The left-leaning Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that, according to Western and Israeli sources, “President Barack Obama recently received a new National Intelligence Estimate report on the Iranian nuclear program, which shares Israel’s view that Iran has made surprising, significant progress toward military nuclear capability.”
The White House is not commenting on the report, which would be a complete turnabout from the infamous 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that asserted Iran had dropped its nuclear weapons program. (I suppose that for five years we’ve been pursuing a policy for no good reason? The 2007 NIE report stands as a tribute and warning regarding the determined obliviousness of our national intelligence apparatus.)
Israeli Defense Secretary Ehud Barak reacted to the news report:
There probably really is such an American intelligence report — I don’t know if it is an NIE one — making its way around senior offices (in Washington),” Barak told Israel Radio.
“As far as we know it brings the American assessment much closer to ours ... it makes the Iranian issue even more urgent and (shows it is) less clear and certain that we will know everything in time about their steady progress toward military nuclear capability.”
Israel sees an atomic armed Iran as a threat to its existence and there is persistent speculation over whether it will launch a pre-emptive military strike against the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities.
Tehran denies it is seeking to build the bomb, saying it is enriching uranium only for peaceful purposes.
Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, says little time remains before Iran achieves a “zone of immunity” in which Israeli bombs would be unable to penetrate deeply buried uranium enrichment facilities.
Whether there is a new NIE report or not, no responsible policymaker thinks the 2007 NIE is accurate. If not a new NIE, then the leaking of a purported new NIE will have the effect of increasing pressure on the Obama administration, which has yet to concede that sanctions haven’t done what they were designed to do, namely force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Foreign policy experts can debate whether a sanctions strategy was flawed from its inception, incorrectly assessing the motivations of the Iranian regime, or they can debate whether the execution of sanctions policy (too slow, too porous) was to blame. But we are more than 3 1/2 years into the Obama administration, and Iran is much closer to its goal than at the start. By any reasonable measure, the Obama approach has been a failure, whatever the NIE report might say.