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Old 12-09-2007   #1
Jedburgh
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Default Iran, Nukes, Diplomacy and other options (catch all thread 2007-2010)

The Iran: Open Thread Until H-Hour thread has become so long and rambling, I am going to use the excuse of release and debate over the new NIE to close that thread and open a new one, using the NIE as the start point for new discussion on the potential Iranian nuclear threat:

DNI, 3 Dec 07: Iran: Nuclear Prospects and Capabilities

Since its release, there has been a tremendous amount of analysis and debate over its content. Some of it is linked below:

ISN Security Watch, 7 Dec 07: Iran Report's Impact Overstated

CNS-MIIS, 6 Dec 07: Iranian Nuclear Program Remains Major Threat Despite Partial Freeze of Weapons-Relevant Activities Described in New U.S. NIE

CSIS, 6 Dec 07: Understanding the Key Judgments in the New NIE on Iranian Nuclear Weapons and 4 Dec 07: Critical Questions: Iran and the New NIE

CEIP, 4 Dec 07: Assessing the NIE

WINEP, 4 Dec 07: How Much Does Weaponization Matter? Judging Iran's Nuclear Program
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Old 12-10-2007   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
The Iran: Open Thread Until H-Hour thread has become so long and rambling, I am going to use the excuse of release and debate over the new NIE to close that thread and open a new one, using the NIE as the start point for new discussion on the potential Iranian nuclear threat:

DNI, 3 Dec 07: Iran: Nuclear Prospects and Capabilities

Since its release, there has been a tremendous amount of analysis and debate over its content. Some of it is linked below:

ISN Security Watch, 7 Dec 07: Iran Report's Impact Overstated

CNS-MIIS, 6 Dec 07: Iranian Nuclear Program Remains Major Threat Despite Partial Freeze of Weapons-Relevant Activities Described in New U.S. NIE

CSIS, 6 Dec 07: Understanding the Key Judgments in the New NIE on Iranian Nuclear Weapons and 4 Dec 07: Critical Questions: Iran and the New NIE

CEIP, 4 Dec 07: Assessing the NIE

WINEP, 4 Dec 07: How Much Does Weaponization Matter? Judging Iran's Nuclear Program
If the internatinal and national media and government kickbacks keep up like they are now the intel community is gonna be afraid to release any products unless they simply state we think, but don't know.

Somebody probably should have thought this one through more carefully, then again ?????
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Old 12-10-2007   #3
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Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
If the internatinal and national media and government kickbacks keep up like they are now the intel community is gonna be afraid to release any products unless they simply state we think, but don't know.

Somebody probably should have thought this one through more carefully, then again ?????
I think you are correct. This NIE, as all NIEs, are comprised of one or more key judgements and assessments.

The problem with this NIE seems to revolve around the fact that its primary composers have a significant political bias against the Bush Administration which was reflected in the document on the whole. As reported by the Wall Street Journal (Opinion Journal) and The Weekly Standard, one of those writers (Tom Fingar) stated exactly the opposite regarding the Iranian nuclear weapons program in July 2007.

The MSM keyed on the aspect they desire to hype in their reporting on this NIE - again, for political reasons.

What the NIE says elsewhere has not been reported on by the MSM, particularly that found in Assessment B.
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Old 12-10-2007   #4
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Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post
As reported by the Wall Street Journal (Opinion Journal) and The Weekly Standard, one of those writers (Tom Fingar) stated exactly the opposite regarding the Iranian nuclear weapons program in July 2007.
Although I've only had the opportunity to interact with him on relatively rare occasions, at workshops and conferences, I have to say that I've always been enormously impressed with Tom Fingar--he is one very, very bright guy, and an enormous asset to the US IC.

Last edited by Rex Brynen; 12-10-2007 at 09:46 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 12-10-2007   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Osborne
The problem with this NIE seems to revolve around the fact that its primary composers have a significant political bias against the Bush Administration which was reflected in the document on the whole. As reported by the Wall Street Journal (Opinion Journal) and The Weekly Standard, one of those writers (Tom Fingar) stated exactly the opposite regarding the Iranian nuclear weapons program in July 2007.
And right up front the NIE states, "Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously. Translation: we've been wrong in our assessments of intentions for at least two years..

Tom Fingar is an old Army MI guy, and a fellow linguist. I doubt that he permitted his personal political beliefs to contaminate his analysis - especially when that would be reflected in a high-profile national-level product. I'm not saying that there isn't any political twist to the NIE - but it isn't an anti-Bush conspiracy either.
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Old 12-10-2007   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
If the internatinal and national media and government kickbacks keep up like they are now the intel community is gonna be afraid to release any products unless they simply state we think, but don't know.

