- The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons program lives on in the imagination of some government officials. At the end of a lengthy piece by James Risen in the New York Times this past weekend an anonymous official claims: “That assessment holds up really well.” No, it does not.
- The authors of the 2007 NIE famously argued that the Iranians halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003 and had not restarted it since. The U.S. intelligence community defined “nuclear weapons program” as “Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work.”
- The 2007 NIE was flat wrong about Iran’s covert work. In September 2009, President Obama announced that “Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.” Obama noted that “the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program.” Incredibly, the intelligence community was aware of the facility at Qom before it even published the 2007 NIE.
- One former intelligence official cited by Risen says, “Iran is the hardest intelligence target there is. It is harder by far than North Korea.” U.S. intelligence has long been almost entirely blind inside North Korea. According to Risen’s source, the spooks’ window into Iran is even smaller. They don’t really know what is going on; they are making guesses.
- On January 3, 2010, the New York Times reported: “Mr. Obama’s top advisers say they no longer believe the key finding of a much disputed National Intelligence Estimate about Iran…which said that Iranian scientists ended all work on designing a nuclear warhead in late 2003….Obama’s advisers say they believe the work on weapons design is continuing on a smaller scale – the same assessment reached by Britain, France, Germany and Israel.”
- In November 2011 the IAEA reported: “Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information.” In short, the intelligence indicates the Iranians did not stop all work on weaponization.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Thomas Joscelyn – Weekly Standard)