C.I.A. Tells Clinton an Iranian A-Bomb

Can�t Be Ruled Out


Jan 17 (NYT)

A sharp departure from its previous assessment of Iran�s nuclear capacity, the Central Intelligence Agency has told senior Clinton administration officials that Iran might now be able to make a nuclear weapon, according to several United States officials.

George Tenet, director of central intelligence, began briefings in December about the agency�s new assessment, shortly after the document was completed, the officials said. The new evaluation has touched off a sharp debate about Iran�s nuclear capacity, and the C.I.A.�s ability to monitor it.

C.I.A. officials refused to comment on the new assessment. But the more ominous evaluation of Iran�s nuclear capacity, which was described to The New York Times by American officials, is apparently not based on evidence that Iran�s indigenous efforts to build a bomb have achieved a breakthrough.

Rather, it seems to be based on the fact that the United States cannot track with great certainty increased efforts by Iran to acquire nuclear materials and technology on the international black market, mainly from the former Soviet Union, the officials said.

The C.I.A. has found it difficult to track such transactions, and thus the assessment has been carefully hedged by its analysts. Washington has also made little headway with efforts to weaken the longstanding strategic relationship between Iran and Russia, which is brimming with nuclear weapons and stockpiles of the fissile material Tehran needs to make a nuclear bomb.

The agency has told policy makers that it is not certain that Iran actually has atomic weapons now. Instead, the new assessment says that the C.I.A. can no longer rule out the possibility that Iran has acquired them, in contrast to previous assessments that excluded that possibility.

Even with those caveats, the C.I.A.�s new assessment has prompted strong debate within the government. The new analysis is being disputed by Clinton administration policy makers and some analysts at other American intelligence agencies who believe that Iran�s efforts to build its own bomb are still moving slowly, American officials say.

They say there is no evidence that Iran has succeeded in building its own weapon, or that it has stolen or acquired enough fissile material to make one.

The C.I.A. began to warn policy makers nearly a decade ago that Iran was likely to have nuclear weapons around the turn of the century. Now that the new century has arrived, the agency is offering a cautious warning that it can no longer be sure whether Iran has made more progress on its atomic program than previously believed.

Senior Clinton administration officials have tried to play down the significance of the C.I.A.�s new assessment, apparently eager to avoid damaging efforts toward rapprochement with Iran�s reformist leader, President Mohammad Khatami.

One view held by some Clinton administration officials is that the new assessment is an attempt by C.I.A. analysts to avoid criticism in the future for failing to warn policy makers if Iran someday joins the ranks of states with nuclear weapons. The officials believe that the agency has been singed by criticism after previous intelligence failures: missing signs that India was about to test a nuclear weapon in 1998, and being surprised by the advanced state of Iraq�s nuclear program, revealed after the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

In view of the debate over the new C.I.A. assessment, officials are now considering whether to order a formal National Intelligence Estimate, which would call for all of the agencies in the intelligence community to contribute to a governmentwide appraisal of Tehran�s nuclear capacity.

The latest C.I.A. assessment implicitly acknowledges what many American officials say is a severe problem for the United States: the shortcomings of intelligence about both the Iranian program and the spread on the black market of weapons-grade fissile material from the former Soviet Union.

In effect, C.I.A. analysts are warning that, given Iran�s intensive efforts to steal or buy highly enriched uranium and plutonium, it is possible that it may have more bomb-grade material than previously believed.

The scientific and technical know-how to build a bomb is useless without sufficient quantities of highly enriched uranium or plutonium, the �fissile material� at the heart of an atomic weapon.

It has proven extraordinarily difficult for countries like Iran and Iraq to generate enough material to make a bomb on their own. Western analysts say that the most likely sources are the stockpiles of Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine and Kazakhstan, both of which had nuclear weapons or related materials and technology on their territory during Soviet times, have renounced weapons of mass destruction.

In 1992, Kazakhstan rebuffed efforts by Iran to buy beryllium from a storage site that also contained more than 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, enough to make dozens of nuclear bombs. Two years later, Washington secretly flew the fuel out of the country to prevent Iran and other would-be nuclear powers from acquiring it.

But Russia, still brimming with stockpiles of nuclear fuel and weapons related technology, has long sold sensitive nuclear and missile technology to Iran, and assisted Tehran�s civilian atomic energy program over objections from Washington, which fears that Iran�s domestic nuclear power program is being used to develop indigenous weapons.

The Clinton administration�s concerns that Russia might be broadening its nuclear trade with Iran to include heavy water and graphite technology led the United States a year ago to impose sanctions against two Russian scientific institutions.

After the sanctions were imposed, Iran denied that it was cooperating with such institutions to develop missiles and nuclear weapons. Last March, Yevgeny Adamov, Russia�s atomic energy industry minister, said Russia would continue its commercial nuclear cooperation with Iran, especially its program to help Iran complete two large reactors at Bushehr, one of which was damaged in the Iran-Iraq war.

Just last Friday, Russia�s defense minister met with a top Iranian security official and pledged to maintain Moscow�s military ties with Tehran.

