Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

December 7, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ATTACKING THE NIE....Conservatives, of course, are mounting a ferocious counterattack against Monday's NIE, which concluded that Iran halted its nuclear bomb program back in 2003. The lines of attack are varied, but mostly they boil down to berating the intelligence community as a bunch of effete, naive, obtuse, politically cowardly desk jockeys who have it in for President Bush and are willing to say and do anything to bring him down a peg.

Whatever. Now, though, the LA Times reports that liberals are joining in:

[Ray] Takeyh, who has long argued for engaging Iran in diplomacy, said the intelligence report was too easy on Tehran by not objecting to the uranium enrichment program, which many Western governments have alleged is meant to build the knowledge base to eventually develop nuclear weapons. The American intelligence agencies, in effect, accepted Iran's contention that the enrichment is for peaceful purposes, Takeyh said.

....Gary Samore, who was a top arms control official in the Clinton White House, agreed that the National Intelligence Estimate did not adequately emphasize Iran's continuing efforts to enrich uranium and build missiles.

"The halting of the weaponization program in 2003 is less important from a proliferation standpoint than resumption of the enrichment program in 2006," said Samore, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

This is genuinely peculiar. I went back and reread the NIE just to make sure, but it addresses all this stuff. Here are some quotes:

  • "Iran resumed its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006....Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz."

  • "Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so."

  • "We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult"

  • "Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications — some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons."

It's not the intelligence community's job to "object" to the Iranian program, it's their job to evaluate factual evidence. And the entire declassified portion of the NIE was less than a thousand words long. Nothing got more than a few sentences of emphasis.

You can decide for yourself whether you believe the NIE, but its actual conclusions are straightforward: Iran wants a nuclear bomb; it has the scientific capability to produce a nuclear bomb; it's continuing to enrich uranium; and it might decide to restart its bomb program in the future. But for now, based (apparently) on new intelligence collected earlier this year, the program is halted and there's evidence that international pressure and sanctions might keep it that way.

Kevin Drum 1:28 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Can we watch throwing around the "liberal" label too freely? This is sort of like "even the liberal Washington Post..." kind of aggregation that allows conservatives to marginalize actual liberal/progressive thinking. If you don't agree with these old Clinton hands all of a sudden you'r nothing but a dirty, f**king hippy no matter how right you may be.

Posted by: Col Bat Guano on December 7, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

You can decide for yourself whether you believe the NIE

Yes, you can side with 16 intel agencies or go with Podheretz' bowels.

Posted by: ckelly on December 7, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds to me like the talking points are coming from Israel.

Posted by: Boolaboola on December 7, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is, Kevin, that the usual suspects jumped all over one portion of the NIE (the halting of the specific nuclear weapons program) and said "aha, BusHitler is lying once again, thie NIE proves has given up on the bomb." The NY Times did it, the Wash Post did it, hell even you did it in consistently proclaiming this NIE as a bombshell that presents a 180-degree turnaround from what the administration has been talking about.

True, when you read the entire declassified portion of the NIE, you get a fuller picture of the story regarding Iran. You learn that (1) this NIE uses a more restricted definition of "nuclear weapons program" than earlier NIEs which obviously affects how one assess Iran's nuclear intentions, (2) that Iran still wants the bomb, (3) that it has the scientific capabilities to build a bomb, (4) that it continues to enrich uranium, the crucial component for a bomb, (5) that it could restart the program, and we are only moderately sure it hasn't, and (6) that the probable date for Iran going nuclear is about the same as predicted in the 2005 NIE, 2012-2015.

It would have been nice if, in your earlier posts on the subject, you had noted these things. Just as it would have been nice if the Times or Post had done so. Instead, in the zeal to "prove" that Bush and Cheney were lying, we got a bunch of stories that hypes one sentence in the NIE while ignoring the rest. Little wonder then that both conservatives as well as liberals genuinely concerned about proliferation have taken issue with how the NIE has been covered.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 7, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: Sure, but look, the fact that Iran had halted its bomb program was by far the most dramatic news from the NIE. The other stuff is all there, but it's mostly things we all know about and nobody disagrees with. It's common knowledge that Iran is expanding its centrifuge cascade at Natanz, for example, and the NIE had nothing new to say about this.

