Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program

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ArmsControlWonk’s Jeffrey Lewis and nuclear weapons watcher Paul Kerr turn out to be the winners of the what-is-Iran-really-doing prize. In July 2005 and then again November 2006, they reviewed the evidence and suggested that Iran’s concerns about a confrontation with the UN and the bureaucratic reorganization of its nuclear activities led it to shut down its covert weapons program.
President George Bush said today, quite specifically and emphatically, “Iran shut its weapons program down.” He also said that there was a lot to worry about — but the definitive statement that the nuclear weapons program is not active is a stunning, important admission.
Last evening, I attended a forum with former General, Labor Party Knesset Member, and former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. In response to a question from the floor about the Iran NIE, Sneh said that the “report was a lie.” He asked “why would someone leak this now?”


When later I privately told General Sneh that the report was not leaked and that it was on the home page of the Director of National Intelligence, he emphasized that “it had to be a lie, a deception.” He said that “Israeli and Americans know the same thing and have the same views on Iran.”
Sneh said that for him the release of this report “means that the United States is signaling that it will do nothing on Iran and will abandon its responsibilities.” He continued by saying, “I told them so. I always said that in the end, Israel would have to do this alone.”
Sneh concluded by saying, “When i get back, i will call together our intelligence establishment, and I will do all i can to begin seriously preparing the ‘Israel option’.”
Ehud Barak, now Defense Minister, said largely the same thing today that Sneh said last night — and I know that they did not coordinate as Ephraim Sneh was clearly shocked by the revelation.
What this means is that Israel and the U.S. are about to have a serious battle over the quality of intelligence — and this will put a substantial wedge between the nations. It will also aggravate the demarcation that already exists between the Cheney wing of the national security establishment and the Gates/Rice wing.
But America will not be bombing Iran any time soon.
And just to calm nerves about Israel, I spoke to a person very close to Prime Minister Olmert and was told emphatically that Prime Minister Olmert, while seriously concerned about Iran and its nuclear weapons ambitions, does not share “Ephraim Sneh’s fervent desire to take near term action against Iran.”
For those in Washington, DC, i will be discussing these issues at a New America Foundation event tomorrow with nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis and former National Security Council Director for the Middle East Flynt Leverett — at noon at 1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, DC. C-Span will not be covering the meeting, but a recording will be posted on the New America site within the day.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

21 comments on “Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program

  1. Kathleen says:

    LLyonnoc…hmmmmmm, did they paint bulls-eyes on the decks yet?
    Csrroll… maybe Hillary will actually read this NIE repoprt, unlike the one on Iraq?
    Shouldn’t Congress have had this NIE report before they were asked to vote on Kyl-Lieberman?
    I think LLyonnoc has their number on this one. Maybe if Commander CodPiece got on deck in his fly boy drag the Iranains would oblige and provide the much wished for Causus Belli.

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  2. Kathleen says:

