'Iran Not an Immediate Threat,' Says Former Weapons Expert

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - One of the most liberal members of Congress and a former lead weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq Wednesday disputed the Bush administration's assertion that Iran poses a risk to the United States.

In a Capitol Hill briefing sponsored by Ohio liberal Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the congressman said the State Department and Defense Department have refused to submit to congressional oversight and questions "about actions and plans against Iran."

The administration shows a "refusal to be accountable," Kucinich added.

David Kay, who once led weapons inspection teams for the International Atomic Energy Agency and then following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, cooperated with the CIA and U.S. military in trying to determine whether Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, said Iran does not pose an immediate threat.

"Iran has laid the substantial foundations for sustained uranium enrichment," Kay said. "Iran has for years engaged in a broad, clandestine nuclear development program that involves extensive work in many major areas, particularly uranium enrichment and plutonium separation."

Kay said the program will be able to "produce large significant amounts of enriched uranium," but he added that Iran will not have "militarily significant amounts" for another five to 10 years at the earliest.

As head of the Iraq Survey Group, Kay was charged with finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but on Jan. 23, 2004, he resigned from that position saying that he did not believe weapons stockpiles would be found in the country. However, he continued to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war.

Kay now disagrees with the Bush administration's position on Iran.

"Iran does not today, and in my judgment, will not for some time, pose a nuclear threat to the United States, or to the states in the region," Kay said. "Iran has the playbook for a nuclear weapons program, but they are missing some of the relevant pages in that playbook."

But James Phillips, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Iran is a "serious potential threat."

"Iran is on a trajectory to attain nuclear weapons, and that is something that is important to start dealing with now rather than later," Phillips told Cybercast News Service.

"It's unclear what the timeline of Iran's nuclear program is, but I think that few people dispute that once Iran has a nuclear weapon it would be a very severe potential threat," he added. "There are scenarios in which [a nuclear Iran] could happen much quicker than we project.

"Just because something may be a few months off, doesn't mean it's not important to try to deal with it," Phillips said. "Eventually Iran will get a nuclear weapon, unless the U.S. and other countries take strong measures to dissuade Iran."

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