Friday, March 23, 2012

Rest easy: Reuters promises "Iran nuclear threat not imminent" (updated)

In previous stories, Reuters correspondents Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball (the latter having joined Reuters recently from the self-acknowledged left-wing and bankrupt Newsweek magazine), have gone to extraordinary lengths to assure the public that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons and that the real danger to peace and global security is an unpredictable and belligerent (shitty little?) country whose leaders go around making "provocative public comments" about Iran's nuclear program.

Zakaria and Hosenball are back today with yet another completely unsubstantiated story, drawn they say, "from extensive [anonymous] interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran", in an effort to once again downplay the Iranian threat:
(Reuters) - The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead. 
Reuters has learned that in late 2006 or early 2007, U.S. intelligence intercepted telephone and email communications in which Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading figure in Iran's nuclear program, and other scientists complained that the weaponization program had been stopped.
That led to a bombshell conclusion in a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate: American spy agencies had "high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003.
Current and former U.S. officials say they are confident that Iran has no secret uranium-enrichment site outside the purview of U.N. nuclear inspections.
They also have confidence that any Iranian move toward building a functional nuclear weapon would be detected long before a bomb was made.
These intelligence findings are what underpin President Barack Obama's argument that there is still time to see whether economic sanctions will compel Iran's leaders to halt any program.
Unfortunately for Zakaria and Hosenball, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), cited by the pair of Reuters correspondents in a previous story when they felt the organization was officially dubious of Iran's progress toward a nuclear bomb, has just published a new paper arguing that National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) on Iran's nuclear program are today far more comprehensive in their methodology and scope than they were in 2007, when Iran was assessed to have suspended its drive for the bomb:
ISIS has learned in researching and discussing the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran that important differences exist from the 2007 NIE on Iran’s capability to make a nuclear weapon.  The 2007 declassified NIE specifically noted that it did not take into account Iran’s “declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment” when assessing the status of its nuclear weapons program.  The new NIE does not distinguish between declared and undeclared enrichment activities when considering Iran’s nuclear weapons capability.  In doing so, the new NIE more accurately values the impact that Iran’s advancements in its gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program, declared or otherwise, have on its capability to decide to make highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.  This acknowledges that Iran’s capability to make highly enriched uranium, as represented by the declared elements of its uranium enrichment program, influences any political decision to make nuclear weapons. The new NIE includes that Iran could be furthering its development of components for nuclear weapons while reportedly assessing that not enough activity has occurred on weaponization to justify a determination that Iran has made a decision to restart its nuclear weaponization program or build a bomb [...]
Emphasizing the old approach of whether Iran’s nuclear weaponization program has restarted appears more aimed at defending the poor methodologies popularized in the declassified 2007 NIE. This approach also ignores that Iran is judged by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (and stated in internal IAEA documents) to have likely accumulated enough knowledge prior to 2004 to be able to construct a crude nuclear explosive device, suitable for underground testing and simple delivery systems. This capability would mean that the time is relatively short between when a nuclear weaponization program would take possession of enough weapon-grade uranium for a device and when a crude device could be assembled—on order of six months or less.
In other words, while U.S. intelligence agencies may not formally declare that Iran has taken a decision to build a bomb, that doesn't mean the regime is not in the process of continuing to develop components for the bomb -- which could lead to the assembly and delivery of a bomb within six months.

Now, don't you feel better?

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