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US Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work

 The fact that this National Intelligence Estimate has made it into the
public domain can ony be very good news.
Bush and Cheney must be livid with frustration.

*US Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work*

By Mark Mazzetti

The New York Times

Monday 3 December 2007

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/world/middleeast/03cnd-iran.html
<http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/world/middleeast/03cnd-iran.html>

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies
concludes that Iran
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/iran/index.html?inline=nyt-geo>
halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains
frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working
relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final
year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran's nuclear
program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.

The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the
consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is
likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but
that intelligence agencies "do not know whether it currently intends to
develop nuclear weapons."

Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the
Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new
estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with
enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle
of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.

But the new estimate declares with "high confidence" that a military-run
Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear
weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence
that the halt "was directed primarily in response to increasing
international scrutiny and pressure."

The estimate does not say when American intelligence agencies learned
that the weapons program had been halted, but a statement issued by
Donald Kerr, the principal director of national intelligence, said the
document was being made public "since our understanding of Iran's
capabilities has changed."

Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to
join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran's
"decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a
weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs." The
administration called new attention to the threat posed by Iran earlier
this year when President Bush had suggested in October that a
nuclear-armed Iran could lead to "World War III" and Vice President Dick
Cheney
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/dick_cheney/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
promised "serious consequences" if the government in Tehran did not
abandon its nuclear program.

Yet at the same time officials were airing these dire warnings about the
Iranian threat, analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/central_intelligence_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
were secretly concluding that Iran's nuclear weapons work halted years
ago and that international pressure on the Islamic regime in Tehran was
working.

Senator Harry Reid
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/harry_reid/index.html?inline=nyt-per>
, the majority leader, portrayed the assessment as "directly challenging
some of this administration's alarming rhetoric about the threat posed
by Iran." He said he hoped the administration "appropriately adjusts its
rhetoric and policy," and called for a "a diplomatic surge necessary to
effectively address the challenges posed by Iran."

But the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/h/stephen_j_hadley/index.html?inline=nyt-per>,
quickly issued a statement describing the N.I.E. as containing positive
news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes.

"It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to
develop nuclear weapons," Mr. Hadley said. "It tells us that we have
made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the
intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear
weapon remains a very serious problem."

"The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved
diplomatically — without the use of force — as the administration has
been trying to do," Mr. Hadley said.

The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed
N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons
programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program — an estimate
that led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq,
although most of the report's conclusions turned out to be wrong.

Intelligence officials said that the specter of the botched 2002 N.I.E.
hung over their deliberations over the Iran assessment, leading them to
treat the document with particular caution.

"We felt that we needed to scrub all the assessments and sources to make
sure we weren't misleading ourselves," said one senior intelligence
official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
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