So, sure, Iran could restart its bomb program if it wants to. That's not news. The fact that they stopped it back in 2003 is.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on December 7, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ho Hum...another propaganda headline...."DOVES QUESTION NIE"

Yes indeedie, Ray Takeyh and Gary Samore are definitely "closet liberals" at the War Hawk Council on Foreign Relations.

Were there any more jokes in the Times today...I don't read it any longer for obvious reason.

Posted by: Carroll on December 7, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Let's have a moment of candor for the right wing on this NIE issue, since they can't have it for themselves.

The thing that is truly terrible about the NIE from the point of view of the right is the 100% clear takeaway from it. The inescapable implication of the NIE is that there is absolutely no defensible reason to attack Iran under Bush's watch.

The NIE states quite clearly that Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions remain intact, and must in time be dealt with. It simply leaves open the option of how it might be best to handle that issue.

I think that the precise thing that the right wing fears most is that a Democrat might solve or control the Iran problem.

They fear that if the solution to the Iran problem is effected by a Democrat and not a Republican, then the point of their existence is vitiated.

So for the right this is not really about Iran, and controlling its nuclear weapons capability. It's about saving their movement from extinction.

If Bush is not allowed to attack Iran, and, instead Democrats do manage to solve the Iran problem, as likely they will, then who needs the "Daddy" party?

Posted by: frankly0 on December 7, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

>"liberals are joining in: [Attack Iran]"

No mystery here. AIPAC [Israeli] money and power at work.

If you [a politician] don't get on board with the official program you'll get your money cut off.

If that doesn't bring you back in line they will front up another candidate and throw enough money behind them to destroy you.

Just the facts.


Posted by: Buford on December 7, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

franklyO gets at the point i wanted to make: watching the right-wing (there is nothing "conservative" about it) reaction to the NIE is like watching a 3-year-old having a toy taken away, in this case the toy being a potential causus belli.

Hacksaw, just to second Kevin's point: the core issue is that the bush administration has, once again, been exaggerating and cherrypicking and insisting upon the 1% solution, and the news is that that's a crock.

as for bush lying again: did he open his mouth? if so, he was lying.

Posted by: howard on December 7, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Although I don't think conservatism is anywhere near taking its last breath, frankly0 has this one correct insofar as Bushco and the neocons are concerned.

Having their next glorious invasion yanked away from them so definitively smarts, but what stings more is the certain knowledge that they aren't going to be the ones to get this right, and thus nothing they've stood for under Bush will be vindicated. All that will be left of the Bush foreign policy legacy is the smoking ruin of Iraq and the contempt of the entire world.

Posted by: shortstop on December 7, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Here ...
http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2007/12/06/scott-ritter-4/

Posted by: kenga on December 7, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone driving by CIA see their new billboard with the Smiley Face...Says "Don't Worry, Be Happy!"

Posted by: DF on December 7, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not lose sight of the fact that most of the upset that this NIE has caused amongst the wingnut clan is primarily because they had already made up their minds to bomb the shit out of Iran anyway...regardless of verifiable nuclear program or not.

They were wrong about Iraq but then they didn't really care about that either. Their goal, regardless of verifiable threat, is to start a war with Iran and then work out the details later.

Any arguments or analyses about intel coming from them is not only pointless, but a front to appear like they are genuinely interested in doing the right thing for the country. They have already made that value judgment, and they really don't care about the intel, they just want to get past the paperwork and put start another war.

Posted by: Condor on December 7, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

A problem that no one seems to want to address is that Iran's uranium enrichment activities are entirely legal under the NPT for any signatory nation that wishes to develop nuclear electrical generation ... and those same legal enrichment activities lay the groundwork for the technology needed for a nuclear weapons program.

