Well the world was abuzz today with news of the National Intelligence Estimate that re-assessed Iran’s nuclear weapons program. All the headlines, from the broadcast networks to the pages off the printing press, read the same: Iran gave up its weapons, but U.S. policy remains unchanged. Now it’s no surprise that Bush critics and certain elements of the press are overlooking one key finding in the estimate that suggests our policy should remain unchanged, but it is even more frustrating that Bush has once again failed in his own defense. The fact is that the report states Iran continues its efforts to produce weapons-grade material, namely highly enriched uranium (HEU). Furthermore, the report states that Iran’s so-called civilian uranium enrichment program and other R&D programs that have conventional military applications constitute technologies that could be applied to the development of nuclear weapons–all of which are programs that have NOT been halted. According to the authors of the report, Tehran is, at a MINIMUM, “keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”
The NIE assesses that Iran’s centrifuge enrichment program is most likely where Iran would begin to develop enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, should Iran decide to pursue such plans, and that Iran did in fact resume its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006 (under the pretense of civil, rather than military, intentions of course.) The report further states that significant progress was made in installing the centrifuges in 2007, although Iran still faces significant technical difficulties in operating them (is this supposed to make us sleep better at night?) And finally, the report assesses that convincing Iranian leadership to abandon all future plans of eventual nuclear weapons development will be “difficult,” to put it mildly. News outlets are quick to point out that the report estimates Iran would not be capable of producing enough HEU for a nuclear weapon until the 2010 – 2015 time frame, and that leaves me wondering if reporters and journalists realize that we are coming up on 2008.
The bottom line is that, according the report’s own footnotes, when the authors of the report state that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, they are referring specifically to work on weapon design and COVERT uranium enrichment. The so-called “halted” nuclear weapons program does not refer to uranium enrichment projects that Iran has declared as “civil work,” which could be applied to the development of nuclear weapons, and are, incidentally, projects that are alive and kicking.
So in light of what the report actually says, I don’t know which is more frustrating–Associated Press headlines like “Nuke Report Means US Should Ease” and “Like Iraq, US Intel on Iran Faulty,” or the fact that once again, while Bush is clamoring to defend his position, he fails point out the most relevant facts–Iran continues its uranium enrichment efforts, which could easily be applied to nuclear weapons development. I simply do not understand how anyone could read the NIE and walk away with a sense of comfort or relief about Iran’s intentions. Please read past today’s headlines. Read the actual report.http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20071203_release.pdf?loc=interstitialskip