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No Additional Sanctions for Iran for now?

New York Times:

The Bush administrations new intelligence assessment that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 is likely to complicate efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran at the United Nations Security Council, European officials said Monday. (...)
"Officially, we will study the document carefully; unofficially, our efforts to build up momentum for another resolution are gone," said one European official involved in the diplomacy.


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Don S on :

Yup. And if the *new* assessment is any more accurate than the old one was - that is the proper policy. But is it? What reason do we have to believe that is true? I'm not being a sneering skeptic - that is the essential question question everyone is asking right now in their own ways. Right now what I think about Iran is that I'm confused. Don't know what to think. It's a good thing if the body who published the new assessment did so upon accurate information and credible sources - but presumably the far darker 2005 assessment was based upon what appeared to be equally accurute information and sources. Or perhaps one assessment was or is the true gold and the otherwarmongering or peacemongering political manipulation - how are we to tell which is which? I feel a tiny kernel of relief, though it's difficult to admit that. Iran right now would be one war too many - I've felt that for a time now. This makes it unlikely that it will happen - it gives Bush the option not to do anything and leave the problem in the highly deserving laps of the Democratic Congress and European 'statesmen' (and 'stateswomen'). And hsi successor, who may be deserving or not.

Kyle Atwell on :

I have long supported sanctions against Iran based on the apocryphal story that Iran was maintaining a nuclear weapons program. At the same time, a part of me has been seriously skeptical about the actual existence of the program. It has always seemed to me that Iran would have too much to lose if it insisted so adamantly that it did not have a weapons program (as it has done), and then one was discovered... Iran does not want isolation, but the discovery of a nuclear weapons program would probably be enough to force even Russia and China to take severe actions against it. A better strategy for Iran would be to remain ambiguous about having a weapons program, luring the United States to bluster and cavil, and then one day prove that all along it really hadn't had a program for several years--this would be a great way to seriously discredit the US. Factoring this into Iran's cost-benefit equation, maintaining a nuclear program never seemed logical to me. At the same time, it is hard to tell whether or not Iran is simply putting its weapons plans on hiatus until it masters the uranium enrichment process... however, we cannot treat every country who could one day instate a nuclear weapons program as a proliferator, as it appears the Bush Administration plans to continue doing.

SC on :

Kyle, I'm late to this party, but I wanted to wait a bit to see the reaction. In today's NYT there is a realization that the Administration might not be too disappointed in this apart from having to deal with the now obvious media/politcal reaction to the report. As already noted here and elsewhere the discovery in the NIE that the weapons program in 2003 can be spun positively. Moreover, if the Adminstration for a variety of possible reasons has not wished for a military confrontation with Iran this effectively takes Iran off the table for the time being and signals to all others in the region that the US is likely not to support military action by any other actor for the purpose of eliminating a purported nuclear weapons program.

pen Name on :

US used EU and after reaching an agreement on Iraq with Iran, hung them (EU) out to dry. I think US has destroyed EU's credibility - just another US tool is EU.

David on :

According to the Washington Post, Bush was briefed on the revised intelligence last summer, but that didn't stop him from hyping the threat and warning about World War III up through last week. Deja vu of the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Here's more fallout: what does the NIE report do to the viability of Rudy Giuliani as a candidate for president? Rudy's entire campaign is based on the need to bomb Iran. His advisor, Norman Podhoretz, is now claiming that the CIA is in cahoots with Ahmadinejad: "I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations." I suspect that both Bush/Cheney and Rudy/Podhoretz will not get their war anytime soon....

Pat Patterson on :

I always suspicious of unsourced quotes which are often lifted from other blogs without being read in their entirety, such as Norman Podhoretz's "...darker suspicions..." He raises the arguable point concerning leaks from the intelligence community that will resonate considering how abysmally wrong these estimates have been over the last decade. But nowhere in the article does the name of Pres. Ahmadinjad even appear making the charge that Podhoretz claimed this link utter nonsense. By reading the whole commentary one is struck by the last quote from Stephen Hadley, National Security Adviser, "The estimate offers ground for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically-without the use of force. As the Administration has been trying to do." I don't know who is more disappointed about this new knowledge; the neo-cons who are supposedly frothing at the mouth to start bombing or the left which might have to admit that the threat of bombing and the pressure of sanctions and negotiations worked.