There is no "firewall" between the development of "peaceful" nuclear power and the development of nuclear weapons.

While the Bush administration whines about Iran, it is busily promoting the proliferation of nuclear power technology throughout the world, including the developing world, including to nations with governments that could become unstable or hostile to the US or desirous of possessing nuclear weapons to challenge regional rivals.

The Bush administration's promotion of nuclear power technology is a greater danger to the world than Iran's particular efforts, because what the Bush administration is doing will lead to "many Irans".

We should not be encouraging the proliferation of nuclear power technology, let alone the massive expansion (tripling or more) of nuclear electricity generation throughout the world that the nuclear industry and its allies in government, eg. Dick Cheney, are pushing for.

Instead, the USA should be leading the way to the complete abolition of ALL nuclear weapons -- which was the vision that Reagan and Gorbachev shared -- and the phaseout of nuclear electrical generation.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 7, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

A problem that no one seems to want to address is that Iran's uranium enrichment activities are entirely legal under the NPT for any signatory nation that wishes to develop nuclear electrical generation ... and those same legal enrichment activities lay the groundwork for the technology needed for a nuclear weapons program.

Another problem no one wants to address is the fact that, unlike Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait, Iran is not prohibited from having a nuclear program by any UN binding resolutions. So even if this NIE had been different, there would have been no legal basis for bombing Iran.

Again: Bush went to great lengths to establish such a legal basis against Iraq, on the basis of UN resolutions (however shaky his arguments). But he has sidelined that issue in the case of Iran. By accepting that the only argument against bombing Iran is this NIE, liberals also implicitly accept that, if a new NIE came out that revises this position, bombing will be warranted. It seems to me that, gradually, the arguments based on international law have been abandoned by liberals -- in a concession to the Cheney crowd. Do we go to war if a new NIE says that Iran has restarted its program?

Posted by: JS on December 7, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Hacksaw is correct. The report and the coverage of it is splitting hairs about what is labeled a "bomb program". The technically challenging process of building a first generation nuclear weapon is uranium enrichment. I would be extremely surprised if the actual plans to make a weapon with enriched uranium are not already in the Iranian's hands.

Yes, the "bombshell" part of the report does make it politically less likely that Iran will be attacked, but that probability was already nearly zero and has been since Iraq failed to go swimmingly in 2004 and since.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on December 7, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey, you can find "actual plans" to make a weapon all over the place: the problem is the ability to acquire the uranium.

as i often noted prior to the iraq war, you and me and 3 guys from MIT could make a nuclear weapon (and my job would be going out for pizza) - if we had the uranium.

Posted by: howard on December 7, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

howard,

First, hello! I have not seen you comment here much in the last 2 years. I hope things are fine with you.

Second, I think you and I would be superfluous to the enterprise, unless, of course, you are a nuclear physicist and haven't told me.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on December 7, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist gets it right - Iran has every right to enrich uranium even as a signatory to the NPT. To be fair, there are some aspects of it's nuclear program that Iran hasn't been totally forthcoming about, but hey, what about Israel? They have not allowed IAEA inspectors in for years, and you don't hear Bush warning about "WWIII" because of their actions, do you? Although anyone with half a brain knows that Israel is far more likely to use nuclear weapons aggressively than Iran. If Iran were to develop a nuclear-tipped missile and use it, that country would be a radioactive parking lot in a matter of minutes. The U.S. and quite possibly, Israel and the UK too would rain down so many nukes on that land that it would be uninhabitable for a billion years. And they KNOW it.

As for ckelly's comment about Podheretz's bowels, the only one that might be the least bit interested in Norman Podheretz's bowels is Larry Craig. Oooh. G-R-O-S-S!!!!!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 7, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Silly Persians, nuclear energy is only for Western client states, not oil slaves.

