Last year our intelligence community produced
– at the request of Congress – a National Intelligence Estimate, which, inter
alia, addressed Iran's nuclear programs. Although that 2005 NIE was highly
"A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about
a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly
doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources
with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.
"The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among
U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the
White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered
proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal."
Linzer didn't say whether the 2005 NIE on Iran's nuclear programs was based
– as it should have been – on the quarterly reports the International Atomic
Energy Agency had been making to the IAEA Board of Governors and to the UN Security
Notwithstanding Linzer's devastating report of the 2005 NIE "assessments,"
coupled with the "null" findings included in IAEA quarterly reports, members
of the Cheney Cabal have continued to forcefully assert – without offering any
proof whatsoever – that Iran has a nuclear weapons program that has already
"reached a point of no return."
Then, last month, Linzer
"A key House committee issued a stinging
critique of U.S. intelligence on Iran [.pdf] yesterday, charging
that the CIA and other agencies lack 'the ability to acquire essential information
necessary to make judgments' on Tehran's nuclear program, its intentions or
even its ties to terrorism.
"The 29-page report, principally written by a Republican staff member
on the House intelligence committee who holds a hard-line view on Iran, fully
backs the White House position that the Islamic republic is moving forward with
a nuclear weapons program and that it poses a significant danger to the United
States. But it chides the intelligence community for not providing enough direct
evidence to support that assertion."
That "critique" was soon made public.
In his cover letter, Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy Chairman Mike Rogers
noted that "the authors could not discuss in an unclassified document the specifics
of the significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the various areas
of concern about Iran," but assured us that the report reflected "committee
staff" reviews of "classified and unclassified material" and consultations "with
experts both in the United States and abroad."
If that is the case, how could the committee staff have possibly led off with
a statement that "America's intelligence agencies" have "assessed" that "Iran
has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades
in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement" and that "despite its claims
to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons"?
If "America's intelligence agencies" have actually made such assessments in
highly classified reports to which committee staff had access, then America
and its intelligence community really are in a heap of trouble.
In the first place, it is not up to America to assess whether Iran's
safeguarded programs are being conducted in consonance with Iran's Safeguards
Agreement. That is up to the IAEA Secretariat, and some disputes between the
Iranians and IAEA inspectors about the conduct of such programs have been decided
in Iran's favor.
In any case, the American assessment is wrong, because the Iranians were under
no obligation to inform the IAEA of its attempt to achieve a uranium-enrichment
capability – including the acquisition, however clandestinely, of gas centrifuges
– until six months before actually introducing "special nuclear materials" into
As the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons makes clear, a "violation"
of the NPT-IAEA Safeguards Agreement could only occur if the IAEA verifies the
"diversion" of "source or special nuclear materials" to the "furtherance of
a military purpose." For years now, the IAEA has been reporting there is not
even an "indication" that Iran has ever done that.
Now comes Linzer
"UN inspectors investigating Iran's nuclear program angrily
complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman
yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities, calling
parts of the document 'outrageous and dishonest' and offering evidence to refute
its central claims."
In particular, the IAEA formal complaint refutes the report's assertion that
Iran is producing "weapons-grade" enriched uranium.
The IAEA also charges the report's description of certain of Iran's activities
– in particular, the reported "covert" production of polonium-210 – are misleading
since Iran was under no obligation under its Safeguards Agreement to report
"Outrageous and dishonest"?