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December 03, 2007

New Intel Estimate on Iran
Posted by Shawn Brimley

Unclassified portions of a new intelligence estimate on Iran's nuclear program have just been released. The bottom line? "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Also: "We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015."

Other conclusions from the NIE include:

  • We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were
    working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.
  • We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC
    assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)
  • We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons
    program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop
    nuclear weapons.
  • We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently
    have a nuclear weapon.
  • Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined
    to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment
    that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure
    suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged

It will take some time to digest this very significant release, and it will be interesting to see (among other things) how Republican presidential candidates will react to this. At a minimum, this reinforces the importance of direct diplomacy. If Iran is less committed to the idea of being a nuclear power than previously thought, the space for creative and useful negotiations seems to be much more expansive.

Of course, given that the estimate concludes that Iran halted its program in the fall of 2003, expect the wacky, wacky Krauthammer and Co. to suggest that the prospect of being "next" was the primary driver. Mike Cohen's mission in life continues - stay tuned.


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A pack of lies. Once again, Bush, Cheney, etc. (loyally supported by their bum-buddy Lieberman) issue hysterical statements about weapons of mass destruction to try to provoke a new war. And once again, it's just a pack of lies.

Impeach these people. Remove them from office. Prosecute them. Send them to prison.

Assuming this NIE's other assessments are correct, the assessment as to the Tehran regime susceptibility to international pressure is indeed open to question, seeing as the outstanding change in Iran's international position in the fall of 2003 was the arrival of a large American army on its western border a few months earlier. No combination of sanctions now being contemplated could compare with that.

I'd hesitate to proclaim any conclusions just yet. The technical obstacles and cost of producing nuclear weapons, along with disagreements within the Tehran government as to who would ultimately control them and perhaps other factors as well, may also have played a role in the reported 2003 decision to suspend pursuit of a nuclear weapon. And of course the assessments may not, in fact, be correct. My personal and somewhat intuitive view had been that the period between the Taliban's fall and Saddam Hussein's capture was the American high-water mark, when most everything seemed to be going our way in the region and the timing for negotiations on a settlement of differences with Iran was most propitious. Seek negotiations from positions of strength and avoid them when things are going badly, other things being equal.

But in all candor this was neither a widely-held view at the time nor one I ever promoted aggressively. In any event it was a perspective that the Bush administration would have ignored, holding as it did (and as some of its leading figures apparently still do) exaggerated ideas as to both the magnitude of the Iranian theat and the extent of the internal changes we could expect in that country. If the NIE's assessments are correct they would underline the size and number of the opportunities that were missed in that period.

I have low confidence in their high confidence, since the previous NIE report issued in 2005 stated with "high confidence" that Iran had an active and on-going nuclear weapons program - but no actual evidence of that ever turned up. So now, the 2007 NIE report disowns that claim, and instead asserts that Iran used to have a nuclear weapons program until 2003, and could decide to restart it someday. No evidence of thet either.

But hey, who am I to quibble with intelligence experts. The main point is that the CIA says NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM IN IRAN so please, Mr. Decider, don't start WWIII.

Of course the real issue with Iran is not nuclear weapons, it's hegemony, oil and gas. They have 'em and we want 'em. So the US will have to beef up its claims against Iranian influence in the Iraqi occupation resistance, or create a false flag assault against US forces now that the WMD scare isn't working. There's got to be a pony in there somewhere.

If we can't believe US intelligence sources when they say Iraq HAD nuclear weapons (or other WMDs), how are we supposed to believe the word of these same people that Iran does NOT have such? You can't have it both ways!


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