Israel challenges US findings on nuclear Iran
Mark Tran and agencies
Tuesday December 4, 2007
Israel today publicly challenged the US intelligence consensus that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons programme, even as Tehran welcomed the US findings.
Iran claimed its peaceful nuclear intentions were clear after a US national intelligence estimate (NIE) concluded that Tehran had stopped its nuclear military programme in 2003.
The Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said he welcomed the US move to "correct" its previous assertions.
"It's natural that we welcome it when those countries who in the past have questions and ambiguities about this case... now amend their views realistically," he told state radio. "The condition of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities is becoming clear to the world."
Israel, however, contradicted the NIE findings. Its defence minister, Ehud Barak, claimed that Iran had restarted its military nuclear programme.
"It's apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear programme for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that programme," Barak told army radio.
Britain, which has backed the US campaign for sanctions against Iran, also said the risk remained of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons despite the US intelligence report.
The report, Downing Street said, "shows the intent is there and the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious issue".
Gordon Brown's spokesman added: "We do need to examine the details of this report. But in overall terms the government believes that the report confirms we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons."
In its assessment, which was made public yesterday, the US NIE on Iran, a consensus of 16 intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran had suspended its attempt to build a nuclear weapon. The unclassified summary marked an abrupt U-turn in the US view that Iran was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons, undercutting administration warnings about Iran's intentions.
As recently as October, the US president, George Bush, was warning that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to a third world war, while the vice-president, Dick Cheney, threatened Tehran with "serious consequences" if it did not abandon its nuclear programme.
"We are familiar with this American assessment," Barak said. "There are differences in the assessments of different organisations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."
Barak, the head of the Labour party, is a former Israeli army chief of staff and a former prime minister. Israel has backed US-led efforts at the UN to impose sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel has not ruled out military action against Iran, but says it prefers a diplomatic solution. Asked if the new US assessment reduced the likelihood of a US military strike on Iran, Barak said it was "possible".
However, he said: "We cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the earth, even if it is from our greatest friend."
The new US assessment says Iran continues to enrich uranium, and could still manufacture a nuclear weapon some time between 2010 and 2015.
"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," said the report.
Critics of the administration's policy on Iran have seized upon the report to argue against military action.
The intelligence finding removes, "if nothing else, the urgency that we have to attack Iran, or knock out facilities", said Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator. "I don't think you can overstate the importance of this."
The Democrat leader of the US senate, Harry Reid, urged the White House to adjust its policy and pursue "a diplomatic surge" to engage with Iran.
The US intelligence estimate is unfortunate timing for the Bush administration because it could take the steam out of its efforts to push for further sanctions against Iran at the UN.
Britain, however, said it would push for increased international pressure on Iran.
"There's an international community approach to dealing with the Iranian problem," the prime minister's spokesman said. "We will continue to argue for increased pressure on Iran through the [United Nations] security council and the EU."
"We think the report's conclusions justify the actions already taken by the international community to both show the extent of and try to restrict Iran's nuclear programme and to increase pressure on the regime to stop its enrichment and reprocessing activities," the spokesman said.
Something very odd is going on in Washington. The NIE has taken the wind out of Dick Cheney's sails. Why now, the war drums were being beaten for all they were worth. Iran was being cast as public enemy number one. The Kyle-Lieberman resolution provided the causus belli , the Air Force had identified the bombing targets, the dark lord of the Sith was ready to rock and roll. Then the NIE comes out and punctures little Dick's party balloon. Some one, maybe whole bunch of somebodies is pushing back.
Let us not get too happy here- The Shrub is still being belligerent.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/12/04 15:57:31 GMT
© BBC MMVII
Bush says Iran remains a threat
Mr Bush said an intelligence report released on Monday was a "warning sign" and his view that a nuclear Iran would be a danger "hasn't changed".
The president stressed that Iran was still trying to enrich uranium and could restart its weapons programme.
Tehran has denied continued accusations that it is developing nuclear weapons.
