Thursday, December 06, 2007

Settling in the Post 2007 Iran NIE World

I'll make this point again, because the only place I've seen it made is here. The new assessment that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program is not the result of new evidence. It is the result of a redefinition of the term "nuclear weapons program." That is a political decision, that cannot have been made in the United States against the will of the President of the United States.

By the 2005 definition, Iran has a nuclear weapons program today. By the 2007 definition, there was no evidence, certainly not evidence that would have given intelligence agencies high confidence that there was a nuclear weapons program in 2005.

The conversion and enrichment facilities that the IAEA knows about, and have known about since 2003, were explicitly defined in the first footnote in the 2007 report as not part of a weapons program. In the 2005 report those same facilities, at that time dormant, constituted nearly the entirety of the evidence that Iran had a nuclear weapons program. The same facilities - a different definition.

A political decision has been made to back away from the idea that the capacity to build a weapon by itself is a weapons program. It was always an unreasonable idea and now that the US has backed from it, that idea will never have currency again.

To the degree there is intelligence available in 2007 that was not available in 2005, the most important piece of information is neither some phone call or exile from Iran. The important piece of information was that Iran was not going to suspend enrichment under any amount of pressure the US could apply before the end of this term.

Colin Powell recognized the probability that Iran would not be motivated by the type of sanctions the US could get when he was still in term. The rest of the White House probably knew it also, but thought, why not take a shot? Especially since in the process the US could get sanctions that the US wanted anyway.

But now as Bush's term is ending, US rhetoric that the alternative to in Iranian back-down was an attack was scaring US allies and parties whose cooperation the US wants more than it was scaring Iran. Now that it is clear that Iran will not back down, the rhetoric had to change. And change it has.

So in that context the Christian Science monitor proposes that the US accept a deal Iran offered in 2005.

This leaves Tehran's nuclear tethering proposal. Fleshed out, the "international joint ownership" and "international partnerships" Tehran advocated would include co-decisionmaking and facility access that assures Iran's nuclear fuel cycle remains on the straight and narrow to avoid a weapons breakout.

A new door would open to resolve the enrichment impasse if two things happened. First, tethering must be linked to Iran's promised ratification and implementation of the Additional Protocol, allowing inspectors unimpeded visits to all suspicious nuclear enterprises. Second, it must be tied further to Security Council adoption of automatic onerous punitive measures to combat cheating – a military blockade of the country, for example.

Now Iran will agree to joint ownership of enrichment facilities in Iran. Iran will not agree to automatic military blockades. It is hard to justify an automatic military blockade if Iran exercises its perfectly legal right to leave the NPT if the US is not willing to blockade Israel for refusing to join the NPT.

Iran would not leave the NPT except under circumstances where it would have at least some international support for leaving. Iran might leave if the US began massing troops for an invasion, or if Israel uses nuclear weapons on Syria or Egypt. Under those circumstances, the US would not be able to get a Security Council resolution.

If there is no circumstance that would give Iran a chance of preventing security council action against its leaving the treaty, Iran would have no reason to leave anyway. Iran gets all it wants just by being nuclear capable. Until a provocative step is taken either by the US or by Israel.

The automatic part, or language that could imaginably justify the US unilaterally applying military force to Iran would not get past the security council anyway. If it did, the US would claim it has been triggered when it really hasn't, if and when the US is in a position to attack Iran. After Iraq, the Security Council will never come that close again to pre-authorizing a US military adventure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And what do you think of the very popular view by a leading Israeli analyst Obadiah Shoher? He argues (here, for example, www. ) that the Bush Administration made a deal with Iran: nuclear program in exchange for curtailing the Iranian support for Iraqi terrorists. His story seems plausible, isn't it?