The Post reports:
Intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings.
Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction, the officials and experts said. Crucial technology linked to experts in Pakistan and North Korea also helped propel Iran to the threshold of nuclear capability, they added.
Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute concurs that this is confirmation of just how derelict has been the U.S. intelligence community: “Well, this certainly makes mincemeat out of the previous National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons program — the one that concluded ‘with high confidence’ that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.”
Having failed to identify the ongoing threat of an Iranian weapons program, those same voice now are concerned the West might experience an “overeaction.”
Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy e-mailed me: “The Iranian regime has faced damaging economic pressure from energy and financial sanctions. We still however are a long way from the crippling sanctions on Iranian oil sales that could have made a difference to the regime’s strategic calculus. Despite this economic pressure, [Supreme Leader] Ali Khamenei appears to have decided that a nuclear bomb is a guarantor of regime survival and seems in no mood to compromise. After years of sanctions and diplomacy, and an IAEA report that suggests that Iran is now on the brink of nuclear capability, no one can reasonably argue that countries threatened by Iran have not tried all peaceful alternatives.”
In other words, our time line on sanctions seems to be lagging the timeline on the Iranians’ nuclear program. How many weeks or months will it take to get those more exacting sanctions? And even if passed, are we too late to impede the Iranians from completing their work?
I asked Schmitt’s AEI colleague Thomas Donnelly if we should be alarmed by this report. He answered: “What’s really scary is how poor our intelligence is. Even if it’s not politicized, although you have to wonder about that, the idea that we know and will know with precision what’s going on with Iran’s program, and therefore can have a finely calibrated policy in response, is silly. Not just silly but dangerous; our ability to miss the forest for the trees will yield the traditional ‘strategic surprise.’ Then we will be forced to try to deter Iran, but in reality we’ll be the object of deterrence all across the region.”
The administration has been spinning a fairy tale, namely that sanctions are “working” and Iran is “isolated” like never before. In fact, we’re on the verge of a national-security calamity. Soon, it seems, we’ll be presented with a choice: Accept a nuclear-armed Iran or take military action.
Schmitt cautions, “The problem the West and Israel now face is that, while an attack might stop Tehran for awhile in building a bomb, the Iranian program has been matured to the point that is seems likely that the Iranians have all the technical know-how needed for rebuilding any part of the weapons program that might be destroyed in an attack. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t attack but it does mean that, absent regime change, you will likely be facing a similar problem down the road.” The administration, of course, booted the best chance for regime change when it failed to back the Green Movement fully in 2009.
The Obama team has been congratulating itself on its supposed foreign policy prowess. They got Osama bin Laden. Moammar Gadaffi is dead. And our troops are leaving (abandoning?) Iraq. But nothing — no foreign policy flub, no economic miscalculation, no ethics scandal — would come close to the magnitude of the failure to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Two presidents have vowed that it is unacceptable for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. It would change the dynamic in the Middle East, confirming the preeminence of Iran and placing Israel in mortal danger. Obama’s pipe dream of a nuclear-free world would be dashed. This administration would go down in history not for its economic incompetence or its hyper-partisanship but as the gang that let the mullahs get the bomb. So what are they going to do to prevent that?