Posted by: Brojo on December 7, 2007 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

you and me and 3 guys from MIT could make a nuclear weapon (and my job would be going out for pizza) - if we had the uranium.

Is this really true? Didn't N Korea supposedly try to explode a nuclear weapon, but its yield was so tremendously low that the speculation was that is was a dud?

And wouldn't a dud imply that the problem was with triggering the bomb properly? I mean, if you have critical mass of enriched uranium, you have critical mass, and the problem is, how do you get it together quickly enough? My understanding is that that was a major technical hurdle in the initial development of the first atomic bomb.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 7, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly0,

I thought North Korea attempted an implosion bomb made of plutonium. Technically, achieving this in a high yield manner is supposed to be more difficult than the design, using highly enriched uranium, that was used for the Hiroshima bomb.

See the following link

Posted by: Yancey Ward on December 7, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: frankly0 on December 7, 2007 at 2:42 PM

Great post.

That "Give Peace a Chance" might have more validity than just a lefty flower child hippy chant, that peaceful methods can, and actually do work (which would be a rude awakening in far too many circles).

Than in this post-9/11 world, hauling out the troops and weaponry first and asking questions about the necessity of it later might not always be the best solution to global stability.

That the "I'm no bleeding heart" stance of warmongering bible-thumping conservatives isn't the lauded solution to foreign issues, even if they are foreigners.

That Bush/Cheney takes a far too overly aggressive and anti-humanitarian posture on foreign policy, as proven by their far too overly aggressive and anti-humanitarian posturing on foreign issues (recorded death toll of Iraqi civilians at 78-85,000).

"The United States will not pursue deterrence or containment policies in its so-called war on terrorism but would instead seek to utterly destroy its enemies, said US Vice-President *** Cheney
http://www.tvnewslies.org/html
/campaign_lies.html

War for these people is the first choice, not the last resort.

Posted by: Zit on December 7, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0 - as I recall, the trace gases indicated a very low yield. That suggested either a "dud" with poor mass->energy conversion OR(I haven't seen much out there on this possibility) a very very small bomb, in yield and physical size. A. seems much more likely, since, to all outward appearances, the US hasn't managed to make a beer can-sized nuke and NK doesn't have the same expertise or resources we do.

I think the question is more sufficient mass, that can then be manipulated into going critical by increasing the density/reducing the physical dimensions of the mass. Compress it, or slam 2 pieces together really hard/fast.

Posted by: kenga on December 7, 2007 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

OT. Off the net. Great Headline:
"Iraqi Civilian Death Toll Plunges"

Given the current up-trends of the American Surge, Iraqi civilian dead have now started to come back to life this week and once more return to their homes and families. The reported number of 85,000 (the unreported number in the hundred thousands) is starting to reverse and go down as graves, canals, and trenches empty. It has been learned that the civilian dead of this middle eastern country were just participants in a video game called Oil Wars, and Bush will hit Reset upon the imminent declaration of Victory in Iraq returning the country to normalcy. The 14 actual terrorists will of course remain "dead". We anticipate the Iraqi civilian casuality numbers to reach zero within 6 months.

Which is not the article that followed...

Posted by: Zit on December 7, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK
....Instead, in the zeal to "prove" that Bush and Cheney were lying, we got a bunch of stories that hypes one sentence in the NIE ....Hack at 2:23 PM
Indeed, prior to 9-Aug 07 Bush was hyping a nuclear weapons program, an active program. Post 9-Aug, his rhetoric changed to yammering about nuclear weapons knowledge . That makes it definitive that he was advised between Aug 6 and the 9th to change his message. As with his bs about Iraq, it's all in the nuance, which is a technical way for him and his Bushbots to claim that he is truthful; however, a lie is an intent to mislead and deceive, which is the modus operandi of his administration. Posted by: Mike on December 7, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yancy Ward at 4:09 -

Theres a bit o' karmic balance in the production of nuclear weapons. Plutonium is really easy to enrich, but it's a bitch to get a functioning weapon (something about a liquid that resists compression...) as was witnessed by the NorK fizzler last fall.