    Well yes, Virginia, there is a God and some good men have come to the aid of our country, at long last.
    When Dopey and Darth outed Valerie Plame, they thought they had eliminated the problem of reliable intel on Iran rearing its ugly head.
    Intelligence Community Learned From Iraq Debacle
    By Melvin A. Goodman
    The Baltimore Sun
    Thursday 06 December 2007
    U.S intelligence agencies have concluded in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in fall 2003 and that Tehran is now “less determined to develop nuclear weapons.” The new findings will make it more difficult for the Bush administration to gain domestic and international support for the use of military force against Iran. The findings also will complicate efforts to arrange a third round of U.N. sanctions against Iran and could open the door to a policy of diplomatic engagement.
    The new estimate comes at an important juncture in the bureaucratic battle between the White House and the Pentagon over the possible use of force against Tehran. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been making the case for military power, with the president warning in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War III and the vice president promising “serious consequences” if Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney were aware of the new findings before they used their provocative language.
    At the same time, senior military leaders have been arguing in public against the need for force against Iran, which they didn’t do prior to the Iraq war. The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, and the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Adm. William J. Fallon, have sought to play down speculation about striking Iran’s nuclear facilities. General officers in Iraq have noted that Iran has cooperated in stopping the flow of roadside bombs to Iraq and that Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has support from Iran, has begun to rein in his militia. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, though silent during these exchanges, must have lent tacit support.
    The latest intelligence estimate indicates the intelligence community has learned some lessons from the Iraq debacle in 2002 and 2003, when it politicized the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in order to support the administration’s campaign for military action. Before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the CIA prepared a specious NIE on Iraqi WMD – a skewed, unclassified “white paper” that was circulated on Capitol Hill prior to the vote to authorize force against Iraq, and a flawed speech for then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that was given at the United Nations a month before the war.
    The CIA also permitted President Bush to make false allegations about Iraq’s nuclear program in his State of the Union address in January 2003.
    The current estimate should enable congressional leaders to be more courageous in defeating any measure that argues the case for military action against Iran based on a nuclear weapons program that was stopped four years ago. The estimate puts the U.S. intelligence community in line with the official views of European and Russian leaders, as well as with international arms inspectors. As a result, it will enable the leaders of key European countries, as well as China and Russia, to be more adamant in resisting the coercive tactics, including sanctions, that the Bush administration has adopted.
    In view of the use of diplomacy to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the new findings create an opportunity to argue for a genuine effort to pursue a diplomatic solution to the differences between the United States and Iran.
    The new estimate also supports those critics of the Bush administration who believe that deterrence can work with Iran, concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons program was “halted primarily in response to international pressure.” This view reverses a key finding from two years ago, when the intelligence community argued with “high confidence” that Iran was determined “to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure.”
    Nevertheless, it is disconcerting that it took the $50 billion intelligence community four years to determine the program had ended, as well as two years to report the new findings to the White House and key decision-makers. The congressional intelligence committees must investigate the reasons for these significant delays.
    Overall, the new estimate suggests that the intelligence community is trying to regain the credibility that it lost when it politicized intelligence findings to support the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq. The willingness to confront Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney with intelligence that does not support their policy prescriptions for Iran suggests that the community’s new leadership is willing to tell truth to power.
    ————
    Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, was a senior intelligence analyst at the CIA from 1966 to 1990. His e-mail is goody789@comcast.net.

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  3. Carroll says:

    Here is another tidbit for thought…Hersh..who is usually right…thinks Bush knew and even discussed it with Olmert:
    Bush Told Olmert Of NIE Two Days Before President Was Allegedly First Briefed On It
    Yesterday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters that President Bush was first briefed on the National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusions on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
    But today in an interview with CNN, Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalist, revealed that Bush actually knew about the NIE at least two days earlier and had a “private discussion” about it with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before the Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, MD, last week:
    Bush had two meetings with Olmert — one on Monday, Nov. 26, and one on Wednesday, Nov. 28. But as Hersh makes clear, Bush discussed the NIE with Olmert at the first meeting before the conference, on Nov. 26 — two days before Hadley alleged that Bush first was briefed on the report. This revelation provides evidence that the Bush administration is misleading about when it first learned that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program.
    UPDATE: Last night on NBC News, Brian Williams reported, “[D]uring last week’s Middle East peace conference where so much of the talk was centered around the Iran threat, US intelligence officials had information indicating they knew better, and the administration said so today.”
    Transcript:..of Hersh interview
    BLITZER: But you were suggesting that there was a real run-up to war developing within the administration, even as there were some in the administration — the intelligence community — suggesting, Hey, hold off. Maybe they did suspend or freeze their nuclear weapons program.
    HERSH: Well, of course. I think it’s still not over.
    BLITZER: Because I want to press you on this. Does that mean, now that this new NIE has been released publicly, it is over, the run-up to a potential military confrontation with Iran?
    HERSH: Well, there’s always Israel.
    BLITZER: What’s that mean?
    HERSH: Well, it means that Israel can always decide to take military action, or with us covertly. Israel objects to this report. I’m told that Olmert had a private discussion with Bush about it during Annapolis — before Annapolis. Bush briefed him about it. The Israelis were very upset about the report.”

