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Sunday, March 18, 2012

NY Times: American intelligence officials believe Iran not building a nuclear weapon, Mossad agrees?

Sorry guys, but I find this really hard to believe. The New York Times is reporting that while admitting to difficulties in obtaining information, American intelligence officials believe that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon and that the Mossad agrees.
Today, as suspicions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions have provoked tough sanctions and threats of military confrontation, top administration officials have said that Iran still has not decided to pursue a weapon, reflecting the intelligence community’s secret analysis. But if that assessment changes, it could lift a brake set by President Obama, who has not ruled out military options as a last resort to prevent Iran gaining nuclear arms.

Publicly and privately, American intelligence officials express confidence in the spy agencies’ assertions. Still, some acknowledge significant intelligence gaps in understanding the intentions of Iran’s leaders and whether they would approve the crucial steps toward engineering a bomb, the most covert aspect of one of the most difficult intelligence collection targets in the world.

Much of what analysts sift through are shards of information that are ambiguous or incomplete, sometimes not up to date, and that typically offer more insight about what the Iranians are not doing than evidence of what they are up to.

As a result, officials caution that they cannot offer certainty. “I’d say that I have about 75 percent confidence in the assessment that they haven’t restarted the program,” said one former senior intelligence official.

Another former intelligence official ... added, “We’re not on the ground, and not having our people on the ground to catch nuance is a problem.”

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes, but American intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency have picked up evidence in recent years that some Iranian research activities that may be weapons-related have continued since 2003, officials said. That information has not been significant enough for the spy agencies to alter their view that the weapons program has not been restarted.

Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, agrees with the American intelligence assessments, even while Israeli political leaders have been pushing for quick, aggressive action to block Iran from becoming what they describe as an existential threat to the Jewish state.

“Their people ask very hard questions, but Mossad does not disagree with the U.S. on the weapons program,” said one former senior American intelligence official, who, like others for this article, would speak only on the condition of anonymity about classified information. “There is not a lot of dispute between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities on the facts.”
I cannot believe that the Mossad believes this. Israel, as the article goes on to note, has 'assets' on the ground in Iran - mostly from the opposition MEK which is banned as a terror group in the US - but the US discounts that information out of fear of repeating its mistake with Ahmad Chalabi in the run-up to the Iraq war.

But I find it hard to believe that the US believes this either. You don't move innocent civilian nuclear activity 200 meters underground at an enormous cost. What happened at Parchin a few months ago? What was destroyed? Why is Iran now trying to remove nuclear waste from the facility?

I find it hard to believe that the US actually believes this, and there is no way that the Mossad does. Recall that even Meir Dagan only argued for a delay - he didn't argue that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. And he said that there are many more facilities than four.

What could go wrong? Read the whole thing.

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