If you haven’t already read the nine-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear intentions and capabilities, it’s here. What’s not making headlines (the certainty that Iran indeed had a nuke program) is as telling as what is making news (the halting of the program in 2003). This chart outlines the changes over the past two years:
Victor Davis Hanson spotlights the quandary the BDS crowd has in squawking about the latest report:
Are they now to suggest that Republicans have been warmongering over a nonexistent threat for partisan purposes? But to advance that belief is also to concede that, Iran, like Libya, likely came to a conjecture around (say early spring 2003?) that it was not wise for regimes to conceal WMD programs, given the unpredictable, but lethal American military reaction.
After all, what critic would wish now to grant that one result of the 2003 war-aside from the real chance that Iraq can stabilize and function under the only consensual government in the region-might have been the elimination for some time of two growing and potentially nuclear threats to American security, quite apart from Saddam Hussein?
Bryan Preston’s measured read:
My take is that we’re in a state of dangerous uncertainty all around: We can’t trust the IAEA, we don’t trust the Iranians (both with good reason), but there’s just enough doubt in the NIE to keep the B2s grounded and the Iranians on the loose because the Bush administration cannot base an attack or even another round of sanctions on this estimate, not after the intel failures in Iraq.
Thomas Joscelyn has five questions, concluding with this one:
[H]ow does the IC know what motivated Iran’s alleged change in behavior?
The NIE claims that “Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure.” How does the IC know what motivated Iran’s alleged change in behavior? Did the Iranians tell someone? Is this coming from clandestine sources? Assuming for the moment that Iran really did halt its program, are we to believe that a substantial U.S.-led military presence in Afghanistan and in Iraq (or potential presence in Iraq, depending on when in 2003 this change supposedly occurred), had nothing to do with Iran’s supposed decision? That is, are we to believe that U.S. led forces on Iran’s eastern and western borders had nothing to do with Tehran’s decision-making process?
We are left with a number of important questions. And without knowing the answers to these questions, the IC’s opinions are best viewed with a skeptical eye.
And a grain of salt or two.
The White House reaction is here.
More: Tom Maguire catches the New York Times–surprise–mischaracterizing the NIE.