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  4. Homer says:

    “It is a lie” said Sneh.
    Or, in other words, `Onward Christian soldiers!’

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  5. Carroll says:

    Well place your bets….who will win the political fight? Who will the presidential candidates and the congress listen to?
    The military at pentagon:
    Why the Pentagon Is Happy about the NIE
    Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2007 By MARK THOMPSON/WASHINGTON
    The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was the final factor in a military equation that now appears to guarantee that there will be no war with Iran during the Bush administration. It meshes with the views of the operational types at the Pentagon, who have steadfastly resisted the march to war led by some Administration hawks. The anti-war group was composed of Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Admiral William Fallon, who oversees the U.S. forces that would have had to wage that war. In recent months, all have pushed back privately and publicly, on the wisdom of going to war with Tehran. Indeed, the Pentagon’s intelligence units were instrumental in forming the NIE’s conclusions.
    Or the Jewish Lobby:
    Shun NIE, Jewish group asking candidates
    E-mail News Brief
    Published: 12/04/2007
    A U.S. Jewish umbrella organization will ask the presidential candidates not to use a U.S. intelligence report on Iran in their campaigns.
    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations held an emergency conference call on Tuesday to discuss the National Intelligence Estimate declassified this week. The NIE, the consensus opinion of 16 intelligence agencies, reported that Iran had frozen its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
    Malcolm Hoenlein, the Presidents Conference executive vice chairman, said the NIE posed a “challenge” and that advocates of isolating Iran needed to reframe their argument to emphasize that the Islamic republic still backed terrorism.
    Democratic candidates already are citing the NIE in arguing against the Bush administration’s efforts to isolate and confront Iran. Hoenlein said the Presidents Conference would write letters to all the candidates asking them not to make the NIE an issue.”
    >>>>>>>>>
    I can’t wait to hear the candidates worm their way out of this one…cause you know they are going to be asked about the NIE.

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  6. LLyonnoc says:

    I recall Steve wrote of Cheney’s plan to go after Iran a while ago. So one must wonder whether Cheney’s plan is still in effect. I suggest it is by the way Bush has responded to to NIE. There has been no backing down.
    I follow the situation by looking at our carriers. We will not bomb Iran without having at least two of our carriers in the area, but more likely we would want three.
    Right now, the carrier USS Harry Truman (CVN 75) just arrived on station in the Persian Gulf. It joined the carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). HMS Illustrious, a British aircraft carrier, and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) are scheduled to go to the Gulf right after the first of the year. In the spring there will be 4 carriers in the Persian Gulf area if the USS Enterprise stays or another carrier heads there to replace it. (The Enterprise being an old carrier it might be replaced.)
    So with the carriers in place, won’t the temptation to attack Iran be just too much for Cheney. Steve would argue that the NIE would make such and attack unlikely. I agree, but an attack on an American ship that is attributed to the Iranians would give the President a causa belli.
    I just don’t see the Cheney/Podhoretz group giving up knowing that Bush is their last hope. As far as Israel’s role in this, must reading is Henry Siegman’s article in the London Review of Books , 16 August 2007.

