It’s not only conservatives who are troubled by the new National Intelligence Estimate. So are many liberals. According to this Los Angeles Times article, the ranks of the critics include my Council on Foreign Relations colleagues Ray Takeyh and Gary Samore as well as Sharon Squassoni of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Clinton National Security Adviser Tony Lake.
They make essentially the same point that I and other, more conservative skeptics have made: The NIE puts too much stock in Iran stopping its “nuclear weapons program” while downplaying the fact that Iran continues to enrich uranium as part of a supposedly civilian nuclear-energy program that could, in reality, be turned to military use fairly easily.
The NIE seems to let Iran off the hook, thereby undercutting efforts to push tough sanctions and perhaps to make a diplomatic breakthrough. Ironically, the net result of the NIE may be to make military action more, not less, likely. If the international community slacks off on efforts to contain Iran—as now seems increasingly likely—a future U.S. president is more likely to be confronted with the unpalatable alternatives of either allowing Iran to go nuclear or ordering air strikes to stop it.