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Iran's nuclear weapons: what happened?

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Robin Lustig | 23:53 UK time, Monday, 3 December 2007

I won't make a habit of urging you to read US National Intelligence Estimates, but this one is pretty interesting stuff. You know that Iranian nuclear weapons programme that Washington has been so worried about? Turns out it was stopped four years ago. Go to the bit headed "Key Judgments" and judge for yourself.

Comments

  1. At 12:51 AM on 04 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    Robin Lustig's blog: what happened? It seems to have died almost at birth.

    OK, this might be my last try on this blog since my recent postings about Kosovo didn't get published and nobody follows this anyway. (Why did Dan Damon bother to solicit comments at all, nobody who replied was ever published?)

    American intelligence hasn't been very reliable lately. It completely missed Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program as did the UN inspectors. This was a program Hussein was supposed to reveal as a condition of the truce in 1991. In fact it might never have been discovered had his brother-in-law who ran it not spilled the beans in Jordan in 1995.

    Was American intelligence wrong about Saddam Hussein's WMDs (chemical and biological) in 2002? I didn't think so until revelations about the Iraqi (mis)informant code named "Curveball" were published. Interesting spy story.

    US intelligence didn't know much about Libya's nuclear weapons program until it voluntarily gave it up. We learned after the fact it was far more advanced than anyone thought.

    The US missed the ball on North Korea, giving away the store during the Clinton Administration, believing the lies NK told about not developing nuclear weapons and then waking up one day to find NK had one even if it turned out to be a dud.

    So now we are supposed to risk the security of the United States on the hope that organizations proven very unreliable at getting at the truth are right when they say that Iran is not developing an atomic bomb. Then why does it behave the way it does leading its most likely targets to believe it is a threat? Why doesn't it fully open up to inspections of all its facilities on demand? Is it making the same mistake Saddam Hussein made feeling it can bully its way in the world if it makes its adversaries think it is far closer to having one than it really does? That would be the same dumb blunder. Intelligence guesstimates notwithstanding, those in positions of responsibility including the military understanding the consequences of an unexpected attack will not allow this cloud to hang over the US indefinitely. (In Israel, their military will feel the same way.) So far, Iran is still on a path to war with the US and Israel.

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  2. At 01:10 PM on 04 Dec 2007, Ryan wrote:

    A few years ago in Northern Ireland I remember Ian Paisley proudly proclaiming that he would first review the outcome of the independent report on the IRA's decommissioning programme, and then decide if he had confidence in the investigation process. That logic made me laugh then, and as I see it here again it makes me laugh now. Do correct me if I'm wrong Mark, if you're a blanket cynic of all official information released by U.S. authorities then I have no complaints, but I think it likely that you wouldn't be so damning of their competence if they had given some evidence to support your call for bombing the hell out of Iran "before it's too late."

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  3. At 02:49 AM on 05 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    Ryan, can you think of even one good reason why the US should not bomb the hell out of Iran? I can't. I don't know who you are or where you live but are you willing to risk the security of the United States of America on the chance that for once these intelligence people know what they are talking about? I'm not.

    I was very glad to see President Bush and many other Americans dismiss this report today as not being even close to difinitive enough to do much more than raise a few eyebrows. If you are not in the US or didn't catch BBC World's report last night when they first broke the story you missed their cheerleading. Ding dong the witch is dead. This will pull the rug right out from under President Bush's plans to bomb Iran. We're all safe now, there won't be a war with Iran. Well not so fast. I'm hardly the only one not buying it and a good thing too. If the US does not bomb Iran with conventional weapons, Israel will bomb them with nuclear weapons, a far worse prospect. The Israelis aren't buying this for one second. Their government spokesman made it clear as politely as he could but he left no doubt Israel continues to watch Iran with grave concern. I think the US military will also. Surprisingly, the French and British government don't seem to be buying it either. Remarkable.

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  4. At 08:00 AM on 05 Dec 2007, Ryan wrote:

    Mark,
    There were another two paragraphs to my post in which I went on to qualify my position something like this: "Of course I'm not suggesting that the U.S. and the world community sit back and give Iran the five years or so of peace and quiet it needs to finally finish its bomb, that would be simple stupidity. However I think there are outcomes much more beneficial to both sides which can be achieved without bombing the hell out of anyone." I cut these paragraphs in order to keep dicussion relevant to this particular post, which is about trust in / accuracy of U.S. intelligence reports.

    I don't technically know who you are or where you live either, but you've certainly made your opinions clear many times on this blog. Don't get me wrong, I think that at the end of the day your brand of political realism is what a government needs must act on in the international arena. On the other hand, my "one good reason" for not bombing the hell out of Iran would probably be something like, "Lots of innocent people will die". Accusations of naivity aside, I hope you can agree that in principle we should avoid killing innocents if possible. Our point of difference would then be that I think it is possible in this situation, quite possible indeed.

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  5. At 12:35 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    Most people remember that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Israel should be wiped off the map. What they may have forgotten is that he also said he'd like to see a world without America. This sounds like a direct threat to me. Combine this with a secret nuclear program (what has Iran got to hide if it is not interested in developing nuclear weapons, why doesn't it make its nuclear program transparent, why is is burried deep underground) his active support of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, the cruel theocratic state his government runs, his expressed desire to create a Shia Caliphate in the region and around the world, his government's continued enrichment of uranium with 3000 centerfuges in contravention of an explicit directive of the Security Council, and the assessment of one intelligence report in the United States that there is high confidence that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 but there is no certain knowledge that it hasn't been started up again doesn't carry much weight with many Americans. As far as they are concerned, the doomsday clock is still ticking.

