Sunday, March 25, 2012

So, how much did you say you know about Iran's nuckear program?

"The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.
Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities.
"They're keeping the soup warm but they are not cooking it," a U.S. administration official said.
Reuters has learned that in late 2006 or early 2007, U.S. intelligence intercepted telephone and email communications in which Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading figure in Iran's nuclear program, and other scientists complained that the weaponization program had been stopped.
That led to a bombshell conclusion in a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate: American spy agencies had "high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003.
Current and former U.S. officials say they are confident that Iran has no secret uranium-enrichment site outside the purview of U.N. nuclear inspections.
They also have confidence that any Iranian move toward building a functional nuclear weapon would be detected long before a bomb was made.
These intelligence findings are what underpin President Barack Obama's argument that there is still time to see whether economic sanctions will compel Iran's leaders to halt any program...
There are also blind spots in U.S. and allied agencies' knowledge. A crucial unknown is the intentions of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Another question is exactly how much progress Iran made in designing a warhead before mothballing its program. The allies disagree on how fast Iran is progressing toward bomb-building ability: the U.S. thinks progress is relatively slow; the Europeans and Israelis believe it's faster.
U.S. officials assert that intelligence reporting on Iran's nuclear program is better than it was on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which proved to be non-existent but which President George W. Bush and his aides used to make the case for the 2003 invasion.
That case and others, such as the U.S. failure to predict India's 1998 underground nuclear test, illustrate the perils of divining secrets about others' weapons programs.
"The quality of intelligence varies from case to case," a U.S. administration official said. Intelligence on North Korea and Iraq was more limited, but there was "extraordinarily good intelligence" on Iran, the official said.
Israel, which regards a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, has a different calculation.(After its misadventure in Lebanon (2006), Israel is panicking: loss of credibility, deterrence and regional clout, are prompting all kinds of miscalculations!)..."

1 comment:

William deB. Mills said...

Someone should do a psychological study of the U.S. to address the question:

When did it become acceptable to make the extraordinary public argument that it was morally acceptable for a country possessing weapons of mass destruction to use or threaten to use those weapons to launch an unprovoked attack upon a country trying to acquire or starting to acquire the same weapons?