FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is It Really So Hard to Believe That Iran Stopped Its Nuclear Weapons Program?

Like the Energizer Bunny, the ripples from the Dec. 3 publication of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program just keep going and going and going.

Aside from the obvious fact that the prospect of a U.S. military attack on Iran seems to have been put in deep freeze for the time being, there are other fascinating aspects.

Consider, for example, that the conclusions of the NIE have been known, at least by the top ranks of the executive branch, for quite a long time but were not permitted to be released. So why did President George W. Bush make dire statements like this one on Oct. 17: “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”

Bear in mind that the standard procedure for the National Intelligence Council, the group that produces the NIE, is that it always briefs the director of central intelligence (now the director of national intelligence) regularly (and early) on deliberations surrounding critical reports, so there is no doubt that the White House was well aware of the NIE’s conclusions many months ago.

In fact, shortly after the release of the NIE, the Washington Post reported the White House had been briefed as early as last July on the new evidence of the Iranian abandonment of weaponization in 2003, but White House officials sharply challenged that evidence.

According to the Post story, “several of the president’s top advisers” had argued that electronic intercepts of Iranian military officers, which were reportedly a key element of the new evidence, were part of a “clever Iranian deception campaign.”

Thus – shades of Iraq – the White House intervention forced the intelligence analysts to go through months of defending their interpretation of the new data.

There is also a “bad news, bad news” aspect to this. The essence of the NIE’s findings would have been part of the President’s Daily Brief, regular and ad hoc CIA intelligence products, as well as those produced by the State Department Intelligence and Research bureau and other agencies. These then would have been shared with the principal administration players in the efforts to claim that Iran had a nuclear weapon program, including even foreign intelligence services, thus informing players among the E3 nations.

So the classic Watergate question of what did the White House know and when did it know it extends to people such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, or possibly even to E3 negotiator Javier Solana.

But if we had been keeping this information from our allies, this will destroy the remaining shreds of trust in the United States as a strategic ally. The fallout for intelligence cooperation will be immense. On top of everything that happened with regard to the intelligence scandals leading up to the invasion of Iraq, what foreign intelligence service will trust the United States in the future?

Or recall that Stephen Hadley, national security adviser, noted in his post-NIE publication briefings that the intelligence community concluded “with high confidence” in 2005 that Iran had a covert nuclear program, and that they continued to hold to that position until they received new intelligence in the “last few months” and came to a conclusion only on “Tuesday of last week.”

Yet the latest example that Hadley provided to support this position was a public statement in January 2007. As an attempt at spin control, that is downright pathetic. If he were in the private sector, he would be fired.

Meanwhile, the Israelis are upset that the Americans think a military strike is now “off the table.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made it clear that Israel is basing its policy on its assessment that Iran would achieve military nuclear capability by 2009 or 2010. Nobody men-tioned that previous Israeli assessments had been declaring Iranian nuclear capability as only a year or two away for about a decade.

With the downgrading of the Iranian threat, the Israeli military has lost its biggest selling point for future funding. And, although it is hardly a deal killer, the rationale for the Bush administration’s $60 billion arms sale package to Persian Gulf states, and more military assistance to Israel and Egypt, just became more difficult.

Finally, for those conservatives who argue the NIE means Iran has paused, but not given up, its ambitions to have nuclear weapons, let us consider whether things have changed enough that it might have rethought its ambitions.
Since the fall of 2003, when the NIE says Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program, Iran has seen Iraq, its major threat, defeated, so the national interest argument for a weapon program was weakened.

And Iran’s nuclear program was compromised by leaks from the Iranian resistance group, National Council of Resistance of Iran, in 2002, resulting in subsequent International Atomic Energy Agency investigations. In turn, this has resulted in economic sanctions, whose detrimental impact had been seen across the Iraqi border.

Given that, is it really so hard to imagine Iran might have decided to stop its program?

DAVID ISENBERG is an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and a research fellow at the Independent Institute.

This column originally appeared in Defense News.

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 27, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Graham Peebles
Crisis of Consciousness: Change and the Individual
Louis Proyect
Racism and Eugenics, American-Style
April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail