By now, you are probably aware that the National Intelligence Council earlier this week released a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding the latest assessments of Iran 's nuclear program by the U.S. Intelligence Community.
On television and radio, much has been made about the contents of the NIE. Because the implications of this issue are so important, we thought you might appreciate some guidance from us about what the NIE says and what it does not say as well as some analysis about where we go from here in our ongoing efforts to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and cease its support for and funding of terrorism.
We suggest you begin by reviewing the text of the unclassified version of the NIE, which is a very readable nine-page report.
Some points to keep in mind while reading the NIE:
Iran 's nuclear program – which has been found in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by two U.N. Security Council resolutions – continues. According to the NIE, Iran 's nuclear efforts could lead to weaponization at the time of its choosing. In fact, the NIE confirms that Iran is "keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons."
Iran continues to push forward with its long-range missile and warhead development programs and uranium enrichment. In light of the NIE's findings cited above, these facts force us to question Iran 's intentions going forward.
The NIE concludes that Iran 's decision to close down its weaponization program in the fall of 2003 "was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure," and that "only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons – and such a decision is inherently reversible."
If Iran has made the political decision to not pursue weaponization at this time, and if that reversible decision was based largely on international pressure, it only makes sense that such pressure continue and even increase. Tough sanctions offer the best hope to dissuade Iran from resuming its nuclear weapons program.
Israeli Defense Minister and Labor Party Leader Ehud Barak said in response to the publication of the NIE, "It is apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a certain period of time. But in our estimation, since then it is apparently continuing with its program."
Aside from the issue of Iran 's nuclear aspirations, it behooves us to remember that Iran is still known to be the world's largest state sponsor of terror and the main benefactor of Hizballah and Hamas. The NIE does not deal with Iran 's well-documented history of bad acts on the world stage.