A working uranium weapon on the other hand, is really easy to assemble, but getting that 85% enriched Uranium is no mean feat. (Nuclear power is generated with Uranium that is, iirc, about 5%). Not only that, but anyone who has ever used even the crudest centrifuge knows that balance is key. The cascading centrifuges that are used are extremely delicate instruments, and require exact precision.

They are making it sound like all the Iranians have to do to resume their program is to flip on the lights and restart the 'fuges. That's simply ridiculous, and everyone who has passed P Chem knows this. Unfortunately, the percentage of people who have passed P Chem is miniscule. I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read "Honk if you passed P Chem" and no one ever did.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 7, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: You learn that (1) this NIE uses a more restricted definition of "nuclear weapons program" than earlier NIEs...

How so?

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS -- Yes, 3-5% is typical of commercial fuel, although anything less than 20% is generally considered LEU. However, the key ingredient for weapons is and always has been the fissile material, and if you trace the path of various programs, what was most accessible appears to be the primary determinant in the approach to weapons development.

E.g., the DPRK and India went with PU because they had access to spent reactor fuel for reprocessing into PU but not the centrifuge technology needed to produce HEU; while Pakistan went with HEU as they had the centrifuge technology but not the reactor fuel needed for reprocessing into PU (presumably Iran would go the same route). In short, producing material of sufficient purity, whether PU or U, appears to be much less of a challenge than making it go boom.

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

sorry, that last sentence should read "much more of a challenge".

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I agree the finding that Iran halted its clandestine nuclear program in 2003 is the first thing that jumps out of the 2007 NIE. But it is clear from the rest of the NIE that, at a minimum, we need to be extremely careful before stating (as, just for one example, you just did) that this means Iran has "halted its bomb program" or, as others have presented it, that we no longer need to worry about Iran's nuclear intentions (that this NIE, in other words, is 180 degrees at odds with the administrations concerns. So it is a "bombshell" in the sense that is is dramatic and new information, but given that the rest of the NIE makes it clear that Iran continues to seek nukes, pursue enrichment and parallel civilian technologies, and could reverse its decision at any time (if it hasn't already), it is far less of a bombshell from a "should we or should we not worry about a nuclear Iran" point of view.

has407,

As far as I can tell, the 2005 NIE did not make judgments on any specific nuclear weapons program but rather discussed Iran's overall efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons-related technology. Interesting, this paragraph from this story on the 2005 NIE also talks about the differences between a nuclear weapons program and other nuclear weapons-related efforts:

The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran's military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking.

The 2007 NIE's observations about Iran's nuclear weapons program are therefore more limited in scope than the 2005 NIE's observations about Iran's efforts to pursue nuclear weapons, either under their weapons program or through other means. Lastly, the remainder of the NIE makes clear that, halted weapons program or not, Iran continue to desire and pursue nuclear weapons.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 7, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

BG,RS

They are making it sound like all the Iranians have to do to resume their program is to flip on the lights and restart the 'fuges.

But the NIE states that Iran continues to enrich uranium under its "civilian" program so they have been gaining balancing and other expertise since 2003, even if they had stopped acquiring purely weapons-based procurement under their nuclear weapons program.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 7, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

hacksaw - you're a hack. We will now join our regularly scheduled bloggin' already in progress...

Posted by: littlebear on December 7, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

"There is no 'firewall' between the development of 'peaceful' nuclear power and the development of nuclear weapons."

True in a technical sense. But not overall.

The "firewall" is IAEA inspections. That is the reason that North Korea withdrew from the NPT and disabled the video cameras the inspectors had installed.

