National Intelligence Estimate: Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Halted
A Holiday Gift for President Ahmadinejad?
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 powers." 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 enrichment. 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 bomb." 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 enrichment." 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 Organization. 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 Tehran."
SOURCE Iran Policy Committee
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