The US military kept tabs on the Iranian nuclear programme from the early days of the US occupation, documents released by WikiLeaks reveal.
The documents, which were obtained from the US Central Command, show that the US was concerned about the Iranians ability to build a nuclear weapon and its intentions to maintain that capability.
The records show that US forces were instructed to observe the Iranian weapons programme, but did not directly monitor it.
However, the records show the military knew Iran was close to being able to develop a nuclear bomb, and that the Iranians had been working on the project since at least 2003.
The US and its allies feared Iran would use the bomb to wipe out Israel, the US said in its 2002 declaration of war against the Islamic Republic.
But US and allied forces had no direct knowledge of Iran’s weapons programme until 2006, the documents show.US intelligence officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari has accused the US of trying to sabotage its nuclear programme by using a “fake intelligence” report.US officials denied the allegations.
The Central Command documents were published on Tuesday by WikiLeaks.
They show the US began to develop intelligence on Iran in late 2002, after the US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation of Afghanistan.
The Pentagon began tracking Iran’s activities in 2005, and the Central Command records show it was aware that Iran had developed a nuclear weapons programme in 2003.
But they say US intelligence agencies failed to monitor the progress of the Iranian programme.
In an email to the US ambassador to Iran, Lt Col Paul Vitter, the Central Commander for Europe and the Middle East, General David H. Petraeus, wrote: “Iran has not taken any steps to develop nuclear weapons in violation of US and international law.”
In another email to an aide, he said: “We have no direct information that Iran has developed a reactor capable of producing fissile material for a nuclear warhead, however we do know that the regime is continuing to pursue nuclear arms programs and has been working with countries around the world to develop those programs.”
The Central Commander’s email said:US officials said in 2005 that Iran was working on nuclear weapons, but said the military was not directly monitoring it.
Iran’s nuclear scientists were allowed to leave the country in 2003 and Iran resumed negotiations with the West, but no progress was made.
On September 22, 2010, the United States announced that Iran would be permitted to continue nuclear enrichment.
The US then imposed economic sanctions on Iran, which the government has since repeatedly denied.