There is a report in the Israeli press that President Obama has received a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program that contains “alarming new information” about the military component of Iran’s efforts. At some point in the next week or so, the U.S. may release an unclassified abstract of the Estimate. NIEs are official documents that represent the authoritative assessments of the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. intelligence community.
According to the report, the new NIE contains new information about the progress Iran has made in its weaponization and delivery systems. I doubt the information is either “alarming” or “new,” but the new NIE, if the report is accurate, will sharply differ from a 2007 NIE that threw cold water on Israel’s international efforts to ratchet up pressure on Iran. The 2007 document said that the U.S. intelligence community believed that Iran has once had a nuclear weapons program, but believed with “high confidence” that they had given the program up in 2003. The 2007 NIE caused a major sensation: critics of the Bush Administration claimed that the President was misusing intelligence in order to go after Iran.
Most of us who were paying attention knew at the time that the 2007 NIE was flat wrong. Then, in 2009, when a previously unknown Iranian nuclear reactor was discovered, most everybody else knew that it was wrong, too.
The problem is that we are now five years removed from the 2007 NIE and little has been done (other than computer viruses and a rash of accident-prone Iranian scientists) to stop the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons. All because of one intelligence report that turned out to be woefully wrong. Let’s hope that those who insisted we slam on the brakes after the 2007 report can remember where the other pedal is.