�Russia intends to maintain the dynamics of its bilateral ties with Iran in the military, military-technical, scientific-technical and energy fields,� said Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, according to the Interfax news service.

Russian officials have denied that Moscow is helping Iran develop nuclear weapons.

Iran also steadfastly denies that it has a nuclear weapons program. Since 1970, its diplomats say, it has been a member in good standing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which bars states without nuclear weapons from acquiring them, and also requires that civilian atomic facilities be inspected by international observers.

But Iran has continued expanding its nuclear power sector even though it is among the world�s largest oil producers. Along with uranium deposits, a uranium-ore concentration facility and two research reactors, Iran has two nuclear research centers, including one in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, where American analysts believe that Iran is trying to make the explosive core of an atomic device.

Soon after Mr. Khatami was elected president in 1997, Iran replaced the head of its atomic energy program, Reza Amrollahi, who was widely seen as incompetent, with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, a former oil and gas minister who is regarded as a better manager and politically connected. Iran�s program, however, is still viewed as deeply troubled, American officials say.

In addition to nuclear assistance, the United States believes that Russian companies and other organizations have provided Tehran with critical technology related to the development of ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons. In a national intelligence assessment issued last year, the American intelligence community said it believed that by 2010 Iran, using Russian technology and assistance, might test a missile that could reach targets in the United States.

Assessments about foreign nuclear programs have always been highly contentious, largely because of the sensitive diplomatic and political issues they raise. American intelligence officials knew for years, for example, that India and Pakistan were close to becoming nuclear powers, even as successive American administrations chose not to acknowledge that publicly for fear of damaging other American economic and political interests in the region.

The United States also has not officially acknowledged that Israel has long had nuclear weapons.

But the debate over Iran�s nuclear program has been more about facts than politics, with concern mounting steadily in the last decade. With limited intelligence about the Iranian program and Russian nuclear proliferation, the intelligence agencies have been reluctant to draw hard conclusions about Iran�s nuclear potential.

In 1992, for example, The New York Times reported that a draft C.I.A. report said Iran could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000. The next year, the agency calculated that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon in 8 to 10 years, according to a paper by W. Seth Carus, a defense analyst at the National Defense University.

In 1995, another C.I.A. assessment concluded that Iran was three to five years from having a nuclear weapon, according to a knowledgeable former American official. But the former official criticized the analysis for relying too heavily on information from Israeli intelligence, which has had an interest in convincing the United States that Iran poses a strategic threat.

There is, however, widespread agreement that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons.

David Albright, a nuclear analyst in Washington, said that Iran would inevitably intensify efforts to acquire nuclear weapons in response to Iraq�s activities. Although it agreed this week to permit very limited international inspections of its nuclear facilities, Iraq, Iran�s historic regional rival, has refused to permit inspections for more than a year.

�Iran has made it clear that it will not be the last major country in the region to develop

nuclear weapons,� Mr. Albright said.


The 600th anniversary of Johannes Gutenberg�s birth (1400-2000)

By Alberto MENGONI


Some distinguished figures of the second millennium have casted flattering judgements on the work of intellect of a man whose home town, Mainz in Germany, will be honouring all year round in celebration of his 600th birthday.

Let�s progress in order and see first what has been said about, and then let�s focus on Johannes Gutenberg, the millennium man, as England�s �The Sunday Times� has found out he is considered, in a poll conducted with 100 world leaders.

Francis Bacon, an English philosopher of science, talking about Gutenberg�s idea maintained that it changed �the appearance and state of the whole world� together with the magnetic compass and gunpowder.

Victor Hugo, the French writer, stated: �The invention of printing is the greatest event in history, the mother of all revolutions�.

Paul Strassmann, writer: �Book printing can be seen as the earliest example of industrialized mass production�.

Myron Gilmore, historian: �Printing with moveable type brought about the most radical transformation in intellectual life in the history of western civilisation�.

For some of his fellow contemporaries, instead, Gutenberg was a stubborn unsolving debtor as lawsuits against him, laid in Strasbourg and Mainz during his troubled life, have sufficiently proved. To his defence it can be said that the inventor never meant not to return the money which, in every case, was mainly used to finance his studies. Those ultimately have been known to fuel the so-called �information revolution�. We�d better ponder on this.

Indeed, the possibility to mass produce printed matters, from religious texts, to Greek and Roman authors� writings translations, from philosophical and scientific essays, to law prescriptions, has set the world in a permanent change.

No longer laws could be either unknown or abused of because of scarcity of written copies, previously handwritten. No longer culture could be a privilege of few, such as the possession of handwritten books had allowed up to Gutenberg�s invention. No longer, finally, holy books and Jesus� gospel could be retained by the clergy that because of that, since the dawn of the world, had elected itself a cast of the ruling class, when not the only ruling class.