David on :

"the left which might have to admit that the threat of bombing and the pressure of sanctions and negotiations worked." According to the 16 intelligence agencies, Iran abandoned its efforts back in 2003 - four years before Bush started speaking about World War III.

Don S on :

Let's see. That would be right after Bush's 'Axis of Evil' speech, would it be? Give up this line of argument, Dude. You can't win this one.

Reid of America on :

If the NIE report is accurate, Iran stopped their nuclear weapons program in response to US military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel's defense minister Barak says Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. What is developing appears to be a good cop - bad cop scenario. The US wants to prevent Iran from attacking oil targets in response to attacks on their nuclear facilities. If the US attacks Iran then there will be large scale fighting in the gulf with the possibility of serious damage to the oil infrastructure. If Israel attacks Iranian nuclear targets than Iran will be hard pressed to attack Arab oil in response.

Pat Patterson on :

Here's the link, scroll down to Norman Podhoretz's comment and also Max Boot has an interesting take on David's claim that the President was fully briefed last summer, which he wasn't until last week. [url][/url]

David on :

Here is the pertinent graph from the Washington Post: "Several of those involved in preparing the new assessment said that when intelligence officials began briefing senior members of the Bush administration on the intercepts, beginning in July, the policymakers expressed skepticism. Several of the president's top advisers suggested the intercepts were part of a clever Iranian deception campaign, the officials said." It defies logic that "senior members" of the Bush administration would be briefed without then informing the president.

Pat Patterson on :

So we go from a plot between Pres. Ahmadinejad and the CIA et al., and the charge that the President was briefed last summer evem though with "moderate confidence" that the program had been stopped. The former claim somehow not being relevant anymore and the latter being that the President should have been briefed. Much like Pres. Clinton claimed that he was not briefed on the Sudanese offer to turn over Bin Ladin and then could deny any knowledge of that offer.. How can one see when backpedaling so furiously? Plus, if true, how can this be bad news for either the Republicans or Democrats but ignoring the huge amounts of money wasted by the Iranians? The Democrats can claim that either the President lied about the program or that the program was derailed by negotiations while the Republicans (Danger! repetition here) can claim that the US did indeed consult with its allies and that a program of sanctions, negotiations and threats had the desired effect. Plus its tough to find a graph without a link!

BernieGoldberg on :

Well, just watched the Presidents news conference today, the first one in seven weeks if we are to believe the wires..., and he indeed said that he wasn't briefed up until last week. But to infer from that that other sources haven't informed him beforehand would be an overstatement. He is just navigating the icebergs (fantastic German word, by the way). This NIE is clearly more explosive than I found myself believing a couple of hours ago, before watching the Presidents news conference: He takes notice (several times in that q&a with the press) of the fact that Iran has halted the program in 2003, and he tries to keep up the pressure nonetheless. But for Bush, the NIE is clearly a new piece of the Iran puzzle and he deems it credibly -- very important! -- because stays away from the Podhoretzian bashing of the intel community that the neocons have adopted. I read the NIE as a boost for State, Rice and Burns to go ahead and try to isolate as well as engage Iran at the same time, or -- as Bush said less eloquently -- to continue to use the "sticks and carrots approach". Best, BernieGoldberg

David on :

You can spin this as another glorious victory for Dear Leader, but perceptions matter. Scanning the national and international headlines on Google News I see that the NIE report is seen by most as another serious blow to the credibility of the Bush adminstration. And here is Joe Biden this afternoon on Bush's claim that he wasn't briefed until last week: "“Are you telling me a president who is briefed every single morning, who is fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the United States government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in ’03?” Biden said in a conference call with reporters. “That’s not believable,” Biden added. “I refuse to believe that. If that’s true, he has the most incompetent staff in … modern American history and he’s one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history.”

