In his post entitled Republicans Lied About Iran's Nuclear Program, my colleague Lee Ward explains how the recently released NIE proves that Bush and the Republicans have been lying like dogs to the American people about Iran's obstensible efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The NIE is a devastating blow that has utterly destroyed whatever remaining credibility that Bush and the Republicans still retained after the miserable debacle in Iraq. It will take more than a couple posts to fully expose the despicable fear-mongering that the neocons and Republicans have engaged in on Iran. To start, I think it's instructive to look at some of what's actually in the NIE:
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. We judge with high confidence that the halt, and Tehran's announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment program and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work.
The NIE makes it pretty clear that the Iranians most likely halted their efforts to build a nuclear weapon in 2003 despite administration lies to the contrary. The NIE also states that Iran is "keeping open the option" to develop nuclear weapons in the future, but doesn't explain how the Iranians would prove that they have decided to foreclose this option.
We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.
Put yourself in Iran's situation for a minute. They have the nuclear power Pakistan on their southeastern border. On their western border, they have Iraq which is occupied by two nuclear powers, the US and the UK. On their northeastern border, they have Afghanistan which is occupied by the US. They have nuclear-armed Israel about 1,000 miles away with the ability to strike them at any moment with land and submarine-based nuclear weapons. And they share the Caspian Sea with another nuclear power, Russia. Given these facts, any government of Iran, whether run by mullahs or elected democrats, would keep the option of developing nuclear weapons on the table. They would be crazy not to.
Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.
Many of us have suggested all along that Iran is uniquely vulnerable to diplomatic pressure and the threat of sanctions due to their lack of a broad-based economy and inability to refine enough gasoline for their own needs. We have been consistently shouted down by those on the right hell-bent on their march for war.
We assess with moderate confidence that Iran probably would use covert facilities--rather than its declared nuclear sites--for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon. A growing amount of intelligence indicates Iran was engaged in covert uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity, but we judge that these efforts probably were halted in response to the fall 2003 halt, and that these efforts probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007.
Did you hear that one neocons? "Covert" facilities means facilities that are hidden and that you don't know about. This fact makes the neocon wet dream of launching airstrikes on Iran to decapitate their nuclear weapons "program" a completely moot point. You can't destroy a program (that doesn't exist anyway) whose facilities are covert from 20,000 feet up. It takes boots on the ground.
G. We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015. H. We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.
The fact that our intelligence agencies have now placed a date of 2015 on Iran's possible development of a nuke should take any proposed military action by the present administration completely off the table. Whatever needs to be done it should be the purview of the next president who will be inaugurated in 2009. There's simply no urgency to do anything about this theoretical Iranian threat in the next 14 months.
Sorry neocons, but there will be no rockets red glare over Teheran anytime soon.
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