National Intelligence Estimate: Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Halted

A Holiday Gift for President Ahmadinejad?

Dec 06, 2007, 00:00 ET from Iran Policy Committee

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On 5 December 2007,
 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called a U.S. National Intelligence
 Estimate, declassified key judgments of which were released just days
 before, "a declaration of the Iranian people's victory against the great
     Indeed, the impact of the NIE has been a public relations victory for
 Ahmadinejad's continuing efforts to enrich uranium, which is one route to a
 nuclear weapon. The NIE key judgments could further embolden Tehran, allow
 additional time for the Iranian regime to complete a nuclear weapons
 program, and enhance the likelihood of an Israeli unilateral strike on
 Iranian nuclear installations. The NIE key judgments also make it difficult
 for the United States to revive the option of military action in the event
 the regime has not abandoned its quest for the bomb.
     While the NIE judged that "in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear
 weapons program," a footnote that accompanied this judgment defined
 "nuclear weapons program" as "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work
 and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related
 work...we do not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium
 conversion and enrichment." [Emphasis added.]
     However, declared "civil" conversion and enrichment can easily be
 applied to the construction of nuclear weapons. Indeed, uranium enrichment
 is the most problematic part of constructing a nuclear weapon. The military
 design phase, which the NIE judges to have ceased, is less problematic than
     Capt. Chuck Nash (USN, Ret.), IPC Board of Directors, said, "Iran is
 now free to continue developing the technology and building a manufacturing
 capacity for weapons grade enrichment all under the guise of a civilian
 program. As with the Indian 'civilian' program, the military goal will
 become obvious when Tehran detonates its first nuclear device."
     According to Prof. Raymond Tanter, former member of the Regan-Bush
 National Security Council staff and Personal Representative of the
 Secretary of Defense to arms control and security talks in Europe, and now
 President of the Iran Policy Committee, "The NIE infers from halt of
 weaponization that Iran's intentions have changed but downplays the dual
 purpose nature of uranium enrichment capabilities. America's allies in the
 Middle East, especially Israel, do not have the luxury of making such a
 dangerous inference. It is likely that Iran maintained the intention to
 build a nuclear weapon, stopped work on weaponization capabilities, and
 continued mastering enrichment to get within a screwdriver's turn of the
     General Paul Vallely (USA, Ret.), IPC Advisory Council, stated, "The
 NIE does not take into account the possibility that Iran made enough covert
 progress in weapon design prior to 2003 to place weaponization on hold and
 focus on uranium enrichment under the guise of a civilian program."
     It is the importance of uranium enrichment to the construction of a
 nuclear weapon, and not weaponization, which has made Iran's enrichment
 activities the focus of negotiations. The NIE assesses that "Iran halted
 the [weaponization] program in 2003 primarily in response to international
 pressure...Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather
 than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and
 military costs."
     According to Prof. Tanter, "Rather than making genuine concessions in
 the face of international sanctions, which were designed to stop Iran's
 enrichment activities, Tehran may be manipulating the international
 community by placing a hold on its weaponization work to give accelerated
 enrichment a 'civilian' face."
     Evaluating Iranian perceptions, General Edward Rowny (USA, Ret.),
 former ambassador to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks, IPC Advisory
 Council, said "Not surprisingly, Ahmadinejad recognizes the importance of
 so-called peaceful uranium enrichment to the eventual acquisition of a
 nuclear weapon. On 17 May 2006, Ahmadinejad said of the European Union
 countries negotiating to halt Iran's uranium enrichment program, 'They
 think that they can take away our gold and give us some nuts and chocolate
 in exchange.'"
     General Thomas McInerney (USAF, Ret.), IPC Advisory Council Chair,
 said, "According to Iran Policy Committee research in What Makes Tehran
 Tick, the Iranian regime is a revolutionary movement posing as a
 nation-state. The regime's penchant for ideological expansion and hegemony
 drives it to acquire a nuclear weapon at any cost, irrespective of the
 'nuts and chocolate' offered by the West."
     Bruce McColm, former Executive Director of Freedom House, IPC Board of
 Directors, referred to one of America's European allies, "In February 2007,
 German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded that Iran cease enriching uranium
 'without ifs and buts and without tricks.' Iran's suspension of
 weaponization is one such 'trick' meant to buy time for uranium
     Continuing on the enrichment theme, General Paul Vallely (USA, Ret.),
 IPC Advisory Council, drew attention to President Bush's 4 December 2007
 press conference, in which the President said, "The most difficult aspect
 of developing a weapons program, or as some would say, the long pole in the
 tent, is enriching uranium." According to Gen. Vallely, "If the West
 retreats from its tough stance on Tehran's uranium enrichment program
 because weaponization may have halted, Ahmadinejad's June 2007 claim that
 Iran's nuclear program 'has passed the point where they [can] stop it' will
 indeed be true."
     Regarding the trajectory of U.S. policy in light of the new NIE, Gen.
 McInerney stated, "Before the November 2007 NIE, President Bush repeatedly
 emphasized that 'all options are on the table,' regarding Iran. If the NIE
 removes the military option from the table, Tehran will continue to enrich
 uranium, America's Arab allies will further appease Tehran, and Israel will
 take matters into its own hands. The November NIE and Ahmadinejad's remarks
 welcoming the Estimate rank with Neville Chamberlain's 'Peace in our Time'
 Agreement with Hitler -- the high point of appeasement that led to World
 War II."
     According to research of the Iran Policy Committee, the negative
 incentive of a threat to take military action has to be left on the table
 for Tehran to suspend enrichment of uranium, one route for the Iranian
 regime to develop the bomb. In view of the Estimate, however, there are
 proposals across the political spectrum for Washington to decrease negative
 incentives and offer only positive inducements to encourage the Iranian
 regime to suspend uranium enrichment and clarify whether its "civilian"
 nuclear energy program is a ruse for a covert military program.
     Paul Welday, former Chief of Staff to a high-ranking Member of Congress
 and IPC Board Member, said, "Nothing in the 2007 National Intelligence
 Estimate changes the fact that Ahmadinejad and the Islamic extremists in
 Tehran control a rogue state determined 'to wipe Israel off the face of the
 map.' The regime supports murderous terrorist organizations worldwide and
 is playing an active role in providing the financing, weapons, and training
 for insurgents targeting U.S. military personnel in Iraq. The only logical
 conclusion from the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate is that
 international pressure works and now is the time for the Administration and
 Congress to consider all available policy options to stifle Iran's hostile
 nuclear ambitions once and for all."
     Building on the remarks about options, Prof. Tanter discussed the
 November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in relation to October
 2007 designation for nuclear proliferation activities of the Islamic
 Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) by the Bush administration.
     Prof. Tanter stated that "I strongly concur in the sanctioning for
 proliferation activities of IRGC-affiliated entities and individuals as
 derivatives of the IRGC, the Iranian regime's state-owned Banks Melli and
 Mellat, and individuals affiliated with Iran's Aerospace Industries
     Prof. Tanter added that "The raison d'etre of the Islamic Revolutionary
 Guards Corps is to advance the production of nuclear weapons and export the
 regime's revolutionary ideology via acts of terrorism. And it makes little
 sense for the United States to sanction Tehran's proliferation unit and
 terrorist arm -- the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps -- and at the same
 time also designate as terrorist the regime's main opposition groups, the
 National Council of Resistance of Iran and the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, which
 provide intelligence about the nuclear programs of the IRGC. And because
 the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran fails even to
 mention the IRGC, such omission weakens the effect of the designation of
 the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for proliferation activities and
 provides an additional gift to Ahmadinejad and his ruling clique in

SOURCE Iran Policy Committee