Matter of fact the spreading of texts, due to the relative easiness they could be printed with the moveable type printing machine invented by the man from Rhineland-Palatinate, led to the crumbling of cultural supremacy once held by the top classes, that had, after Gutenberg, the possibility of retaining �only� power. But, as anybody knows, knowledge �means� power, and when culture started to be within everybody�s reach, power itself had to be shared.

As �Time��s Paul Gray puts it, the Renaissance was spurred by the wider knowledge of Greek and Roman classical writings, and the Protestant Reform itself was somewhat fuelled by the larger knowledge of religious texts. In a word, all thanks to Johannes Gutenberg�s astonishing work.

Many, however, do not agree with the opinion of the majority of those 100 world leaders contacted by �The Sunday Times�: in that �contest� Leonardo da Vinci stands only in the 4th position, and we all know how much and how many of his inventions, theories, studies, projects and the like have influenced the advancement of mankind.

Another thing seems having been forgotten by those 100 leaders, a breed not known for the depth of its culture. Many things seems to be taken for granted nowadays, which only minor events such as a sudden cut off of power let us remind, a darkened street at night, for instance. What about Alexander Volta�s battery? That was the very first device producing electricity on a continuous way: without it we would be still using candles for light and the second �information revolution�, today�s world wide web, would have not been occurred at all. Of course, the matter is so vast that most of it is debatable.

But let�s go back to the ingenious German inventor that not all scholars believe was born in the year 1400. Among these, Paul Grays, who speculates that the genius� year of birth was circa 1395. In Mainz, however, not far away from west Frankfurt, where the inventor was born, they are less precise and avoid writing numbers, so that to them Gutenberg was born �around� 1400. Obviously therefore, the 600th anniversary of the inventor�s birth is the result of an assumption and the acceptance of a conventional figure for his year of birth, the last of the 14th century, 1400. Let�s stuck to it until further evidence.

This is only the first of the inaccurate datas we have on the man that with his perspective has changed the balance of knowledge in the world.

Johannes� real family name was Gensfleisch of aristocrat origin, later changed in the more harmonious Gutenberg, because his family used to live at the house zum Gutenberg in Mainz. It�s under this surname that he became to be known worldwide.

Young Johann was trained as a goldsmith and gem cutter, a job that involved a great deal of precision, the same quality required in the late Middle Ages European scriptoriums where books and documents were carefully drawn or reproduced by hand by sharp-eyed monks.

Transferred in Strasbourg it was there that Gutenberg conceived the idea, and started working over it in the late 1430s and 1440s, to produce a moveable-type printing machine that would have spared much of the trouble involved in the long process of printing books by hand as �customary� in the 15th century.

His efforts conducted him to the development of a complete printing system making use of �reusable� metal type, an oil-based ink, paper and a printing press that he relaized by modifying a wine press!

It was a revolutionary idea since before that, apart from hand copying, printing was possible with the creation of different printing forms, for every page. Usually incised wooden blocks�

In 1439 the heirs of a Strasbourg businessman brought a lawsuit against Gutenberg that convinced our hero to quit the city and return to native Mainz. There the ingenious man sought financial help from Johann Fust, a goldsmith, lawyer and venture capitalist that lended him 800 guilders in 1450 to proceed with the printing project. Eventually Gutenberg achieved in getting other 800 guilders from Fust and other �donors�.

Trouble was that time was passing without Fust being satisfied by any progress so that finally he too sued Gutenberg in 1455, just when Gutenberg had completed the masterpiece of his life: the printing innovation with which he was able to astonish the world with his Bible. At first only sections of that 42-line of Gothic-type Latin text, printed in two columns per page, had been displayed at Frankfurt Trade Fair. But the following year that first printed book in the world was completed. Without the printer�s name�

This is the second inaccurate data we find in our brief description. �The Economist� in fact argues that in 1457 �the first printed book in Europe, the Mainz psalter, came off Gutenberg�s press�. Whatever the case, it seems that penniless Gutenberg paved the way for penniles Italian inventor Antonio Meucci against Graham Bell on their dispute over the invention of the telephone, some centuries later. In Gutenberg�s case, everything let one suppose that at about the end of the project Fust got rid of Gutenberg taking for himself if not the paternity of the invention, all incoming financial advantages. Gutenberg, so precise in his work, was much less accurate in choosing partners!

As a result, for the 10 following years up to 1465, clever Johannes strived for living while Fust and his son-in-law Peter Schoeffer flourished in the increasingly profitable book printing business. Gutenberg survived because of the generosity of Adolph von Nassau, the elector of Mainz, who granted him an allowance, then in 1465 made him a member of his court, implicitly recognizing Gutenberg�s merits and honesty.

During the last years of his life, no more worried by survival problems, Gutenberg became an advisor to the Bechtermuenz Bros. in Eltville, nearby Mainz but on the opposite side of the Rhine River. In such quality he helped the Bechtermuenzs in printing, in 1467, the first German-Latin dictionary.

The following year, probably in February � another inaccurate data � the resourceful man died. If you�ve been able to read this column, don�t take it for granted it, but just remind that it�s because of Gutenberg�s revolutionary invention!

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