Israel today took a darker view of Iran’s nuclear ambitions than the assessment released by United States intelligence agencies yesterday, saying it was convinced that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.
It said Iran had probably resumed the nuclear weapons program the American report said was stopped in the fall of 2003. “It is apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a certain period of time,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli Army Radio. “But in our estimation, since then it is apparently continuing with its program to produce a nuclear weapon.” [complete article]
President Bush got the world’s attention this fall when he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to World War III. But his stark warning came at least a month or two after he had first been told about fresh indications that Iran had actually halted its nuclear weapons program.
The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration’s alarming rhetoric over Iran’s nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush’s effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency.
Iran had been shaping up as perhaps the dominant foreign policy issue of Bush’s remaining year in office and of the presidential campaign to succeed him. Now leaders at home and abroad will have to rethink what they thought they knew about Tehran’s intentions and capabilities. [complete article]
The timing of the report’s release is curious, coinciding both with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s crucial meeting with the heads of states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, where Ahmadinejad has made substantial progress in confidence-building by advancing the idea of security and economic cooperation in the region, and with critical discussions with the so-called “Five plus One” countries regarding the next United Nations steps against Iran. The Five plus One includes the five permanent members of the UN security Council – United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – plus Germany.
Irrespective of Hadley’s comments, the new NIE actually undermines much of the rationale behind the US-led push for a third round of US sanctions on Iran, by flatly contradicting what until now has been held as an article of faith by US politicians and much of the media. That is, the notion that Iran has been pursuing an open weapons program via its uranium-enrichment and reprocessing activities. [complete article]
There has been a lot of loose talk about Iran’s nuclear capabilities out on the campaign trail. Here is a sampling of campaign rhetoric undercut by the publication of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, representing the consensus view of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. [complete article]
The campaigns of the leading Democratic candidates seized Monday on an intelligence report showing that Iran had halted its development of nuclear weapons, saying the findings justified their more cautious approach to Tehran.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s national security director, Lee Feinstein, said the report’s findings “expose the latest effort by the Bush administration to distort intelligence to pursue its ideological ends.” He added that the report “vindicates” Mrs. Clinton’s approach, which he described as “vigorous American-led diplomacy, close international cooperation and effective economic pressure, with the prospect of carefully calibrated incentives if Iran addresses our concerns.”
In fact, in September Mrs. Clinton, Democrat of New York, voted in favor of a Senate measure declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guards “proliferators of mass destruction,” a vote that was condemned by her rivals in the Democratic field. After the vote, her aides issued a statement saying, “The Revolutionary Guards are deeply involved in Iran’s nuclear program.” [complete article]
In the summer of 2005, senior American intelligence officials began traveling the world with a secret slide show drawn from thousands of pages that they said were downloaded from a stolen Iranian laptop computer, trying to prove that Iran was lying when it said it had no interest in building a nuclear weapon.
The slides detailed efforts to build what looked like a compact warhead for an Iranian missile and were portrayed by the Americans as suggesting that the Iranian military was working to solve the technical problems in building a bomb.
Now, that assertion has been thrown into doubt by a surprising reversal: the conclusion, contained in the declassified summary of a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear programs, that Iran’s effort to master the technology of building a nuclear weapon had halted two years before those briefings. [complete article]