October 16, 2009

A new NIE on Iran? It's about time....

"It's about time." I chose those words carefully. For years now, Iran has been playing the world for time, and playing it very well. Iran's foreign policy has focused on delaying the imposition of effective sanctions over its nuclear research and development program, which most analysts (me included) believe is nothing but a cover for a nuclear weapons development effort.

The Iranians have been remarkably successful in blunting and avoiding the type of sanctions that might actually work. They have done this by agreeing to talk, attending preliminary meetings and promising cooperation, combined with deeper ties with UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China. Since either of these countries can veto any Security Council action, close ties to one or the other makes the chances of the adoption of any meaningful sanctions protocol remote at best. (See an article I wrote in July, Iran's Foreign Policy Success.

A review of today's AIPAC Daily News Digest, published by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - not Political Action Committee as some have charged - is illustrative of that successful Iranian foreign policy. Five of the six lead stories deal with this issue:

  • 1. U.S. Considers a New Assessment of Iran Threat
  • 2. U.S. Congress sends Obama Iran sanctions bill
  • 4. Iranian go-slow dims deal chances at Vienna atom talks
  • 5. China's links to Iran a snag for sanctions
  • 6. A Hitch in Iran's Nuclear Plans?

Now the Obama Administration is considering a "re-do" of the ludicrous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate - Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities. That document assessed that Iran halted its nuclear weapons effort in 2003 and had not re-started it by mid-2007. The idea is so preposterous that not only have the intelligence services of our allies - Britain, France, Germany and Israel - publicly criticized it, so too did both candidates in the 2008 U.S. Presidential race.

Please re-do the NIE - it's about time. However, we need to make sure that the NIE is in fact a real estimate of the intelligence community, not a politically-inspired tool to boost the Administration's fantasy that diplomacy - that means a sanctions protocol - is going to be effective.