Posted by: CKR on December 7, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Neocons' real or imagined fears are not something to base a foreign policy on. I simply cannot understand why these people have (apparently) so much fear in them. Especially of Muslims. Do they think they are immortal except to weapons wielded by followers of Allah? The lack of a military background (where one has to face the possibilty of being killed or actually killing another human) has perhaps reduce them to the level of video game participants. I don't think any sane person imagines that an Iranian would risk the nuclear obliteration of his own country just to blow up one or two U.S. cities.
Perhaps there isn't any rational explanation for the craven, bed-wetting terror that the neocons seem to suffer from. Simply that they suffer from it may be all we need to know about them.

Posted by: Doug on December 7, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw -- The line between pursuit of nuclear weapons and pursuit of nuclear-related technology that could be used for a weapons program is fuzzy. Much of what Iran is developing--or damn near any other country with access to similar technology (of which there are quite a few)--could obviously be used for a weapons program. That doesn't mean that this NIE in any way uses a more restricted definition of a nuclear weapons program.

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: We are spending a fortune on the CIA and getting less than we should in return. Meanwhile I have little confidence in their reports.

Do well to note that NIE's are produced not just by the CIA, but by the entire intelligence community under the direction of the National Intelligence Council. There's a helluva lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into them, and a long history behind them, as well as efforts to improve their quality over decades of lessons learned. Perfection they may not be, but they're worth every dime we pay for them. For more information see here.

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

oops, please ignore above. wrong thread.

Posted by: has407 on December 7, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read "Honk if you passed P Chem" and no one ever did.

Honk Honk (M.S Geochemistry)

And don't get me started on the stupidity of the restrictions on carrying liquids on planes.

Posted by: MLuther on December 7, 2007 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Iran still wants the bomb."

Proof, please.

Posted by: billy on December 7, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

yancey, yes, nice to see you: i don't comment here all that much any more - the particular flavor of troll that kevin attracts just got to be too tiresome.

and yes, we'd be equally superflous (that was my point about my job would be going for pizza).

as to the broader question, obviously i'm joking, but the sheer technical knowledge to build a nuclear weapon is, in fact, the easiest part to acquire....

Posted by: howard on December 7, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Billy:

The NIE itself discusses Iran's intentions regarding a nuclear weapon:

we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons

We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives

has407,

It is true that the line between nuclear weapons and and non-weapons research is fuzzy. This is why we need to (1) be careful in not ignoring the weapons-related elements of Iran's continues "civilian" program and (2) assess the intentions and needs of the Iranian regime. Given their record, rhetoric, and resources it is hard to believe that this is all (and only) part of Iran's peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 7, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we should worry about our own nukes before we worry about Iranian ones. I'm embarrassed for bringing this up because it makes me look like a conspiracy kook (well, OK, maybe I do enjoy the occasional 'connect the dots' story) but this is written by Dave Lindorff and was published in the Baltimore Chronicle. This was news to me until a few days ago when I ran into it by accident. Take a look. A teaser:

"“Certainly, in a case like this, the suicides should be a red flag,” says Hans Kristensen, a nuclear-affairs expert with the Federation of American Scientists. It’s wild speculation to think that there might be some connection between the deaths and the incident, but it certainly should be investigated.”

The Mystery of Minot: Loose nukes and a cluster of dead airmen raise troubling questions, Lindorff

Posted by: nepeta on December 7, 2007 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

"The NIE itself discusses Iran's intentions regarding a nuclear weapon:"

Too bad that it doesn't support your assertion that "Iran still wants the bomb." Perhaps you should work on your reading comprehension before making a fool of yourself again?

Posted by: PaulB on December 8, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

You can decide for yourself whether you believe the NIE, but its actual conclusions are straightforward: Iran wants a nuclear bomb; it has the scientific capability to produce a nuclear bomb; it's continuing to enrich uranium; and it might decide to restart its bomb program in the future.

In a word, Drum, BUllSHit! You now appear to have gone totally over to the "dark side" spewing such utterly unsupportable, alarmist pseudo-conclusions.(Are you now "moonlighting" for the Reich?)

