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Blair repeated verbatim the 2007 judgment that Iran is "keeping the option open to develop nuclear weapons," and repeated the intelligence community's agnosticism on the $64 question: "We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."
Addressing the uranium enrichment plant at Qom, Blair pointed out that its small size and location under a mountain "fit nicely with a strategy of keeping the option open to build a nuclear weapon at some future date, if Tehran ever decides to do that."
Such "advancements lead us to affirm our judgment from the 2007 NIE that Iran is technically capable of producing enough HEU [highly enriched uranium] for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so."
Notably absent from Blair's testimony was the first "high confidence" judgment of the 2007 NIE that "in fall 2003 Iran halted its nuclear weapons program," and the "moderate confidence" assessment that Iran had not restarted it.
These were the most controversial judgments in 2007. Blair did not disavow them; he just didn't mention them--probably in an attempt to let sleeping dogs lie. Less likely, Blair may have chosen to sequester for closed session any discussion of "recent evidence" bearing on these key judgments. It is likely that Blair was aware of the doubts that would be raised by Amano's IAEA report just two weeks later.
As if the considered judgments of the intelligence community had no weight, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was quick to cite the IAEA report to charge that Iran is pursuing "a nuclear weapons program with the purpose of evasion." Presumably, she was merely repeating the talking points given to her boss a week ago on her way to the Middle East.
Speaking a week ago in Qatar, Secretary Hillary Clinton expressed her deep concern at "accumulating evidence" that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon--as though deterrence is a thing of the past. On the question of what kind of threat the "accumulating evidence" poses to the U.S., Clinton inadvertently spilled the beans.
The evidence is deeply concerning, she said, not because it "directly threatens the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends"--read Israel. Recall that Clinton is on record saying the she would "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon. It is de rigueur never to mention the 200-300 nuclear weapons already in Israel's arsenal.
Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow at the Arms Control Association, notes that it would be far better if the U.S. would stress that Iran's right to uranium enrichment, consistent with Non-Proliferation Treaty Article IV, is contingent on Iran's adherence to the treaty's Articles I, II, and III.
Thielmann notes that Iran has no inherent right to uranium enrichment while it is violating its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Yet this point is being lost by the West's unqualified emphasison the demand that uranium enrichment be suspended, and inconsistent U.S. statements about Iran's intention to develop nuclear weapons. Consequently, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can posture that the West is just trying to keep Iran down and deny it the rights guaranteed under the NPT.
Deja Iraq All Over Again
On June 5, 2008, then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Jay Rockefeller made some remarkable comments that got sparse attention in the Fawning Corporate Media in the United States. Announcing the findings of a bipartisan report of a multi-year study on misstatements on prewar intelligence on Iraq, Rockefeller said:
"In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was muchgreaterthan actually existed."
For God's sake, spare us such "intelligence" on Iran.
This article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com