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December 4, 2007

About That Intelligence Report On Iran's 'Stopped' Nuclear Weapons Program (Updated)

Topics: Iran

Why is it that the new assessment by American intelligence agencies concluding that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb, leaves me with this spine-tingling feeling that not only does something smack of political agenda on the part of our intelligence community - again, but also a "more than a little bit" of a leap to judgement based on - what? After all, haven't we been down this road before when our "intelligence community" failed to "connect the dots" to prevent the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in what must rank among the worst intelligence failures in American history?

In looking around the blogosphere for others who might share my concerns about the intelligence report, particularly in what is and is not being reported, I came across AJStrata's post from yesterday in which he points out that in 2005 (and supposedly 2003, etc) the intel claimed Iran was building up the capability to produce nuclear weapons material. But now we are told that all that intelligence, the UN reports since then, and even "the blustering Ahmedinejad" himself - were wrong? Indeed, something is happening here, and, as AJStrata suggests, stinks of another leak by forces within our intel community with political agendas trying to - once again - influence our national elections. Hell, as AJ also notes, the NY Times even goes out of its way to hint this news is all about our upcoming Presidential elections.

And then there's the not-so-little matter of all those centrifuges and the question of whether or not iran subsequently began weapons development again after it stopped, or has manipulated our intelligence community to believe they stopped, in 2003 as the intel report suggests.

In a nutshell, does what the NIE report says and does not say offer you enough comfort to bet your life, the lives of your family, and the survival of Western civilization on an intelligence community that has already given us what ranks among the worst intelligence failures in American history?

If you're teetering between a yes and no to these questions, then chew on these excerpts from AJ's post:

[...]The fact is this is not the slam-dunk assessment it is reported to be. The centrifuges are the key. With Russia's offer on the table to provide civil energy ready fuel the centrifuges are not needed for Iran's civil energy needs. But the NIE is confident this unnecessary effort is continuing? Why is it continuing? Folks, they just don't know for sure and that is the bottom line. They know it was stopped in 2003, but they don't know if it has been restarted under dual use cover.

[...] The NIE is quite clear. We know they stopped, we have no intel on whether they are still stopped or not. The reporting that Iran has stopped as of now is not accurate. Here is the scary part - Iran is still processing fuel! They don't NEED to process fuel for Nuclear Energy. Russia has offered to SELL THEM fuel if they return the spent fuel so it cannot be used to make weapons.

[...] And there are more indicators Iran has simply decided to proceed with technology that is dual use - civilian and military - as a way to hide their intentions. Note that the NIE concludes with confidence Iran wants nuclear weapons. And one way to proceed is to do so under the cover of dual use programs

Continue reading: Iran Halted Nuclear Weapons Production in 2003? How Convenient!

Lets not forget that our intelligence community has failed to stop disasters in the past, can well do so again, and could be doing so now on Iran. This is not to say that they can't sometimes be right, but in the case of Iran we need to remember that our lives depend on our intel community being right.

In today's political climate, when career intelligence employees have demonstrated time and again that they have no qualms about leaking information that is highly injurious to our nation for the sole purpose of following political agendas, I have to think twice, then twice again, before taking comfort in anything they - alone - have to say. We need to know more, and right now I'd feel a lot more comfortable about giving Iran 3 more years to build and propagate nuclear weapons, if we could find a magic button to push and find out that Ahmadinejad's been just "jerking our chain" all along. Unfortunately, the only magic button we're likely to find is an in-depth investigation by an IAEA run by someone other than someone named Muhammad - and particularly other than Muhammad ElBaradei (as in Iran only a few months away from a bomb Muhammad ElBaradei).

As John McCain has noted, the release of the report was such a "rare occasion" that he would still "have to try and make sense of it" before commenting in depth. Iran is still bent on the destruction of Israel and on interfering in Iraq, and so the sanctions against Iran are appropriate. Referring to the war in Iraq, he said, "We were deceived by intelligence reports in that situation," and because of that, the public is "justifiably skeptical."

While keeping in mind that the NIE report can err on either side of the equation and anywhere in between, and remaining cognizant of the fact that our destruction is the downside risk, we should all remain "justifiably skeptical" of any intelligence report that tells us Iran stopped it's nuclear weapons program in 2003 - particularly when it doesn't say that it never started the program up again.

No Delay On NIE
McConnell Cites 'Overwhelming Evidence' of Iran's Support for Iraqi Insurgents

Posted by Richard at December 4, 2007 8:11 AM

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