In a remarkable interview with Time, CIA Director Leon Panetta reveals that the U.S. has known about the secret Qom site, built into the side of a mountain, since 2006. This raises a number of questions.
First, that 2007 National Intelligence Estimate looks absurd — and entirely disingenuous — in retrospect. The 2007 report led us to believe that the military program had been discontinued. The report was issued a year after we first knew of the facility. Sure there remained some questions (it could have been a dummy site to conceal another secret site someplace else), but we at least knew that ”the Iranians moved an anti-aircraft battery to the site, a clear sign that something important was being built there.” It is rather hard to justify, then, a report that declared with “high confidence” that any weapons program had been halted. And recall that the definition of “weapons program” included “covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work.” Just like Qom.
It would seem the 2007 NIE was wrong, maybe intentionally so. You would think a major intelligence failure regarding a rogue state’s nuclear capabilities — another one — would trigger demands for a full-scale investigation. So far, no one in Congress or the White House seems very perturbed that we got it so wrong.
Second, why was Obama pursuing his engagement gambit knowing what he did about Iran’s covert nuclear site? After all, “By the spring, there was little doubt left about what exactly was being constructed in the mountain (Iran has declared that the plant is not yet operational, and U.S. officials have agreed with that assessment).” This was before the June 12 election, mind you. No hint was given publicly and nothing at all was altered in our approach to the Great Leader. Well, you see, we were waiting to “put on the table when Iran finally agreed to talk to the major six powers.” Huh? We have been talking to the Iranians for years. And if they never sat down, we would have remained mute forever? It is mind-numbingly silly — unless of course the gambit was to avoid confrontation and do as little as possible to rally opinion of the “international community” against Iran.
Both the 2007 NIE report and the behavior of the Obama administration betray a concerted aversion to confronting Iran and doing what is needed to halt its nuclear ambitions. Now that Qom is revealed, the public and America’s allies have a better understanding, if they were previously confused, about Iran’s intentions. But they also have a glimpse into the thinking of the American intelligence community and now the entire Obama administration. The goal it seems has been not to pinpoint the Iranian threat so it can be removed but to conceal it so we need not even try to.