The November National Intelligence Estimate on Iran declared flatly in its opening sentence that ‘We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear-weapons program.”
This was remarkably deceptive. The statement was accompanied by a disclaimer buried in a footnote saying that “For the purposes of this Estimate, by ‘nuclear weapons program’ we mean Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran’s declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.”
In other words, the NIE reached its conclusion that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program had come to a halt by describing uranium-enrichment efforts as civilian.
One surprise of the tour was the presence of Iran’s defense minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar. His attendance struck some analysts as odd given Iran’s claim that the desert labors are entirely peaceful in nature. In one picture, Mr. Najjar, smiling widely, appears to lead the presidential retinue.
Also participating in the tour was Mossein Mohseni Ejehei, Iran’s minister of intelligence. The caption indicating his presence is mysterious absent from the Times‘s website, but is included in the printed edition of the paper.
The presence of the defense and intelligence ministers on this tour, with the defense minister appearing to lead it, are not definitive indicators of anything. But they do surely cast strong additional doubt on the NIE’s flat contention that the enrichment effort is only “civil work.”
The more we learn about the NIE, the more it appears to be a disgrace. Ranking U.S. officials have already contradicted its findings in their public statements. But it’s clear that it needs to be officially withdrawn, and its authors reprimanded for botching it, undermining U.S. foreign policy, and badly embarrassing U.S. intelligence yet again.