Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Iran NIE - Read the Key Judgments

One wise blogger once wrote something to the effect of "Before you make any judgments, read the transcript." I forget who it was but it's very good advice. The eminently readable 9 page document is available here. It's easy reading, its just the conclusions and not the Estimate itself which one would hope would remain secret for something sensible, like 50 years, to protect any valuable sources.

Monk has already made some very good critical points in his post below so I am going to concentrate mine solely on the NIE Key Judgments themselves.

Some quick observations:
- The "Key Judgments" section comprises barely 2.5 pages
- Four pages are devoted to PREFACING what their terminology means

Going into the meat of the document:

National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are the Intelligence Community's (IC) most authoritative written judgments on national security issues..."

So noted.

"This Estimate focuses on the following key questions:
- What are Iran's intentions towards developing nuclear weapons?
- What domestic factors affect Iran's decisionmaking on whether to develop nuclear weapons?
- What external factors affect Iran's decisionmaking on whether to develop nuclear weapons?
- What is the range of potential Iranian actions concerning the development of of nuclear weapons, and the decisive factors that would lead Iran to choose one course of action over another?
- What is Iran's current and projected capability to develop nuclear weapons? What are our key assumptions, and Iran's key chokepoints/vulnerabilities?"

I find it distressing that the Key Judgments do not touch upon the three questions above that I have put in BOLD.

In boldface then the Scope Note states that:

"This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons."

Now that is just academic HOSS-SH*T. Especially considering two pages later in Section A of the Key Judgments this is the FIRST bullet point:

"We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons."

Bullet point #5 in the same section is nearly as outrageous for what it does not say:

"...Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously."

This line of reasoning is repeated several times. "International pressure" - could there be ANY possibility the toppling of Saddam's regime in Iraq and 200,000 coalition troops next door was a deterrent factor?

Key Judgment C then has the MOST ASININE comment:

"We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely."


In Key Judgement E there are two very telling comments:

1. "...This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige and goals for regional influence in other ways, might - if perceived by Iran's leaders as credible - prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program."

2. "We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran's key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran's considerable effort from at the least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons." [emphasis added]

Point 1 is pure diplomatic drivel. Point 2 is on point. They tried very hard to develop it for 15-20 years - is there any question as to INTENT?

Finally in the last Key Judgment (H):

"We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so." [emphasis added]


This released portion of the NIE reads like a bad academic paper. It makes very important judgments without substantiation. The level of equivocation - on the one hand, but on the other - is remarkable. And some of comments are purely contradictory.

They are probably popping the proverbial champagne bottles in Tehran because this estimate has probably taken the military option off the table for President Bush as well as for the Israelis unless they have a smoking gun. So what have these folks done? They've effectively moved negotiations forward in time...from 1936 to 1939.

No comments: