Tuesday, September 19, 2006

US and Israeli Intelligence Claims

In an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel on September 1, 2006, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte responded to questions regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Most Significantly, Negroponte reaffirmed his estimate from last year that Iran is five to ten years away from having a nuclear weapon. Negroponte also discussed Israel’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program and why it is that in their estimate Iran is only two years away, even the US and Israel share intelligence.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister was on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on September 17, 2006 also discussing Iran’s nuclear program. Livni claims that Iran is only a few months away from mastering enrichment. Livni also said he thinks this is the time for sanctions.

Key portions of both these interviews follow. Thanks to Paul Kerr from Arms Control Wonk for pointing them out.

NPR Interview with DNI John Negroponte:

MR. SIEGEL: ...According to U.S. intelligence agencies, how soon will Iran have a nuclear weapon given its present program? Well, Negroponte says the US made its estimate a year ago.

AMB. NEGROPONTE: These are estimates. These are judgments. They’re not hard and cold simple facts. But our best estimate at the time, and it continues to be the judgment of the Intelligence Community, is that sometime beginning in the next decade, perhaps out to the middle of the next decade would be a good time frame, a good estimate of when they might have such a capability.

MR. SIEGEL: Sometime between four and 10 years from now you would assume they could achieve a nuclear weapon.

AMB. NEGROPONTE: Five to 10 years from now.

MR. SIEGEL: The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on its inspections this week. They reported on rather little progress by the Iranians. Does that conform to U.S. intelligence or does it in any way alter your estimate?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: This is a judgment that was formed over a period of time based on all sources of intelligence that we have, and I think those basic pieces remain in place today, both the determination to acquire such a capability, and the efforts that are under way to achieve that. Now mind you . and this was why I was careful to say at the outset that these are estimates and judgments, because you don’t know what you don’t know. And Iran is by definition, from the point of view of the Intelligence Community, a hard target. They engage in denial and deception. They don’t want us to necessarily know everything that they’re doing. So we don’t, for example, know whether there’s a secret military program and to what extent that program has made progress.

On Israel:

MR. SIEGEL: When Americans hear of, or read of, say, an Israeli estimate that the Iranians are two years away from a nuclear weapon, do you think the Israelis are just making different inferences from the same evidence you see.


MR. SIEGEL: or they know differently?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: No, I don’t . I think that we basically operate from the same knowledge base. We also happen to consult with the Israelis quite closely. We have intelligence-sharing arrangements, procedures.

I think that sometimes what the Israelis will do. and I think that perhaps because it’s a more existential issue for them, they will give you the worst-case assessment.

We would agree that perhaps an equally valid assessment would be the same one that we put forward.

MR. SIEGEL: But you’re talking about differences in assessment and analysis of information.


MR. SIEGEL: not differences in information?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: That . I would say that, yes. I think that’s fair.

Blitzer Interview with Israeli FM Tzipi Livni:

BLITZER: How much time do you believe the international community has before Iran crosses into an area of no return, in effect has a nuclear bomb?

LIVNI: The crucial moment is not the day of the bomb. The crucial moment is the day in which Iran will master the enrichment, the knowledge of enrichment.

BLITZER: And how long is that?

LIVNI: A few months from now.

BLITZER: What does that mean, a few months?

LIVNI: A few months, I mean…

BLITZER: Six months?

LIVNI: No, I don’t know for sure, because it takes time and this something that they have to try, in doing so…

BLITZER: Because other Israelis have said that would be the point of no return.

LIVNI: I don’t want to use the words “point of no return,” because the Iranians are using it against the international community. They are trying to send a message that it’s too late; you can stop your attempts because it’s too late.

It’s not too late. They have a few more months. And it is crucial because this is in the interests of the international community. The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran. It’s not only a threat to Israel. The recent understanding, also, of moderate Arab states is that Iran is a threat to the region. And I believe that this is time for sanctions.

BLITZER: Is this the biggest threat facing Israel?

LIVNI: Well, unfortunately, even though Israel was established about 60 years ago, it is still fighting for its existence.

And we just saw what the threats from Hezbollah, which is the long arm, the proxy of Iran in the region, and we have the Hamas and the terrorist organizations, and the global terrorism, and the Palestinians, and Iran.

So should I choose between the threats? I don't think so.

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