U.S. has new intelligence estimate — Iran stopped trying for nukes in 2003

OK, so now we know — tough U.S. action stopped Iran from trying to develop nukes in 2003. Why didn’t we know about this earlier? What were all those hair-raising stories about the U.S. and/or Israel making imminent preparations to attack Iran in order to “stop World War III”???

Why would Iran have done this in 2003?  A comment posted on Helena Cobban’s Just World News blog reminds us that this would have been just after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — who gave the very strong impression that he had pursued a nuclear weapons program, which freaked out the Iranians who had been on the receiving end of Saddam’s crusade against them.  The commentator says that the Iranians were preparing to try to match Saddam in the nuclear arena, but that when he was ousted this was no longer necessary — so the Iranians could drop their nuclear pursuits in peace.

The NYTimes reports that “a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies ‘do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons’. Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates. But the new estimate declares with ‘high confidence’ that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt ‘was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure’. The estimate does not say when American intelligence agencies learned that the weapons program had been halted, but a statement issued by Donald Kerr, the principal director of national intelligence, said the document was being made public ‘since our understanding of Iran’s capabilities has changed’. Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran’s ‘decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs’ “… The NYTimes report is published here.

U.S. President Bush, who said on 17 October that Iran’s nuclear program could lead the world into World War III, said today that “he only learned of the new intelligence assessment last week”, the AP reported today, “But he portrayed it as valuable ammunition against Tehran, not as a reason to lessen diplomatic pressure. ‘To me, the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) provides an opportunity for us to rally the international community — to continue to rally the community — to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its program’, the president said. ‘What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?’ ”

Iran graciously welcomed the report. Reuters reported that Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told state radio: “It’s natural that we welcome it when those countries who in the past have questions and ambiguities about this case … now amend their views realistically … The condition of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities is becoming clear to the world.” This Reuters report can be seen here.

And, in a statement issued in Vienna while he was travelling in South America, the IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei indicated that he “received with great interest the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate about Iran´s nuclear program which concludes that there has been no on-going nuclear weapons program in Iran since the fall of 2003. He notes in particular that the Estimate tallies with the Agency´s consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the Agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran. The Director General believes that this new assessment by the U.S. should help to defuse the current crisis. At the same time, it should prompt Iran to work actively with the IAEA to clarify specific aspects of its past and present nuclear program as outlined in the work plan and through the implementation of the additional protocol. This would allow the Agency to provide the required assurances regarding the nature of the program. While calling on Iran to accelerate its cooperation with the Agency, in view of the new U.S. Estimate, the Director General urges all parties concerned to enter without delay into negotiations. Such negotiations are needed to build confidence about the future direction of Iran´s nuclear program – concern about which has been repeatedly expressed by the Security Council. They are also needed to bring about a comprehensive and durable solution that would normalise the relationship between Iran and the international community”. Mohamed ElBaradei’s statement is available on the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) here.

3 thoughts on “U.S. has new intelligence estimate — Iran stopped trying for nukes in 2003”

  1. Well, um, I haven’t seen American TV for a long time…I don’t see why anyone would very much want or need to watch the program with the ladies talking all at once. But I was more struck by the supposed anchors, who talked fast, had incredibly mobile facial features (particularly the brunette) — and who had thoroughly scripted what they were trying to make look like spontaneous conversation …

  2. Oh that’s CNN USA. Everything is scripted even if the same news appear ad nauseum.

    As far as the ladies on the network TV let’s say “what a waste of money and air time” 🙂 but they know best isn’t it?

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