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  7. Carroll says:

    I am throwing this in on the NIE and leaking of it from Juan Cole ‘s Informed Comment. I hope his guess is right. They would be the most formidable enemies to the Cheney gang….and to the Iran war drummers in congress.
    “My guess is that Admiral William J. Fallon, the CENTCOM commander now, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, may well have cooperated with figures in the intelligence world to get this report written and some of it released, especially since Congress had mandated that it be completed and its findings conveyed to them by a date certain.
    Gareth Porter reported that.
    ‘A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch”. Asked how he could be sure, the source says, Fallon replied, “You know what choices I have. I’m a professional.” Fallon said that he was not alone, according to the source, adding, “There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box.” ‘
    Snow Bush with some occasional hints that the NIE has some new findings, sure that he won’t bother to ask for details or read any actual document (he seldom does), then you could spring this thing on the Cheneyites and blindside them.
    Cheney clearly was making a push for war on Iran this fall. The real puzzle is how the NIE got past his team of plumbers, which still informally includes convicted perjurer Scooter Libby. That’s why I say there was moxie behind this NIE, of the sort an admiral has, or better two admirals. ”
    posted by Juan Cole

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  8. downtown says:

    Sneh’s remarks that the NIE is a lie are right in line with the neocon talking points from the likes of Norman Podhoretz, who apparently harbors “dark suspicions” that the NIE was leaked by the US intel community in hopes of undercutting a strike on Iran.
    But potentially more ominous are Sneh’s comments about seriously preparing the “Israeli option.” Bracketing for the moment the statement by Olmert’s aid that Steve cites, wouldn’t the “Israeli Option” amount to the very catalyst for the Cheney “end-run” option discussed on this site and elsewhere? That is, an Israeli strike on Iran triggers an Iranian response against both Israeli and US forces, thereby opening the door to, and freeing Bush’s hand for, a US retaliation directly against Iran?

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  9. Punchy says:

    Isn’t this exactly how Cheney wants to go to war? If the Israelis start it, they own it. We get to blow up lots ‘o stuff, but will share in none of the blame when it goes bad. And it will go bad.
    Israel’s aggression would appear to be precisely what Cheney desires…

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  10. Carroll says:

    Can Israel find ways to make peace with Iran?
    Posted by Dan at December 5, 2007 11:53 AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    If the US does they will have no choice. But what are the chances of that?

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  11. Dan says:

    It is no surprise that Israel does not believe this report. They’ve been at the forefront of pushing war against Iran, understandably.
    Can Israel find ways to make peace with Iran?

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  12. erichwwk says:

    One way to view this revisionist NEI is to offer Iran a “face saving” out in terms of the nuclear enrichment program components that were not revealed to the IAEA.
    The other is to view this as a face saving strategy for the U.S., to enable it to defuse allegations re the Iranian program that never existed in the form alleged by the U.S.
    This is not to deny Iranian secrecy re enrichment- but considering Israeli response in Iraq, Iran’s concerns re legitimate energy and scientific concerns can not be automatically dismissed.
    For those that hold that what the U.S. does re its own nuclear arsenal is of much more importance than a strategy focusing on denying the other 50 or so countries capable of building a nuclear weapons, two recent publications may be of interest:
    * the recent interview by James Carroll of Jonathan Shell: Jonathan Schell, The Bomb in the Mind: Trying to Dispel a Mist with a Machine Gun.
    at http://tinyurl.com/2tuznf.
    * Jonathan Schell’s most recent book “The Seventh Decade-The New Shape of Nuclear Danger”.Amazon.com allows one (with patience) to essentially read Jonathan Shell’s book online. Viewing the back cover comments by Andrew Bacevich and Martin Scherwin should give some indication of the importance of this book in explaining the “We have met the enemy, and it is us” point of view.

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  13. p.lukasiak says:

    “In July 2005 and then again November 2006, they reviewed the evidence and suggested that Iran’s concerns about a confrontation with the UN and the bureaucratic reorganization of its nuclear activities led it to shut down its covert weapons program”
    one problem — there is really no good evidence that Iran even had a “covert weapons program”.
    This whole “Iran is building nukes” theme is based on “intelligence” that is being funnelled throught the MEK (the Iran version of the INC). It all started when Iran acknowledged that it was covertly pursuing CIVILIAN uses of nuclear technology/power — and given Israel’s habit of bombing anything that glows in the dark, Iran’s secrecy was understandable.
    But its critical to note (and unfortunately, the “serious people” never mention it) that the IAEA has never said that Iran had a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA has noted that there were things that were consistent with such a program — but upon examination of these “facts”, has determined that they were unrelated to a weapons program.
    Hopefully, at some point, Steve will acknowledge that this whole “Iran nuke program” bears all the markings of the same kind of hoax that “Iraq’s WMDs” was — the “conclusions” of malevolent people projecting their own evil intentions upon other nations.

