U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at a regional security conference in Manama, Bahrain, shortly after the publication of a new U.S. intelligence report. Secretary Gates says the report shows why Iran's nuclear program remains a matter of deep concern:
“The report expresses with greater confidence than ever that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program – developed secretly, kept hidden for years, and in violation of its international obligations. It reports that they do continue their nuclear enrichment program, an essential long lead-time component of any nuclear weapons program. It states that they do have the mechanisms still in place to restart their program. And the [national intelligence] estimate is explicit that Iran is keeping its options open and could restart its nuclear weapons program at any time – I would add, if it has not done so already.”
Secretary Gates noted, too, Iran's continued development of medium-range ballistic missiles that are "not particularly cost effective unless equipped with warheads carrying weapons of mass destruction. And he spoke about the next steps the international community should take and highlighted the continuing threat from Iran.
"While we must keep all our options open," he said, "the United States and the international community must continue – and intensify – our economic, financial, and diplomatic pressures on Iran to suspend enrichment and to agree to verifiable arrangements that can prevent that country from resuming its nuclear weapons program at a moment's notice – at the whim of its military leaders. That should be a matter of grave concern to every government in the world."
Mr. Gates additionally cited Iran’s funding and training of militia groups in Iraq; its shipment of lethal weapons and technology to both Iraq and Afghanistan; and the Iranian government’s ongoing support of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.
"Let us continue to work together," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "to take the necessary peaceful but effective measures necessary to bring a long-term change of policies in Tehran.”