Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on June 13, 2012.(DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett)
On Tuesday, the Post published a Reuters article containing this boilerplate about the dispute over Iran's nuclear program: "The United States and the European Union believe that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is strictly for civilian purposes."
The article leaves unsaid who is supposed to be speaking for "the United States," but it can't be the U.S. intelligence community, which has reported since 2007 that Iran isn't working on a nuclear weapon. Even the hawkish Israeli government has acknowledged that Iran has NOT made a decision to build a nuclear weapon.
As ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern has noted, this intelligence judgment also has been expressed by high-profile figures in the defense establishments of the two countries -- U.S. Defense Secretary (and former CIA Director) Leon Panetta and Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
In an article entitled "US/Israel: Iran NOT Building Nukes," McGovern wrote:
"You might think that you would have heard more about that, wouldn't you? U.S. and Israel agree that Iran is NOT building a nuclear bomb. However, this joint assessment that Iran has NOT decided to build a nuclear bomb apparently represented too big a change in the accepted narrative for ... the FCM [Fawning Corporate Media] to process."
McGovern cited an interview by Barak on Jan. 18 in which the Israeli Defense Minister was asked:
Question: "Is it Israel's judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?"
Barak: "... confusion stems from the fact that people ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now ... in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case..."
Question: "How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?"
Barak: "I don't know; one has to estimate. ... Some say a year, others say 18 months. It doesn't really matter. To do that, Iran would have to announce it is leaving the [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection regime and stop responding to IAEA's criticism, etc.
"Why haven't they [the Iranians] done that? Because they realize that ... when it became clear to everyone that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, this would constitute definite proof that time is actually running out. This could generate either harsher sanctions or other action against them. They do not want that."
In a Jan. 19 article about Barak's interview, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz summed up the Israeli view as follows:
"The intelligence assessment ... indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.
"The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon -- or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision."- Advertisement -
McGovern noted that Barak in the interview appeared to be identifying himself with the consistent assessment of the U.S. intelligence community since late 2007 that Iran has not made a decision to go forward with a nuclear bomb. The formal National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 -- a consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies -- stated:
"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; ... Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005."
Despite complaints about the NIE from some American and Israeli war hawks, senior U.S. officials have continued to stand by it. Defense Secretary Panetta raised the topic himself in an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Jan. 8.
Panetta said "the responsible thing to do right now is to keep putting diplomatic and economic pressure on them [the Iranians] ... and to make sure that they do not make the decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear weapon."