As PaulB aptly recommended above, "READING COMPREHENSION"! It may not be for everybody, but it should be manifestly evident in any blogger who wishes to be taken seriously.

Bush Spins Iran's Centrifuges
By Ray McGovern

... This week's spinning by the White House and subservient media suggests the administration still thinks it can make a case for war, by obfuscating the nuclear program in Iran.

This has become clearer as administration mouthpieces blur the distinction between uranium enrichment for a civilian energy use (permitted to signatories of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty) and the much more demanding requirements of a nuclear weapons program.

The spinners have resurrected the discredited argument that Iran's nuclear program must be for weapons, because Iran's oil and gas should suffice to meet all its energy requirements. ...

Back in 1976 -- with Gerald Ford president, Dick Cheney his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld secretary of defense -- the Ford administration bought the Shah's argument that Iran needed a nuclear program to meet its future energy requirements.

That argument, of course, is even more valid today, with the price that can be obtained for oil and the specter of Peak Oil.

Cheney and Rumsfeld persuaded a hesitant President Ford to offer Iran a deal that would have meant at least $6.4 billion for U.S. corporations like Westinghouse and General Electric, had not the Shah been unceremoniously dumped three years later.

The offer included a reprocessing facility for a complete nuclear fuels cycle -- essentially the same capability that the U.S. and Israel now insist Iran cannot be allowed to acquire. ...
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 8, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

From McGovern's prior assessment, linked previously:

' 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 time frame."

' "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." ...'
____________

Kevin Drum says "Iran wants a nuclear bomb; it has the scientific capability to produce a nuclear bomb ...".

The actual NIE and veteran CIA Analyst Ray McGovern clearly indicate otherwise.

WHO ya gonna believe?? ;-)
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 8, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum wrote:

"[B]ased (apparently) on new intelligence collected earlier this year, the program is halted and there's evidence that international pressure and sanctions might keep it that way."

and in a later post:

"So, sure, Iran could restart its bomb program if it wants to. That's not news. The fact that they stopped it back in 2003 is."
____________________

What is also news, of course, is that now all the air has gone out of the drive for "international pressure and sanctions." If there is evidence that such things are likely to be used to influence the Iranians, it hasn't shown up in any press report. Most evidence shows just the opposite, that our allies and negotiators are now at a loss for how to proceed. The fact is, diplomacy and "soft power" works best when there are harsher alternatives on the table or at least in the background. Completely remove those alternatives and there will be no serious discussions and no concerted effort.

Iran made a good tactical decision in the wake of the Iraq invasion to suspend the overtly military part of their nuclear program. As Mr. Drum points out, they can always start it again, tomorrow. What's more, they can likely restart it with a free hand. Should they do so, and assuming the intelligence community doesn't take four years to learn it and report it, will Mr. Drum decide that's news or simply consider it more warmongering coming from Langley or the White House?

Posted by: trashhauler on December 8, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

PaulB,

I can only point out what the NIE says, I can't make you comprehend it. As the excerpts I provided show, the NIE says (1) at a minimum, iran is keeping its options open regarding the development of nuclear weapons, (2) it will be difficult to convince Iran to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons, and (3) many within the Iranian leadership see a link between Iran having nuclear weapons and its foreign and security policy aims. That, along with their continued exploitation of dual-use technologies and the rhetoric of Iran's leaders seems to me to be pretty supportive of my contention that "Iran still wants the bomb." Hell, even kevin recognizes that.

Poilu,

I addressed that quote ("This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons") earlier. It comes from the methodology section of the NIE and not, repeat not, from the conclusions section. In other words, the folks putting together the NIE did not assume as a starting point that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons (they started with a blank slate with regard to Iran's intentions). As the findings quoted above make clear, the NIE's actual conclusions are more mixed.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 8, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting AP story on Gates in the ME. Excerpts:

MANAMA, Bahrain - Gulf Arab countries challenged Defense Secretary Robert Gates on American policies toward Iran and Israel Saturday, after he urged them to force Tehran to stop uranium enrichment...

