by Scott Ritter
December 8, 2007
Let’s hear it for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). After more than five years of effort, incorporating technologically advanced, exhaustive inspections of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities (and, to a lesser degree, some undeclared facilities as well), the fruit of its labor has been borne out in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) produced by the U.S. intelligence community that finds that Iran is not currently pursuing a nuclear weapons program. While the analysis behind the NIE conclusion reflects the independent judgment of the 16 agencies which comprise the U.S. intelligence community, there is no doubt that the most influential information behind the assessment was that of the IAEA inspections, which had probed Iran’s nuclear program since November 2002. The IAEA had coordinated closely with the U.S. intelligence community in preparing for its inspections inside Iran, so much so that there was almost no stone left unturned and no major question left unanswered for U.S. analysts when it came to the nuclear facilities and activities of interest. The consensus-driven NIE puts to rest the notion that Iran represents any sort of imminent threat worthy of near-term pre-emptive military action.
Personally, the NIE (and its roots in the findings of the IAEA inspections) came as no surprise. In my 2006 book “Target Iran” I framed precisely the same argument using data virtually identical to that contained in the NIE. While I am tempted to utter the immortal words “I told you so,” such self-congratulation would not only reek of hubris but divert attention away from the fact that the NIE isn’t the final word on the framing and implementation of U.S.-Iran policy. It is but an empty document void of meaning unless life is breathed into its findings by an Executive rededicated to formulating policy founded in fact, not ideology, or a Congress awakened to its long-dormant status as a separate but equal branch of government.