On the plus side, the U.S. intelligence community can acknowledge a foolish mistake and reverse its position when necessary. As Emanuele explained yesterday, the outrageous NIE report on Iran from last year has finally found its way into the dustbin. And now it’s official:
[R]etired admiral Mike McConnell, later said it had been a mistake to make public the key judgements of the intelligence assessment because it suggested Iran was no longer pursuing nuclear weapons. Asked about it at a Senate hearing, Blair acknowledged it was a difficult question to deal with in a public setting. “I can say at this point that Iran is clearly developing all the components of a deliverable nuclear weapons program — fissionable material, nuclear weaponizing capability and the means to deliver it,” he said.
The problem is President Obama’s national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, didn’t promise much in his annual threat assessment to Congress. Will Iran’s program be stopped? It’s not up to the international community – or to America – to decide whether Iran develops nuclear weapons or not, Blair explained. It’s up to Iran. And while nobody wants Iran to go nuclear, Blair can’t say if international effort (and “engagement”) has any chance of advancing this cause: “Whether they take it all the way to nuclear weapons and become a nuclear power will depend a great deal on their own internal decisions,” he said.
Internal decisions – namely the outcome of Iran’s election? Blair didn’t say. But even in the event that Muhammad Khatami becomes Iran’s president, it’s hard to imagine a change of heart on the nuclear issue – as even the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of the so-called reformist leader will admit. As Blair put it:
They are, to be sure, a hard people to deal with, suspicious of others (the Americans and British once staged a coup against a duly elected Iranian president), and prickly about their pride. They want a nuclear program and, quite likely, a nuclear weapon, and there isn’t much that will stop them.
And that’s just a subtle way of saying that we shouldn’t try too hard.