Today’s posting is more about questions than answers. I’m linking to Ami Isseroff’s post about the Iranian nuclear issue. While asserting little one way or the other, Ami raises questions about the reliability of the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released the other day, which concluded with “high confidence” that Iran halted its effort to develop a nuclear weapon in 2003— likely in response to aggressive US actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
If the NIE is accurate, this Iranian step back from a nuclear abyss is consistent with the reported overture from Iran for a deal that promised an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons ambition and even to move toward peaceful relations with Israel in return for the Bush administration’s promise to remove Iran from the “Axis of Evil” and to normalize relations. This would have been similar to the deal the US made soon after with Libya. The Bush administration may have arrogantly dropped the ball at that time by not responding positively.
This was during the tenure of the moderate Iranian president, Khatami, who was replaced a couple of years later by the bombastic and provocative Ahmadinejad. The latter may well be a religious extremist and political crazy man, but we know that the president is not the man in charge in Iran’s theocratic system; instead, it’s the religious “Supreme Leader” Kameni who is believed to regard Ahmadinejad’s dangerous and obnoxious antics with some disdain.
If the new NIE lowers the temperature and draws us back from dueling threats and rumors of war with Iran, this is a good thing. If the NIE is inaccurate or outdated and Iran is feverishly working to develop nuclear weapons with diabolical intent, God help us. My inclination is to hope that it’s correct and that it appreciably lowers tensions and even triggers a diplomatic process with a Libya-like result.