BernieGoldberg on :

Well, I'm on your side, David, but I believe Bush was not lying when he said that he wasn't briefed officially by the intel community on the NIE, give him the benefit of the doubt. The important thing for me is that he doesn't dispute the findings but he appreciates them and in order not to look foolish -- of course -- he must maintain to some extent his hard line on Iran. What's more important, though, is that the Cheney faction inside the admin is seriously weakened and that we can conclude as the one certain thing from this NIE that war with Iran has become much more unlikely before the Bush presidency ends. That's the real good news of today (at least IMHO). Best, Bernie

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Hi Bernie, long time no hear. Welcome back! "I believe Bush was not lying when he said that he wasn't briefed officially by the intel community on the NIE," I wonder: Shouldn't he have been briefed about this? Did not he have the time due to his extensive ranching in Texas and daily workouts? (Well, Putin spends even more time working out. Until 11:00 I heard.) Or was it a political decision to not to inform him. Like in the movies, when the guys want to "protect the president" and therefore don't tell him... Or do the numerous intell agencies change their mind rather often and/or spend months arguing with each other until the NIE is ready and only this NIE is deemed worthy for a presidential briefing...? Hm, I doubt that.

David on :

Bernie, Perhaps you heard the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Rockefeller, on television just now saying that he was given "information" on the findings "months ago". Do you really think the Senate would be given sensitive information that wasn't first vetted with the White House? The is a great deal of evidence that the president knew about Iran's changes but continued to hype the threat and warn of a "nuclear Holocaust" and "World War III" (Bush's own words).

Anonymous on :

"I suspect that both Bush/Cheney and Rudy/Podhoretz will not get their war anytime soon...." I just wanted to point out that David's grasp of the staggeringly obvious remains as sure as ever..... ;)

Pat Patterson on :

Is that the same Senator Rockefeller that denied he had been briefed on the domestic wire tap program for months, until he finally admitted that yes he had indeed known about it and had written an undated and undelivered letter complaining about its legality? And is this the same Senator Rockefeller that for months was against immunity for the telecoms because of possible lawsuits for participating in the domestic program now suddenly amenable to this immunity after employees and their relatives of Verizon, for one example, donated over $25,000 in 2006 and 2007 vs. 0 in 2005? It might not be much but at least the Senator answered the phone!

David on :

Pat - it must be so difficult to be a True Believer these days. Even the president's security advisor - Steven Hadley - told the press that Bush had been notified of the changed intelliegence assessment "several months ago". So who is lying? Hadley or Bush? I think we all know the answer...

Reid of America on :

Bush believed the NIE that Saddam Hussein had WMD's. The left called him a liar. Now the NIE changes it's ESTIMATE and Bush is a liar because he doesn't accept it instantly as truth. Fact is it doesn't matter that Iran stopped it's nuclear weapons program. It still has a nuclear weapons program. Once Iran has their fissle material production running at full production it can restart it's program and have a bomb in a short period. If Germany or Japan wants nuclear weapons they could have them next month even though they don't have a nuclear weapons program. Wake up! It's the nuclear infrastructure that is the key. Not whether Iran is playing with shaping charges in a laboratory.

Pat Patterson on :

And here's exactly what Stephen Hadley said, "...Bush was fist told in August or September about intelligence indicating Iran had halted its weapons program, but was advised it would take time to evaluate. Vice President Cheney, Hadlyey and other top officials were briefed the week before last. Intelligence officials formalized their conclusions on Tuesday and briefed Bush the next day." So one report that Iran may have indeed stopped its program and then a formal annoucement after studying the program and agreeing that the first information had been confirmed is evidence that the President knew that Iran had indeed stoppped is somehow indicative of some dark nefarious plot? I'm sure that any President when confronted with the rumor of good news might be more than cautious and demand some proof. In fact the articles in the Washington Post from the 3rd and the 4th make it clear that several White House and intelligence officials doubted the initial report and wanted the information to be confirmed. So a roundup, no advance knowledge of any change in the NIE concerning Iran's nuclear policy, no suppressisng of that information and a stupid charge of what did he know and when instead of concentrating on this news as being anything but good.

David on :

The NYTimes puts it well in its lead editorial today: "After Iraq and Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, it is hard to imagine that this administration could do any more damage to this country’s credibility. Then it does."

