WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 has had no effect on Pentagon planning, a senior U.S. military officer said on Friday.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Sattler, director for strategic plans and policy on the U.S. military’s Joint Staff, said officials were still digesting the National Intelligence Estimate released on Monday.
Sattler told reporters at the Pentagon he would not talk publicly about any U.S. military contingency plans but he said: “There has been no course correction, slowdown, speedup given to us inside the Joint Staff based on the NIE.”
The Bush administration has insisted that it wants to resolve its dispute with Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy but will not rule out military action.
Analysts have said the intelligence estimate, which reversed previous assessments, makes it much less likely that the United States would attack Iran.
Following the release of the estimate, President George W. Bush said Iran remained dangerous and would be dangerous in the future if it had the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon. Iran say its nuclear program is purely for energy generation.
In Kansas City on Friday, Vice President Dick Cheney restated the administration’s stance on Iran.
“We’re dealing with a country that is still enriching uranium and remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism. That is a cause of great concern to the United States,” he said.
“Not everyone understands the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran or elsewhere but we and our allies do understand the threat and we have a duty to prevent it,” Cheney said in remarks delivered at the National World War I Museum.
At the Pentagon, Sattler declined to say if he believed the NIE’s findings meant Iran was now less of a threat.
“That is a strategy question and a policy question and we are in the process of discussing it,” he said.
“I’d rather wait and let us sort our way through it than give you a knee-jerk response.”
Reporting by Andrew Gray in Washington and Carey Gillam in Kansas City