[Fox News] Alarming discovery of Iran nuclear activity could ‘upend’ US assessment of weapons capability: expert

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U.S. and Israeli officials will hold a meeting at the White House on Thursday to discuss Iran’s nuclear program after intelligence agencies discovered concerning information about Iran’s capabilities, Axios reported Tuesday.

U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies reportedly uncovered information about a computer modeling program Iran has acquired that could be used to assist in developing nuclear weapons. The purpose of the program remains unclear, with officials reportedly split on whether it is innocuous or it represents further nuclear ambition in Iran.

“For years now the intelligence community has assessed Iran is not actively working to build a nuclear weapon, that it might be building out the assembly line for fissile material but that we had no indication of active weaponization work. If true, this would upend that assessment and suggest Iran has a shorter runway to a bomb than previously reported,” said Richard Goldberg, senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based nonpartisan national security think tank.

Fox News Digital reached out to the White House for comment on the Axios report, but they did not immediately respond.

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Goldberg, who worked as director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction for the White House National Security Council from 2019 to 2020, criticized President Biden’s administration for rolling back the “maximum pressure” policies of former President Trump. He argues that Iran is “building the assembly line right in front of us” for a bomb.

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Trump’s administration had focused on limiting Iran’s ability to produce the weapons-grade uranium needed for a bomb. Goldberg says Iran has all but secured that ability under the Biden administration. Nevertheless, the weaponization process takes time.

“The administration pegged that to be around 18 months while the Israelis said a year or less. But if weaponization work is already going on, if the computer modeling is already being perfected, that timeline may be far shorter,” Goldberg said.

The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday its inspectors had verified that Iran has begun feeding uranium into three cascades of advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility. Cascades are a group of centrifuges that spin uranium gas together to enrich it more quickly.

So far, Iran has been enriching uranium in those cascades up to 2% purity. Iran already enriches uranium up to 60%, a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Iran also plans to install 18 cascades of IR-2m centrifuges at Natanz and eight cascades of IR-6 centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear site. Each of these classes of centrifuges enriches uranium faster than Iran’s baseline IR-1 centrifuges, which remain the workhorse of the country’s atomic program.

Earlier this week, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “The United States continues to have grave concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, as we have made clear at the IAEA for many years and again today. Iran’s record speaks for itself, as does its continued failure to demonstrate to the IAEA and the world that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”

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