Mr Bush said the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was "an opportunity for us to rally the international community" to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium - a key part of the process in making a nuclear bomb.
"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the know-how to make a nuclear weapon," Mr Bush told a news conference.
Monday's report said with "high confidence" that it believed Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but that it was continuing to enrich uranium.
We are not out of the woods by a long shot kiddies. Look for Holy Joe Lie-berman to be spouting Likud lies and distortions any nanosecond now.
oops too late, the NeoCon propeller heads beat him to the punch
New York Times
The Skeptical Camp Emerges on Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions
The National Intelligence Estimate released on Monday resounded with the authority of 16 American spy agencies in agreement that Iran halted its nuclear arms effort in 2003, a conclusion meant to “ensure that an accurate presentation is available.”
But strong contrary opinions on the accuracy of the assessment are emerging from two intertwined camps that have always viewed Iran’s nuclear claims with suspicion: American neoconservatives and the Israeli government.
Leading the way is Michael Ledeen, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with a long track record in the Iran policy area, from the Iran-contra affair in the Reagan administration to meetings with Iranian dissidents living abroad that surprised George Tenet, who was then the director of central intelligence, in 2002.
Mr. Ledeen’s first critique — published on his blog under the title “The Great Intelligence Scam” — dismissed the new intelligence estimate as “policy advocacy masquerading as serious intelligence.” The document is riddled with “blatant unprofessionalism,” he says, citing the intelligence community’s consensus answer to a very good question:
Why would the Iranians abandon a program that had been in the works ever since the late 1980s? The IC replies: Because the Iranians are rational, and they respond to international pressure. They shut down the program because the pressure was too great. They couldn’t take the risk of even more pain from the international community.
That was his deadpan way of saying, “yeah, right.”
“If this N.I.E. is true, the evidence would have to be awfully good,” he continued in another version of the argument, posted to the right-leaning National Review’s website. “And evidence of that quality has been in famously short supply.”
Similar doubts are voiced in the Weekly Standard, the conservative weekly, which is asking, “What has changed since 2005,” when the last assessment was published?
The answer comes in two parts from the McClatchy newspaper chain’s Washington bureau, which painted the broad picture:
Senior U.S. intelligence officials said the judgment that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in mid-2003 emerged four to six months ago as a result of fresh intelligence, some of it from open sources and some from a “very rigorous scrub” of 20 years of information, some of which informed the 2005 N.I.E.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the analysts who drafted the report also had applied lessons learned from an erroneous 2002 N.I.E. on Iraq.
The Washington Post mentions an interesting glimpse of what that “fresh intelligence” may have been:
Senior officials said the latest conclusions grew out of a stream of information, beginning with a set of Iranian drawings obtained in 2004 and ending with the intercepted calls between Iranian military commanders, that steadily chipped away at the earlier assessment.
In one intercept, a senior Iranian military official was specifically overheard complaining that the nuclear program had been shuttered years earlier, according to a source familiar with the intelligence. The intercept was one of more than 1,000 pieces of information cited in footnotes to the 150-page classified version of the document, an official said.
After top administration officials expressed doubts about the revised view of Iran’s nuclear weapons effort, the intelligence community “spent months examining whether the new information was part of a well-orchestrated ruse,” the Post article continued.
Whether doubts from the right are shared by Vice President Cheney and other like-minded senior administration officials remains to be seen.
“This is a matter of interpretation of data. I do believe that the U.S. and Israel share the same data, but the dispute is about interpreting the data. … Only a blind man cannot see their efforts to put a hand on a nuclear weapon. They are threatening the world.”
The defense minister, Ehud Barak, offered his own take on Israeli Army Radio: he agreed with the banner-headline conclusion that Iran had stopped its nuclear program in 2003, but asserted that it had since been restarted. Mr. Barak, though, unlike Mr. Ledeen, was content with agreeing to disagree with the intelligence assessment. “Only time will tell who is right,” he said.
As I said this little game of chicken isn't over by a long shot. The Likudites in Israel and in the US may still get their Iranian War.