The NIE’s Curious Release

4 12 2007

Many hawks have been openly skeptical that Iran will respond to diplomatic efforts to deter their nuclear ambitions, and probably still are. Of course, the new NIE has suggests otherwise. Matthew Levitt has an interesting post on Counter Terrorism blog arguing that the credit largely lies with those who sough to bring enough diplomatic pressure on the seemingly rouge nation.

The release of the new NIE comes on the same day the diplomats announced in Paris that China now supports further international sanctions targeting Iran. In the wake of disappointing reports from both the IAEA and European Union on Iran’s nuclear program, China’s support for targeted measures focused on Iranian banks and travel restrictions on key individuals means a third UN security council resolution is likely before the new year.

I guess this carrots and sticks stuff really works. The Euros were really onto something here.

Interestingly enough, Levitt also reminds us that Mike McConnell was also reluctant to release this and future NIE findings.

Just a few weeks ago the Director of National Intelligence announced he would no longer declassify and release the key judgments of future NIE’s. The sudden about-face may be an effort to put the “all options are on the table” war bluster on a far side burner in favor of political and economic carrots and sticks.

This leads many people to wonder what lead to this abrupt turn around. I think what McConnell told the Washington Post a few weeks ago is fairly revealing:

Asked how he would respond if Bush administration officials misused it, McConnell said, “If it were cherry-picked in an inappropriate way, then for me there’s a professional obligation to object, and I would submit my resignation.”

Maybe McConnell was just as worried about all the crisis mongering coming out of the White House as the rest of us in the country were. But it still begs the question of when did the decision makers in the intelligence community really know that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003?

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