It’s been pretty clear — and definitely clear since late September’s Qom disclosure — that the intelligence community probably misforecast the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluding that the Iranian government abandoned its desire for nuclear weapons in 2003. (Perhaps — I’ve got to run to something, so I’m not exactly Googling around on this — the IC was correct about the 2003 decision but missed a restoration of the weaponization program around 2007 or so, as the IRGC took over the program, but that’s just ignorant speculation and like I said I’m not Googling around at the moment to even see if my timeline makes any sense.) Certainly a bunch of reporting late last year indicated that the Obama administration was no longer confident in the NIE. Now Mark Hosenball reports that there will be a “Talmudic” NIE to withdraw the assessment:
The officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive information, say the revised report will bring U.S. intel agencies more in line with other countries’ spy agencies (such as Britain’s MI6, Germany’s BND, and Israel’s Mossad), which have maintained that Iran has been pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Yet two of the U.S. sources caution the new assessment will likely be “Talmudic” in its parsing. They say U.S. analysts now believe that Iran may well have resumed “research” on nuclear weapons–theoretical work on how to design and construct a bomb–but that Tehran is not engaged in “development”–actually trying to build a weapon. “The intelligence community is always reluctant to make a total retreat because it makes them look bad,” says the third American.
Time for some congressional hearings. How did this happen?
I want to give credit where it’s due, and that’s to my friend Eli Lake, who not only suspected this NIE was bullshit from the beginning but had a story he wrote about a few dissents to it publicly mocked by the National Intelligence Council’s Ted Gistaro. (I could be confusing this with a different Eli story — my memory is fading in my old age — and sorry to Gistaro if so.) At the time, I’m sure I cackled at Eli for not wanting to accept evidence that didn’t fit with his preconceptions. So, homie: you were right on this one and I was wrong.