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  14. Carroll says:

    Some news comments on the oil factor.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersEdge/idUSN0452030820071204
    “U.S. nuke study on Iran erodes oil market risk”
    President George W. Bush said Iran remains a global danger, and that “all options” are on the table for dealing with Iran. U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman dismissed the chance of the report affecting oil markets.
    Still, U.S. crude oil prices fell nearly $2 to below $88 a barrel on Tuesday after the report was released, as traders saw a slimmer chance of a disruption from the world’s No. 4 oil exporter.
    “There has been a certain fear of a preemptive strike against Iran, and I think the most direct consequence of the (intelligence report) is that the risk – although not very high – of that has fallen away for the foreseeable future.” said Samuel Ciszuk, Middle East energy analyst at Global Insight.
    Analysts declined to put an exact dollar amount on the “fear premium” in oil prices to account for potential supply disruptions in major producers like Venezuela, Nigeria and Iraq. Some said such concerns were still adding about $10 a barrel to the oil price.
    Tensions between Tehran and Washington helped fuel the record rally that sent prices up 40 percent to just shy of $100 a barrel from August to late November amid concerns of a supply shortfall ahead of the Northern Hemisphere winter.
    Any disruption to Iran’s oil exports would be a catastrophe for tightly stretched global oil markets.
    And ..a Look at Israel’s Oil Situtation
    Israel produces only a couple thousand barrels of oil a day, which means it relies on the global market for more than 99 percent of its consumption. It’s difficult to name all of the country’s suppliers—in 2004, Israel’s minister of national infrastructures admitted that “Israel’s situation is complicated. We don’t have diplomatic relations with most of the countries from which we import oil.” But over the past 25 years, significant fuel imports have come from Angola, Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, and Norway. In more recent times, the Israelis have turned to Russia, Kazakhstan, and some of the other -stans for the bulk of their oil.
    Israel has long sought a local source of oil, especially since the oil crisis of 1973. Having a nearby supplier would increase Israel’s energy security and reduce the cost of its imports.
    Iran filled that need for a while: Starting in 1968, the Israelis used a pipe called the “TIPline” to import Iranian oil from the Red Sea. But the shah was overthrown in 1979, and Iran shut off the tap. (These days, Israel lets the Russians use the TIPline to pump oil in the opposite direction.)
    The Israelis gained access to another local source when they took control of Egyptian oil fields in Sinai after the Six-Day War. When Israel agreed to return the fields in 1979, they wanted broad assurances about their access to oil imports. The peace treaty with Egypt stipulated that “Israel shall be fully entitled to make bids for Egyptian-origin oil not needed for Egyptian domestic oil consumption.” An accompanying document outlined a deal with the United States that ensured Israeli oil supplies in times of crisis.
    Egypt continues to provide oil, but its importance as a supplier has diminished as Israel’s appetite has grown. In 1995, Egyptian oil accounted for one-third of Israel’s fuel imports; by 2000 that fraction had shrunk to one-eighth. While Israel was forced to look elsewhere for oil, it maintained a warm relationship with Egypt, at least regarding energy. In 2005, the two countries signed an agreement on the trade of natural gas.
    Meanwhile, Israel continues to seek nearby suppliers. In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, there was some talk of restarting an abandoned pipeline that runs from Mosul, Iraq, to Haifa. In order for this to happen, Israel would need to somehow wrangle the support of the Syrians, since they control part of the route.
    From Scott Lasensky of the United States Institute of Peace.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Bush has filled up US oil reserves to almost 100%. Pelosi called on him some time ago to release some of the reserves or at least quit adding to them to ease prices. I am guessing Bush was doing this because he was on a track to bomb Iran and because under the MOU of ’79 we would also have to share our US reserves with Israel. It would be another good sign that bombing Iran was off Bush’s list if he would release some of the oil reserves but I doubt he will. Another thing I can’t figure is how Israel thinks that a global oil crisis and Americans seeing severe oil shortages while part of their oil reserves go to Israel could bring about anything but a huge public resentment and even more demand for a change of US policy toward Israel than we are seeing now. Unless they figure US public opinion doesn’t mean anything to Washington…which they are probably right on.

