After reading the National Intelligence Assessment which seems to have stirred up so much controversy this week, I must ask, "Has anything really changed?"
Given all of the controversy I'd seen in the press, and the accusations from Bush opponents using the report against him, I fully expected to read a document that unequivocally shot down every statement the Bush Administration ever made to justify the harsh rhetoric and calls for tough sanctions against Iran because of its perceived nuclear ambitions. However, unless I suffer from a severe English comprehension handicap, the report did nothing of the sort. Below are some excerpts with my comments:
The opening sentence to the "Key Judgments" in the NIE states:
|NIE, November 2007, pg 6, par. A. wrote:|
|We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.|
No longer is there an "alleged" nuclear weapons program. There definitely was one up until 2003. Furthermore, with a significant probability it is believed Iran is keeping its options open to develop nuclear weapons.
|NIE, November 2007, pg 6, par A, bullet 2 wrote:|
|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.)|
To reiterate, the DOE and NIC only have moderate confidence that Iran halted all nuclear weapons activities.
|NIE, November 2007, pg 6, par A, bullet 3 wrote:|
|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.|
They do not know Iran’s intentions. Thus one cannot say that Iran has no intentions of developing nuclear weapons based upon this Estimate.
|NIE, November 2007, pg 6, par. D. wrote:|
|Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example, Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.|
The R&D in which Iran is currently engaged is dual purpose technology. This has always been the primary issue. The United States does not want Iran developing its own indigenous uranium enrichment process since it could lead to making HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium).
|NIE, November 2007, pg 6, par. E. wrote:|
|We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart the program.|
Once again, U.S. intelligence cannot say with confidence that Iran does not intend to restart the program.
|NIE, November 2007, pg 6, par. E, bullet 2 wrote:|
|We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran’s considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons.|
U.S. intelligence believes (with moderate confidence) that Iran will eventually restart its nuclear weapon program.
So has that much really changed according to this report? I don't think so. The one thing with which I strongly disagreed in the report was the judgment that Iran's stoppage in 2003 was "primarily in response to international pressures." This sounds as if the intelligence community is attributing the program's suspension to diplomacy. I believe it to have been due to the same reason Libya halted its WMD program(s) and came clean to the international community during the same period: the U.S. lead invasion of Iraq. Simply put, the Iraq invasion scared the Iranian leadership, just as it scared Qaddafi. It didn't matter that the U.S. found no WMDs. All that mattered to them was that the U.S. was willing to launch a preemptive war in the belief that they existed.
I hope this Estimate doesn't weaken the international front against Iran and undermine efforts to keep pressure on Iran. But I am afraid it already has. If such is the case, this report will actually make war more likely, not less.
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