Friday, December 07, 2007

Why Should We Believe the Intelligence Community This Time?

Council for a Livable World board member Jim Walsh has an Op-Ed in today's Boston Globe that outlines why the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is on target. According to Walsh:

"First, the idea that Iran suspended nuclear weapons activities in fall 2003 is consistent with how countries typically behave. Throughout the nuclear age, governments have been reluctant to carry on clandestine nuclear programs when inspectors are on the ground. Saddam Hussein, for example, shut down his WMD programs in the early 1990s, because he feared inspectors might uncover his efforts. In fall 2003, Iran was under intense scrutiny regarding its nuclear program. As a consequence, Tehran agreed to join an upgraded inspections regime called the Additional Protocol. From an Iranian perspective, it would have been foolhardy to invite inspectors in only to get caught with an active program.

"Second, it is consistent with what we know about Iran. This new intelligence estimate reverses a 2005 conclusion that Tehran was determined to get the bomb no matter what. That earlier conclusion always seemed at odds with the history of Iran's nuclear efforts, which could be called inconsistent at best. Though Tehran showed an interest in nuclear technology under the shah and again beginning in the mid-1980s, the program was slow to make progress, even though it was receiving help from Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's secret nuclear network. For a country that was "determined" to become a nuclear weapons state, Iran was taking its time.

"Third, the fact that this intelligence estimate contradicts a previous report is itself a healthy development. When graduate students at MIT present their research, I often ask if they were surprised by anything. I always worry about the ones who say they found exactly what they expected. A good intelligence process is one that is open to being wrong and not afraid to report it.

"Finally, this intelligence estimate offers its new conclusions despite the political consequences. The vice president and those of like mind are probably pretty upset right now. And the president, who can still make a case against enrichment in Iran, nevertheless finds himself on the defensive about his past statements. As for policy, the intelligence estimate makes it less likely that the United States will use military force, which is good, but that it may also have the effect of taking the pressure off or even emboldening Iran, which is bad."

Now the question remains whether or not U.S. policy towards Iran can be changed to incorporate this new evidence.


hass said...

There's no evidence of any nuclear program ever existing in Iran.
They're just spinning.

PNA said...

This posting by Jim Walsh is very sound. What Jim shows is that, contrary to the demonization that has gone on, most states act within their rational interests. The NIE notes that Iran made a "cost-benefit analysis" in 2003 that a weaponized nuclear program would harm, not help its interests in trade and international viability. Despite the bluster from both Mssrs. Bush and Ahmedinejad since, that equation has not changed.

More Philly comments in the link posted below.

Ed Aguilar,
Project for Nuclear Awareness

Philadelphia Inquirer Readers Forum on "Iran and the NIE" just published this weekend: