Washington, Feb 17: Fear of international sanctions may be behind growing discord among Iranian leaders as they are engaged in heated debate over whether to move further toward developing nuclear weapons, according to a new classified US intelligence assessment.
The new national intelligence estimate, or NIE, said that Tehran likely has resumed work on nuclear-weapons research in addition to expanding its program to enrich uranium, but it doesn't conclude that Iran has relaunched a full-blown program to try to build bombs.
According to the assessment, Iran's debate over whether to do so suggests international sanctions may be causing divisions in Tehran, The Wall Street Journal quoted US officials, as saying.
The new assessment, which was shared this week with key congressional committees, comes as protesters in Tehran ramp up pressure on Iran's leaders, amid a wave of popular revolts sweeping the Middle East.
Tehran took steps on Wednesday to stifle passions inflamed by the killings of two students during protests.
The NIE's report suggest that, in the US' view, at least some Iranian leaders are worried that economic turmoil fueled in part by international sanctions could spur opposition to the regime - though officials acknowledge it is impossible for outsiders to determine the precise effect of sanctions on decision-making in Tehran.
NIE is considered the consensus view of all the various US intelligence agencies, and, as a result, carries more weight than an analysis coming from any one part of the intelligence community. (ANI)