Newsweek: US Intelligence Finds no Evidence of Iranian N-Weapons Program

Newsweek is reporting that the US intelligence community continues to assess that Iran is not working on getting a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its nuclear energy research program is for the purpose of producing fuel for the Bushehr reactors when their construction is complete. I.e. they are seeking an “exotic way of boiling water” (the ironic definition of nuclear power for electricity generation). As far as US intelligence can tell, the Iranian claim is correct. The Israelis and Germans are wild men on this issue, but a) the US has better intelligence on the nuclear issue than do they; b) the Israeli and German intelligence agencies got Iraq badly wrong; c) Israel in particular wants to strike Iran for political reasons, to take it down a notch, and may be seeing the raw intelligence through that lens.

The other news is about so-called suppressed documents in the files at the International Atomic Energy Agency, which are alleged to show a nuclear weapons research program. Gareth Porter argues convincingly that the reason that the IAEA never took the documents seriously is that there is every reason to think they are forgeries, perhaps by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) political cult, which wants to have the US overthrow the clerical regime in Tehran so that MEK can take over the country.

As for the Western press leaks that Iran now has enough nuclear material to make a bomb or now has the technical ability to make a bomb, both are nonsense. You need to enrich uranium to 90% to make a bomb. Iran claims to be able to enrich to 4% and a lot of observers think that is an exaggeration. So ipso facto Iran cannot possibly have produced enough fissile material for a bomb. Moreover, you need to have a weapons program trying to enrich to 90% to produce a bomb, which Iran does not have, from everything US intelligence can discover. Either the journalists are being fed fraudulent documents or they are just orally being misled.

Many American Jewish organizations are dismayed by the right-wing Likud Party’s beating of war drums against Iran.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is putting pressure on Iran about its nuclear research.

I talked with MSNBC’s Alex Witt on Saturday about Iran’s nuclear research program:

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7 Responses

  1. I wonder how confident you are that US intelligence on Iran's nuclear program is much better than German or Israeli intelligence. When I was PDAS in State INR, it was my impression that we had relatively little credible intelligence on Iran on just about any subject and that we were deeply dependent on Israel, and to a much lesser extent, on Germany for information on Iran. It bothered me considerably the degree of dependence on Israeli sources because I always felt they slanted what they shared with us to conform with their agenda, not ours. As for Iraq, one reason we had such poor intelligence there is that our main source disappeared when Saddam expelled the UN monitors. After that, we had little or no sources on Iraq.

  2. Here's what I've never understood:
    Even IF Iran had a single, curde bomb and they used it against Israel, doesn't Iran then get blown to smithereens?

    Even if Iran was willing to be destroyed, wouldn't they be killing Palestinians and arab-Israelis by striking Israel?

  3. Great post today on Iran and nukes, with lots of great cites. I have just one tiny quibble which we've had before: there is a reasonable sense in which one can say Iran has "enough enriched uranium for a bomb" even when all they have is a pile of 4% enriched. We've been through this on Informed Comment before:

    link to

    You are totally right that this argument is often inflected in an inflammatory manner (like just about everything else). But reporters who state this idea precisely are not ignoramuses and we'll earn no points calling them that :-)

  4. At what point does the paradigm shift from crediting the threateners as the good guys, and the threatened as the bad guys, to at least discrediting the threateners.

    Israel, and strong political forces in the US, want to attack Iran to prevent it from having nuclear weapons that Iran does not seem to covet or pursue. In abstract theory, the assumption is that if Iran had nuclear weapons, it would behave as aggressively as the US (Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, aiding Hussein's attack on Iran) and Israel(Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, West Bank).

    In the eyes of the threateners attacking Iran would be a just war because Iran is being coy about its nuclear program. On the other hand there is no greater coyness in world politics than Israel's unspoken, unmentioned, uncontested, and totally rubber stamped nuclear weapons arsenal.

    So we go to the table telling Iran don't do as we do, do as we say. Then we expect Iran to respect us because a country with 5000 nuclear weapons can't be called a hypocrite.

  5. While entitled to our own opinions, we don't get to make up our facts, if we want our opinions to be any good.

    Saddam never "expelled the UN monitors." Richard Butler accused Saddam Hussein of obstructing them – in 5 of 300 cases – and then when Bill Clinton said he was going to bomb Iraq, Butler withdrew them. Then Saddam Hussein refused to authorize their re-entry, on the ground that they were being used for espionage in excess, and indeed in violation, of their mission – and this was later proven true.

    Again in 2003, Iraq was accused of expelling the inspectors by such men of truth as George Bush, but in fact they were withdrawn the day before the invasion to keep them from being killed by that invasion.

  6. Are you trying to tell me/us that G.W. Bush lied?

    How dare you…!!!


  7. I actually think the best and most informed interviewer on foreign policy may be Scott Horton of antiwar radio. That's a damning indictment of the msm that a pirate radio show tunrs out better content than any other source.


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