Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, December 03, 2007

Iran's Nuke Program On Hold, But Caution Shouldn't Be

Forty-four blogs are already linked at memeorandum to today's NYT story on the National Intelligence Estimate assessment that Iran stopped actively working on a bomb back in 2003, and I'm sure the number will grow.

Funny; I was telling our office's Token Dem just yesterday that I didn't think Bush had to force the issue during his final year because the current raft of front-runners all appear to be sentient enough to realize that Iran can't be allowed to become a nuclear jihadist state.

The necessary cautionary statement is that the NIE assessment is a time-buyer only and cannot be viewed, as some leftyblogs will surely view it, as proof that Bush is an extremist. After all, can you read this language and be calm about the Mullahs' possible intentions?
The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.
That's clear enough to keep me on edge, especially given Iran's history of deception and secrecy, and our knowledge of the amount of information made available to them by Pakistan's Dr. Doom. Still, the NYT scoffs, dumping all the concerns in favor of some Bush-bashing:
Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.” The administration called new attention to the threat posed by Iran earlier this year when President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.
Harry Reid chimed in as well:
Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, portrayed the assessment as “directly challenging some of this administration’s alarming rhetoric about the threat posed by Iran.” He said he hoped the administration “appropriately adjusts its rhetoric and policy,” and called for a “a diplomatic surge necessary to effectively address the challenges posed by Iran.
Shallow, shallow, shallow. Why do you suppose 2003 was the cut-off year for Iran's program? Do you suppose it had anything to do with our swift removal of Saddam Hussein's government in that very same year just might have given the Mullah's some second thoughts about the wisdom of pursuing nuclear weapons?

Victor Davis Hanson reaches the same conclusion, noting the NIE really should be seen as heartburn for the left.

The other caution, of course, is that the NIE is not always right, as the NYT gleefully points out ...
The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program ...
... and if this report is a mistake, the implications to our safety are much greater because of the documentation we have of Iran's nuclear program.

The takeaway, really, is the NIE is just another report that attempts to read the tea leaves at a point in time. Nothing came out today that says we should trust Iran or let down our guard.

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