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  15. Matthew says:

    Of course, if Israel were to attack Iran now, they would be committing a war crime. Indeed, Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson said that initiating a War of Aggression was the primary war crime.
    We may be getting a preview of the course of the rest of the 21st Century. If Israel attacks and is supported, then I fear the whole international system could unwind.

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  16. Mike Claussen says:

    Somehow we have to stop our knee jerk appeasement of the Israelis while keeping a close eye on their neighbors. In fact, if we kept as close an eye on Israel as we do it’s neighbors, we would would be less enamored with their political power plays here at home. As a nation we do no one any favors by licking the boots of the Israelis, and forgiving our less than stellar President and his advisers for their sins. Keep up the good work, Steve.

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  17. DSchumacher says:

    Israel has absolutely never failed to iterate the “poor me” card; Israel against the world, including against the U.S. when the U.S. policy and practice does not correspond to whichever Israeli need or faction feels offended and can wield a megaphone that resonates throughout the Israeli apologist/propaganda network in the U.S. and, subsequently, through the political nexis that responds to that network.
    In other words, while many leading U.S. ploticians have been staking out the political ground against Bush (Cheney)attacking Iran, we will now be treated to a reflexive defense of Israel and their right to do whatever needed for their own security.
    OTOH, from just a cursory reading of how the NIE revelation has emerged; the disarray, inconsistency, obfuscation, and rawness of the administration performance the past few days, I have to agree that its a shock to many.
    As to the consequences, we have been here many times before over the past 5 or 6 decades, with an apparent cause for rift between the U.S. and Israel. It is at such times that rational people might ask themselves “who wrote these rules anyway”. How did the U.S. get so powerless in relation to another state, even seeming to behave contrary to our own national strategic security interest? The story’s been told on this blog more honestly and transparently than in most places.
    Well, I’ll keep hoping its not deja vu all over again. The Cheney, Bolton, and apparently Sneh wings of the policy-making apparatus need to be marginalized, not mollified.

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  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Heres AIPAC’s spin of the hour….
    They sure do like that word “illicit”. Vaque, yet damning in its indirect and non-specific accusatory tone. I wonder if “illicit” describes the past actions in regards to Israeli’s development of nukes, in underground bunkers, secretly, with no IAEA oversight? Or does “illicit” describe the myriad of Israeli actions undertaken DAILY that are in direct violation of a myriad of UN resolutions? Just yesterday AIPAC ran a little bit of a sniveling diatribe on their site, decrying Iran’s failure to abide by UN resolutions, hoping the American public’s ignorance of Israeli’s contempt for such resolutions will mask the hypocrisy of such complaints.
    Anyway, heres AIPAC’s take on the IAEA report. To them, its just another excuse to starve the Iranian people of crucial goods, medical supplies, foods, and infrastructural needs. After all, the sanctions killed half a million children in Iraq, so what the hell, maybe Israel can entice the world community into killing a million or so of them nasty Iranian sand niggers too. After all, they’re only evil doers.
    Ya gotta love the part about “diplomatic isolation”, doncha? That means we don’t gotta do nothing but starve em. Don’t even have to talk to them. Just cut off their life’s blood, and watch ’em die. It always kills the kids first. Sweet. It worked in Iraq, its working with the Palestinians, why won’t it work with the Iranians?
    http://www.aipac.org/130.asp#6117
    Report Shows Sanctions’ Impact in Preventing Iranian Nukes
    Sanctions may be more effective than previously thought, a key report said.
    A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a major U.S. intelligence review, has concluded that Iran may be more vulnerable to international sanctions than previously assumed. The report says Iran likely shifted focus from its nuclear weapons program to its enrichment program “primarily in response to international pressure.” The NIE finding confirms that Iran continues its illicit efforts to enrich uranium—a key step toward developing atomic arms—in defiance of multiple binding U.N. Security Council resolutions. In addition, the report says that Iran has had a nuclear weapons program and that “Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.” In response to the NIE, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley summarized U.S. policy toward Iran: “The international community has to turn up the pressure on Iran—with diplomatic isolation, United Nations sanctions and with other financial pressure.”