Several delegates at the regional security conference in Bahrain said U.S. was hypocritical for supporting Israeli nuclear weapons, and questioned Washington's refusal to meet with Iran to discuss the Islamic state's nuclear activities.

"Not considering Israel a threat to security in the region is considered a biased policy that is based on a double standard," said Abdul-Rahman al-Attiyah, the secretary general of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council...

Soon after Gates' speech, the defense secretary was challenged by Bahraini Minister of Labor Majeed al-Alawi, who wanted to know whether Gates thought "the Zionist (Israeli) nuclear weapon is a threat to the region."

Gates paused, and answered tersely: "No, I do not."
...

Asked if U.S. acceptance of that was a double standard in light of Washington's pressure on Iran, Gates again said "no," and described the government in Jerusalem as more responsible than the one in Tehran...

"I think Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors. It has not shipped weapons into a place like Iraq to kill thousands of innocent civilians covertly," said Gates.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani countered Gates' comparison of Iran and Israel.

"We can't really compare Iran with Israel. Iran is our neighbor, and we shouldn't really look at it as an enemy," said Sheik Hamad. "I think Israel through 50 years has taken land, kicking out the Palestinians, and interferes under the excuse of security, blaming the other party."


Posted by: JS on December 8, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

the NIE says (1) at a minimum, iran is keeping its options open regarding the development of nuclear weapons, (2) it will be difficult to convince Iran to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons, and (3) many within the Iranian leadership see a link between Iran having nuclear weapons and its foreign and security policy aims.

Hacksaw: None of which represents the slightest semblance of a "smoking gun". To the contary, those assertions are all "mindset" issues, having nothing to do with any actual efforts.

That, along with their continued exploitation of dual-use technologies and the rhetoric of Iran's leaders seems to me to be pretty supportive of my contention that "Iran still wants the bomb..

Sorry, having the capacity to enrich your own nuclear fuel for energy purposes -- totally legitimate under the terms of the NPT -- is not a "weapons program". And the IAEA has found NO evidence of any such Iranian "weapons program".

The phrase, "continued exploitation of dual-use technologies", is a rhetorical red herring, much akin to saying that since an automobile could be used as a lethal weapon, no one should be allowed to drive. Alas, it's only DUAL-use if it's used as a weapon. Otherwise that's merely a massively hypothetical "potential".

And the "rhetoric of Iran's leaders" has consistently been that Iran has no nuclear weapons program nor any desire to develop nuclear weapons. That's hardly supportive of either your contention OR Kevin's. The Mullahs -- who hold the real power in Iran -- have even gone so far as to declare such indiscriminate weapons "un-Islamic".

"If my Grandmother had wheels, she could be a trolley car!" But alas, she doesn't have wheels.
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 9, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Asked if U.S. acceptance of that was a double standard in light of Washington's pressure on Iran, Gates again said "no," and described the government in Jerusalem as more responsible than the one in Tehran...

JS: God, that's a laugh. The most belligerent war criminals of the Middle East, who recently inflicted deliberate mayhem on Lebanon's civilian populace and autonomously launched an aggressive, unprovoked bombing sortie against Syria, are supposedly "responsible", whereas Iran, which has posed no threat to any of its neighbors in well over a century, is "less so". Uh-huh.

I know he's a "spook", but could even Gates have made such an utterly audacious claim with a straight face? (Oh, never mind. That's easily explained by this government's relentlessly supine deference to the interests of the "Israeli lobby".)
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 9, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Trashhauler is right: the NIE may have torpedoed a reckless military strike, but current diplomatic efforts were the collateral damage. The NIE's "conclusions" may have been "straightforward" but emphasis is all: it was left to others to point out that going full speed ahead on nuclear enrichment while suspending the 'weapons program' is probably the safest way to get to the end zone.

Posted by: Asp on December 10, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly