For those who have doubts about miracles, a double
one occurred today. An honest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's
nuclear program has been issued, and its "Key Judgments" were made
With redraft after redraft, it was what the Germans call eine schwere Geburt
– a difficult birth, 10 months in gestation.
I do not know how often Vice President Dick Cheney visited CIA headquarters
during the gestation period, but I am told he voiced his displeasure as soon
as he saw the first sonogram/draft very early this year and is so displeased
with what issued that he has refused to be the godfather.
This time Cheney and his neocon colleagues were unable to abort the process.
And after delivery to the press, this child is going to be very hard to explain
– the more so since it is legitimate.
The main points of the NIE:
"We judge that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program…
"We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear
weapons program as of mid-2007.
"We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether
Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely…
"We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically
capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium sometime during the 2010-2015
"We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable
of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015."
Having reached these conclusions, it is not surprising that the NIE's authors
make a point of saying up front (in bold type), "This NIE does
not [italics in original] assume that Iran
intends to acquire nuclear weapons."
This, of course, pulls out the rug from under Cheney's claim of a "fairly
robust new nuclear program" in Iran and President Bush's inaccurate assertion
that Iranian leaders have even admitted they are developing nuclear weapons.
Apparently, intelligence community analysts are no longer required to produce
the faith-based intelligence that brought us the Oct. 1, 2002, NIE "Iraq's
Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction" – the worst in the
history of U.S. intelligence.
Truth be told, one of the Iran NIE's findings was written into its first draft,
from which Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell drew in telling
the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 27 that Iran could possibly develop
a nuclear weapon by early-to-mid-next decade.
McConnell said not a word, though, about Iran's having halted its nuclear weapons
program in fall 2003. And in February, he was still adhering to the faith-based
approach, saying, "We assess that Iran seeks to develop a nuclear weapon."
At which point Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) tried to sum up the proceedings
with the disingenuous comment "We all agree, then, that the Iranians are
trying to get nuclear weapons."
Curiously, McConnell indicated recently that the key findings of NIEs would
no longer be made public.
My guess is that the Pentagon, and especially Adm. William Fallon, commander
of our forces in the Middle East, succeeded in persuading McConnell to go public.
Several months ago, Fallon was reliably reported to have said, "We are
not going to do Iran on my watch."
And it is an open secret that he and other senior military officers, except
those of the Air Force, are strongly opposed to getting into a war with Iran
for which the U.S. is so ill prepared.
Will President George W. Bush and our domesticated media succeed in dismissing
this latest NIE as "guesswork," as he has in the past? It is going
to be highly interesting to see how the White House will try to spin this one.