    Have Iranians suffered at the hands of America's government? Yes. The regime of the Shah with America's support was one case. Why was it done? Because it was necessary for the US to contain the USSR during the cold war so that it didn't develop into a hot war which would have brought about the end of all humanity. It was the lesser of the evils, the greater good not just for America but for everyone. Ironically, if you were not interested in politics and overthrowing the dictatorship, Iran was a pretty good place to be during the Shah's regime. There were plenty of opportunities to make money and western culture was the norm. It was America's weakness that allowed Ayatollah Koumenhi to take power and create an Islamic Revolutionary government which has tried to send Iran back to the ninth century. Iranians have hardly benefitted. The war with Iraq was Saddam Hussein's response to the threat of a Shia domination of his country and the imposition of an Iranian puppet dictatorship to replace his own. The US supported Iraq because even with its superior army, Iraq couldn't withstand Iran's human wave attacks in which tens of thousands of children, many not even armed were sent against Iraq's army. It was America's strategy to maintain a stalemate between them. It worked...for awhile anyway. I think there are about 2 million Iranians and their descendants living in the US, about half in the Los Angeles area. Naturally many have divided loyalties but I think most are not happy with Iran's current regime. It doesn't seem very popular in Iran either where most of the population is young and ambitions. Economic sanctions to stifle their economy is designed to increase this dissatisfaction with hope of forcing the regime to alter course or for the population to revolt and overthrow it. I don't think it will work though, the Clerics' grip on power is too strong.

    Yes, regime change from within would be far preferable to war but ultimately, the primary responsibility of any government is the physical protection of its own population. Given the realities of the age of nuclear weapons and the consequences of an attack, the US government under the current circumstances has only one choice open and that is a pre-emptive first strike to neutralize the threat one way or another. The only reason it hasn't happend so far is that the Bush Administration is waiting until the last possible moment hoping against hope there is another way out. It hardly matters who is president, any American in that position will likely take the same steps when the time comes. If he (or she) doesn't, as President Kennedy found out, the military may take matters into its own hands. The Cuban missile crisis leads to the strong conclusion that if the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe the US is under imminent danger of being attacked and the President fails to act, they will act for him and that includes use of any and all of their full range of assets, including a nuclear first strike. What a terrible day it will be for the world if it ever comes to that.

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  6. At 03:51 PM on 08 Dec 2007, trevor batten wrote:

    # At 12:35 PM on 05 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    "Yes, regime change from within would be far preferable to war but ultimately, the primary responsibility of any government is the physical protection of its own population. Given the realities of the age of nuclear weapons and the consequences of an attack, the US government under the current circumstances has only one choice open and that is a pre-emptive first strike to neutralize the threat one way or another."

    I wonder if people like him can ever understand that the same is true of other coun tries too. So presumably, the only choice the whole world has is to get involved in a ratrace to see who can get in the most devastating pre-emptive strike first.

    Is that what Mike wants ?

    Apparently its fine for America to nuke others -but the idea of others threatening them seems too much fort them to face. In the schoolyard such a person is called a cowardly bully.


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  7. At 02:22 AM on 14 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    trevor batten #6

    I don't recall America ever saying it wanted a world without Iran. But I do remember that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that he would like a world without America, the Great Satan. And no matter how you spin this latest NIA report, it has no credibility, certainly not enough to stake the risk of an Iranian nuclear attack on the US on. If it was right two years ago when it said Iran had an active nuclear weapons program then, how can it also be right now when it says Iran shut its nuclear weapons program down four years ago? If it was wrong then, why believe it is right now? This latest version flies in the face of Iran's other actions and words.

    The good news is that the US undoubtedly has enough conventional weapons with precision guidance systems to take out all of Iran's nuclear weapons research and manufacturing capabilities without resorting to the use of nuclear weapons itself. The bad news is that if the US doesn't use it, Israel doesn't have that capability and will eventually launch a nuclear first strike as a matter of self preservation. BTW, they don't believe the NIA report either. So the stark choice is an American conventional strike or an Israeli nuclear strike. The two nations can't play chicken forever hoping the other will jump first. Sooner or later one of them will act. For all our sakes, let's hope it's the US.

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  8. At 02:26 AM on 14 Dec 2007, Mark wrote:

    trevor batten #6

    I don't recall America ever saying it wanted a world without Iran. But I do remember that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that he would like a world without America, the Great Satan. And no matter how you spin this latest NIA report, it has no credibility, certainly not enough to stake the risk of an Iranian nuclear attack on the US on. If it was right two years ago when it said Iran had an active nuclear weapons program then, how can it also be right now when it says Iran shut its nuclear weapons program down four years ago? If it was wrong then, why believe it is right now? This latest version flies in the face of Iran's other actions and words.

    The good news is that the US undoubtedly has enough conventional weapons with precision guidance systems to take out all of Iran's nuclear weapons research and manufacturing capabilities without resorting to the use of nuclear weapons itself. The bad news is that if the US doesn't use it, Israel doesn't have that capability and will eventually launch a nuclear first strike as a matter of self preservation. BTW, they don't believe the NIA report either. So the stark choice is an American conventional strike or an Israeli nuclear strike. The two nations can't play chicken forever hoping the other will jump first. Sooner or later one of them will act. For all our sakes, let's hope it's the US.

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