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  19. Carroll says:

    “It is a lie”..said Sneh.
    That’s a bold statement for him to make about the US intelligence report. I am getting the sense that the Israelis see “forces” in the US cutting the legs out from under the Israeli wish to bomb Iran. The Haaretz article a week ago on the meeting of the CFR with Israeli Security said…”we have never seen the Americans so hostile”. (To the idea of of attacking Iran and Israeli posturing)
    The Israelis have invested a lot in demonizing Iran and drumming up support in the international community to take out Iran and that statement doesn’t sound like they are going to back off. Even if the Israelis aren’t capable of bombing Iran on their own they might still keep trying to create a crisis that would bring the US in, especially if encouraged by Cheney and the neo gang.
    I am sure the Israeli neos see this as a major defeat in their control of US policy….even though I am also sure regime change in Iran is still the goal of the adm.

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  20. jon says:

    Israel seems intent on manifesting an inferiority crisis, though it has long been the dominant military force in the Mid East and has the most dynamic economy.
    Israel sees no problem with its possession of dozens (hundreds?) of nuclear weapons and multiple, secure delivery options. But it cannot tolerate another regional country from having a complete nuclear fuel cycle. If Israel had participated, the entire Middle East could now be a Nuclear Free Zone, and would not need to be concerned about the emergence of other nuclear powers in the region. You reap what you sow, oftentimes.
    But there is no proof that Iran actually has ever had a nuclear weapon development or production program of any sort. Plenty of supposition, and enough worrisome and unexplained activity on Iran’s part, to be sure. But nothing that has anywhere near the level of credibility of the ‘facts’ that Colin Powell slapped on the desk at the Security Council. Caveat emptor.
    I would suggest that Israel would prefer not to reach any settlement with the Palestinians, until the Palestinians have been so reduced and divided that they will meekly accept Israel’s demands in full, and not until Israel has established enough ‘facts on the ground’ so that an administratively functional and defensible Palestinian state will never be viable. Skirmishes and destabilization aid those goals.
    I would also suggest that Israel is loath to see the emergence of a regional competitor for power, and would prefer to be surrounded by weakened and fractured countries. Even if those countries are more resolutely embittered towards Israel. Perhaps Israel has decided that they can never live in harmony and trust with the Arab world, and so they would prefer their neighbors to be weak, impoverished and embattled.
    That Israel has come to successful accommodations with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Lebanon (pre-assassination) seems to have escaped their notice.
    If Israel could work through their cognitive dissonance, they might find that they could resolve their existential angst quite successfully and in short order, without needing to resort to military provocations. Does Israel really believe that attacking Iran will weaken Hezbollah? Quite the opposite.
    It is time for Israel to show that they are truly the bigger man, and to act with maturity, restraint, and generosity. Their perpetual adolescence is unbecoming and counterproductive for all. Their time has arrived and they must grow into their role.

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  21. mt says:

    I understand Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns met with representatives of the foreign ministries of Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China in an effort to reach agreement on a new, harsher set of sanctions against Iran. Do you know if the NIE conclusions were disclosed to the participants at that time, and if not, what does this do to the process?

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