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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Obama policy still being driven by 2007 NIE?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I thought that the flawed 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was completely off the table. I thought that the only question that remained about the 2007 NIE was finding out who arranged for such an obviously wrong report to be issued and whether they did so in order to (as I suspect) handcuff the Bush administration during its final year in office.

But Ilan Berman and Robert MacFarlane say that unfortunately, the 2007 NIE is still very much on the table and it is still influencing Obama administration policy. They say that has to stop.
The last two years have seen major movement on that score. By February 2009, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear proliferation watchdog, had concluded that Iran possessed a metric ton of low-enriched uranium -- a quantity sufficient to build one nuclear bomb, if enriched to weapons-grade. This stockpile is growing rapidly thanks to the expanding number of centrifuges in Iran's inventory. As of last April, Iran could boast some 7,000 operational units; if the Iranian government meets its stated goals, that number will soon grow to more than 52,000. With such an "industrial" centrifuge capability, the Iranian regime would have the ability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for nearly half a dozen nuclear weapons annually.

These intelligence failures warrant focused analysis now that U.S. policy toward Iran has reached a critical juncture. Recent news that the U.S. intelligence community has undertaken a partial reassessment of the conclusions of the 2007 NIE is welcome indeed. But it does not go far enough. The policy change now underway within the administration necessitates an equally sweeping reevaluation of what we know -- and what we don't know -- about the status of Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Such an assessment, moreover, must be carried out in concert with Congress and with input from private-sector experts. The experience of the misjudgments about Iran in the 2007 report makes clear that the NIE process itself is opaque and incomplete at best. At worst, it is susceptible to politicization -- something that could be avoided if a "Team B" approach involving competitive analysis were adopted.

In other words, in order to hold water with allies or the American public now, a rethinking of intelligence on Iran will need to take a different form -- one that is transparent, comprehensive in nature and inclusive of dissenting opinions. Just as important, it will need to account for the dynamism we have seen in Iran's nuclear effort over the last two years.

Given how much progress Iran has made already, there's no time to waste.
Read the whole thing.


At 3:47 PM, Blogger nomatter said...

"(as I suspect) handcuff the Bush administration during its final year in office."

The president can tell the truth no matter what! Even if in fact he is handcuffed by a group or information. It is his duty.

If we do not obliterate the art of rationalization because of partisan leanings we are idiots.

Cut no one slack. Maybe then some day (G-d willing) we might get a leader who actually works for us.


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