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U.S. intel: No Iranian bomb until 2013 at earliest

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Iran won’t have the capacity to produce highly enriched uranium until 2013 and has yet to decide to produce a bomb, according to U.S. intelligence.

The assessment appeared in answers produced in April by the director for U.S. national intelligence, Dennis Blair, in response to congressional inquiries. The document was declassified this week through the efforts of the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Project.

Blair said that in 2007 and 2008, Iran made "significant progress" in installing and operating centrifuges, but the country’s capacity to enrich uranium to levels necessary for a nuclear device will not be ready before 2013. Blair also noted that one of the intelligence agencies, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, "assesses that Iran is unlikely" to produce highly enriched uranium, "at least as long as international scrutiny and pressure persist."

Iran remains a threat to regional stability because of its backing for radical groups like Hezbollah and Hamas; the anti-Israel terrorist groups are "integral" to Iran’s "efforts to build influence in the Middle East and challenge Israeli and Western influence in the region," Blair said.

Iran has provided Hezbollah with "significant amounts of funding, training and weapons" since its 2006 war with Israel, and also has bolstered Hamas’ strike capability in recent years.

Blair said that Hamas and Hezbollah appeared unlikely in the short term to relaunch attacks on Israel; such attacks would corrode their popular support because of the prospect of retaliation.

Nonetheless, Hezbollah "remains the most technically capable terrorist group in the world" and would attack U.S. interests "should it perceive a direct U.S. threat to the group’s survival, leadership or infrastructure, or to Iran," Blair said.

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