The newly released National Intelligence Estimate claims that Iran gave up its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons in 2003—not coincidentally, the year in which U.S. forces deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and the year in which Libyan strongman Moammar Khaddafy gave up his nuclear program. It directly contradicts the Estimate of 2005, which maintained with high confidence that Iran was pursuing nuclear capability.
I don’t know what to make of that. The contradictory assessment, within two years, undermines the credibility of both, it seems to me. The idea that this somehow discredits the Bush administration’s policy toward Iran similarly baffles me. If the assessment is correct, then the invasion of Iraq eliminated still another program developing weapons of mass destruction.
Some reactions from others:
Something stinks about the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. For years now the civilized world has worked diligently, both through the United Nations and independently, to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons. Suddenly we are told there IS NO current nuclear weapons program and has not been since 2003. What gives here?
What I want to know is simply, who is in charge of the contradictions?
Is there a contradictor in chief?
The New York Sun:
The proper way to read this report is through the lens of the long struggle the professional intelligence community has been waging against the elected civilian administration in Washington. They have opposed President Bush on nearly every major policy decision. They were against the Iraqi National Congress. They were against elections in Iraq. They were against I. Lewis Libby. They are against a tough line on Iran.
One could call all this revenge of the bureaucrats. Vann Van Diepen, one of the estimate’s main authors, has spent the last five years trying to get America to accept Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Mr. Van Diepen no doubt reckons that in helping push the estimate through the system, he has succeeded in influencing the policy debate in Washington. The bureaucrats may even think they are stopping another war.
In other words, the NIE is another installment in the continuing saga that I call “Three years of the Condor.”
Power Line, again:
Given the astonishingly poor record of U.S. intelligence agencies when it comes to the weapons programs of hostile nations, I suggested last night that we might do well to defer to Israeli intelligence on the matter of Iran’s program. Although Israel too has made mistakes, and has interests that are not necessarily aligned with ours in every respect, its track record is far better than that of our intelligence community. (This is due perhaps to the following “imperfection” in the alignment of interests: Israel faces the prospect of annihilation if its assessments are mistaken).
Israeli intelligence believes Iran is still trying to develop a nuclear weapon, Israel’s defense minister said Tuesday, disputing a U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran has halted its program.
“It’s apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio.
Excuse me if I think there is more here than meets the eye. My old and fraying mystery writer hat tells me some kind of deal was struck.