back his statements, that his father was among a group of men who transferred the nuclear warheads to Iran.
Stolen nukes: From the Soviet arsenal to Iran
According to Sam Haider, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, a group of Russian and Ukrainian ex-intelligence and military officers got together to rob the Soviet arsenal. His father – a world-class arms dealer – was involved in fencing up to 20 nuclear-capable Kh-55 missiles, which have a 3,000 km range, in addition to four 200 kiloton nuclear warheads.
The documentation he presented includes letters providing details of the arms deal over the signature of Hryhoriy Omelchenko, a former intelligence colonel to Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko. The letters also confirmed Haider was suspected of being part of the arms trafficking gang that sold the missiles to Iran and China.
While dealing with the disposal of his late father's property in Cyprus, Sam Haider received a message from a man named Ruslan Saidov, who claimed that Haider Sr. was murdered by the heads of a military and intelligence consulting company named Far West, former members of the gang behind the theft of the missiles. These men, said Saidov, killed Sam Haider's father because he knew too much about the operation and the eventual sale of the stolen munitions to China and to Iran, disguised as “turbine parts” for the local oil industry.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly military and intelligence sources note that this revelation if true would account for the covert Sino-Iranian cooperation on nuclear and missile technology.
One must assume that the Iranian and Chinese scientists and technicians who worked on the dismantling of the Kh-55 missiles and the nuclear warheads, in order to copy and transfer their designs to their own local weapons systems, traded information.