Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The NIE on Iran's Weapons

I have been very discouraged by the attacks against candidates that take a hard line stance against Iran's weapons ambitions. There is now a very strong push to back away from any threat against Iran. This is abundantly clear among the Democratic candidates, but I can certainly see the Republican candidates toning down, in the least, their language concerning Iran. Israel has come out and said that the NIE goes against what their intel is saying. I tend to believe Israel's intel, seeing as how the NIE may well reflect other political and diplomatic motives, not necessarily including ALL of the intel available.

Considering US involvement (obstruction) of Israel's efforts to combat proliferation of North Korean weapons technology (likely NUCLEAR) in Syria I would question whether or not the current US administration is opposed to combating proliferation at all, fearing being seen, along with the Republican party as a whole, as warmongering. Further, it seems to me that the Democratic party wants to emphasize that it will not engage the US in any military conflicts in the coming years, much less soon after the election. Thus BOTH parties have strong incentive to act as if there is nothing to fight about.

Considering that this NIE comes in the wake of the Annapolis conference, I question whether or not it came BECAUSE of the Annapolis summit. It could well be that in discussions with the leaders and representatives of the Arab nations, it was decided that the threat of increased US involvement in the region was creating difficulty for our Arab allies and destabilizing oil markets in the process. I say this only seeing what is available in the media. It is reasonable to conclude that the evidence presented by the NIE is accurate and not created to serve this purpose. At issue, however, is the meaning of the evidence in the NIE and whether or not Israel's intel on this issue is superior to the US' intel.

For example, the NIE says that Iran stopped work on nuclear weapons in 2003. However, nuclear weapons require several different technologies and Iran has certainly continued work on some of them. There are nuclear bomb making technologies, delivery systems technologies, and technologies that combine the two. Iran is likely more or less in possession of enough nuclear technology (know how) to create a working bomb. It has spent no little effort over the past decade working on delivery systems with the help of Russia and North Korea and now possesses one . Hence it is only regarding combination technologies that there is even a question of Iran's ability to create a nuclear ballistic missile. Now add the production of enriched uranium and we are looking at a reasonable assumption that even with known Iranian capabilities, they are on a near term path to creating such a weapon. If there is a clandestine program that is unknown to US intelligence this could be sped up.

This is what I have seen and heard from news sources recently. Hopefully, the NIE is correct and Iran isn't working toward imminent construction of a weapon. In my mind, the NIE does not conclude that Iran is no longer in pursuit of a weapon, but only suggests that it is not working at full speed to acquire one, since it needed several different technologies to do so and the NIE relates to only one.

Anyway, my two cents.


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