John in MI on :

The new NIE of course has domestic political implications, but lets forget about those for a moment and think about what it actually implies about the situation in Iran. My assumptions: 1) Iran is in an analogous situation to Iraq under Saddam re WMD (nukes or otherwise) in that it must convince its populace, and its neighbors in the region that it has or will shortly have nukes. It has to do this to maintain the balance of terror at home and abroad; to distract its people from the domestic economy which is still crumbling; 2) An additional dimension is the Millennial / Judgment Day rhetoric which they have to maintain. Saddam wasn't nearly as committed to this type of rhetoric. 3) Iran's leadership is not a monolith. Some elements probably do buy into the Judgment Day stuff and want to make it come true; other elements clearly retain the ability to make rational cost-benefit calculations (although they use a different measuring stick than we do); after all, in spite of many credible predictions of their imminent demise, the Imams have managed to stay in power since 1979. Therefore if they have, or get nukes, they are deterrable but with the ever-present risk of a "rogue element" -- from a game theory point of view, this is identical to the Soviets during the chillier parts of the cold war. Not a pleasant prospect, but we know how to manage that. So, IF these assumptions are true (and I see nothing in or out of the NIE that disproves them), then the NIE seems imply, even if Iran has given up weaponizing their nukes for now, they cannot be seen to have done so, lest they loose face. As a sidebar, even now, we still don't know to what extent Saddam's own generals fooled him or each other about their WMD. The Iranian nuke program might be a Potemkin village; if this is the case, some elements in the leadership may know this, while others may think they really have, or are close to having, real weapons. How to take advantage of this dynamic? Hide-and-seek inspections are worse than useless. We can't negotiate any meaningful inspections that are transparent and verifiable, because they can't been seen to have no nuclear weapons or programs. Or if we did permit meaningful inspections, they would have to demand huge concession and would be foolish not to renege on the deal at the first opportunity. A successful bombing wouldn't reveal if their program was real or not, and it would only be a setback for their program if in fact the program is real. The propaganda cost of a successful bombing would be high, and for a failure, higher still. They use human shields and have info war assets. An invasion would determine if their programs are real; but if it turned out they were not real, or if they were real but were transferred or destroyed shortly before the invasion, the invasion would be much worse than useless. The best strategy might be containment, followed by disruption, i.e. how we won the Cold War. Keep sanctions in place, strengthen them if possible, and in negotiations, put everything on the table EXCEPT for verifiable, transparent inspections which would remain a requirement; knowing full well they can never accept that deal, and that their economy will be crumbling. Aggressively deploy and improve disruptive technologies and tactics such as: - Radio Free Persia. Create if necessary, enhance otherwise. - Theater missile defense. - Nuclear bomb forensics. If Tom Clancy is right, we have, or are very close to, the technology to determine the origin of a bomb, as long as we have access to bomb debris, and the reactor (or remains of same) used to refine it. - Announce a policy that should a nuclear bomb of unknown origin appear (detonated or otherwise) anywhere on US soil, including embassies, we will perform armed inspections of all suspected facilities. Invite NATO to join this policy. Periodically war-game armed inspections of a nuclear facility. Wait for Iran to implode.

Merkel-2 on :

I don't think Iran have nuclear bomb program for the time being. I had noticed CIA attempts to cook-up datas to describe IRAN as a nuclear state. They had published several discredited reports on Iran and Iraq 's nuclear programs. The most updating reports claims that IRAN had suspended its nuclear bomb program from 2003. That maybe the outcome of political struggle. It is by no means an open expression of US goodness to Iran. US maybe want to adjust their diplomacy to solve the politic dilemma. So CIA and other intelligence institutes also manipulate information to reach its goal. There is no use to arguing whether President Bush is a liar. They are all liars. With enough inspection on them ,will make them behave gracefully and rationally. In the long run , I think there are many states have the impetus to develop nuclear weapons. US' hegemony towards others result in tension and possible misunderstanding there. When US threat to use violence (including atomic bomb) to disarm its rival states, I think US's counterpart absolutely need a kind of deterrent strength. It is not the simple question of "is it moral or immoral to develop atomic bomb?". With the current highly biased middle east policy and bullying inclination . US really need to worry about nuclear proliferation. Maybe more staunch & more aggressive policy towards its rivals ,more advanced missile defence system will do US good. God bless US ,bless US government not to do things stupid .

John in Michigan, USA on :

@Merkel-2: The US does not "threat to use violence (including atomic bomb) to disarm its rival states". Our rival states are China, Japan, Europe, India, maybe Brazil, Mexico, etc. We do not threaten them with [i]any[/i] kind of bombs, because they are willing to compete peacefully. We would prefer that China not build a blue-water navy, but no-one is suggesting an attack, not even close. Iran is not a simple US rival, it is a rouge state that has promised a nuclear Armageddon. They may be serious, or not, but they seem to want to be taken seriously, which puts them in a category way beyond rival state. God Bless Merkel with a clue.

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