Somebody probably should have thought this one through more carefully, then again ?????
According to Steven Aftergood: LINK

Quote:
By challenging the prejudices of the Administration rather than reinforcing them, the NIE on Iran does what earlier estimates on Iraq notoriously failed to do.

It also departs from the judgments of the 2005 NIE on Iran, which is why it has now been publicly disclosed, according to Deputy DNI Donald Kerr.

"Since our understanding of Iran's capabilities has changed, we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available," he said (pdf).

In fact, however, Congress directed the DNI in the FY 2007 defense authorization act to prepare an unclassified summary of the Estimate.

"Consistent with the protection of intelligence sources and methods, an unclassified summary of the key judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate should be submitted." (House Report 109-702, section 1213, Intelligence on Iran).
It looks to me like the were required to release the NIE as it was attached to a funding bill that had already been signed and such. In other words it was not because anybody was being patriotic, and it was a requirement.
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Old 12-11-2007   #7
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Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.[/I] Translation: we've been wrong in our assessments of intentions for at least two years..
Hi Jed I think that is crucial, we have been thinking he is threatening us when he has really been negotiating. He probably thinks America is abunch of Gangsters like we think Iran is all Terrorist. plenty of time to start a war, why not try talking first??
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Old 12-11-2007   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
And right up front the NIE states, "Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously. Translation: we've been wrong in our assessments of intentions for at least two years..
"Probably" is an estimate. It's not a certainty. We know what we know, and we don't know what we don't know. We estimate and arrive at key judgements on the rest.

Still I think Assessment B is very much overlooked. Particularly with respect to North Korean activities through October 2006:

As stated in this NIE Scope Note:

Quote:
This NIE does not assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons. Rather, it examines the intelligence to assess Iran’s capability and intent (or lack thereof) to acquire nuclear weapons, taking full account of Iran’s dual-use uranium fuel cycle and those nuclear activities that are at least partly civil in nature.
The above speaks direct to the 3000 centrifuges producing HEU.

And in Assessment B we read:

Quote:
We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad—or will acquire in the future—a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon.
The above speaks directly to either or both North Korea and the AQ Khan network of nuclear weapons technology proliferation.

Quote:
Tom Fingar is an old Army MI guy, and a fellow linguist. I doubt that he permitted his personal political beliefs to contaminate his analysis -
Someone will have to take the WSJ and WeeklyStandard to task on thier reporting. Nevertheless Tom Fingar's statement (assessment?) on July 11, 2007 on Iranian nuclear weapons was:

Quote:
"Iran and North Korea are the states of most concern to us. The United States’ concerns about Iran are shared by many nations, including many of Iran’s neighbors. Iran is continuing to pursue uranium enrichment and has shown more interest in protracting negotiations and working to delay and diminish the impact of UNSC sanctions than in reaching an acceptable diplomatic solution. We assess that Tehran is determined to develop nuclear weapons--despite its international obligations and international pressure. This is a grave concern to the other countries in the region whose security would be threatened should Iranacquire nuclear weapons."
The man said what he said just five months prior to this NIE.
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Old 12-11-2007   #9
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Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post
The man said what he said just five months prior to this NIE.
As Ted has pointed out, the predominate view in the IC has changed on this issue (although the internal debate was older than five months).

I would much rather the IC shift assessments when new data and/or analysis suggests a correction is necessary, than that they dogmatically stick to a fixed conceptzia.

Last edited by Rex Brynen; 12-11-2007 at 03:49 PM. Reason: better transliteration
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Old 12-11-2007   #10
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....I would much rather the IC shift assessments when new data and/or analysis suggests a correction is necessary, than that they dogmatically stick to a fixed kontseptsia....
It is an axiom in the IC that it is better to be mistaken than to be wrong. In this context, "mistaken" means that the analyst was wrong, and admitted it, changing his assessment upon the receipt of new information. "Wrong" means that the individual was wrong, received the new evidence, yet refused to change his assessment - whether holding on due to ego or bias, it really doesn't matter. (There's a colorful Army saying about just how "wrong" that is....)

This NIE reflects a change in assessment. To state that a small number of people successfully manipulated the NIE because of a partisan political anti-Bush agenda is itself partisan nonsense.

Mike Tanji over at Haft of the Spear lays it out fairly well:
Quote:
.....reports that the NIE was drafted by people with a known political agenda – or acute cases of Bush Derangement Syndrome – make for entertaining political hay, but it has been my experience that the principle drafters of such assessments come from one lead agency, not the executives at the top of the food chain. Anyone who can prove that partisan hacks cherry picked the intelligence information they wanted and then strong-armed the rest of the community to go along with their conclusions would have a bombshell on their hands. These executives do play an important role in the NIE process, which I’ll address later.

Finally, building an NIE is not unlike any other bureaucratic exercise that involves multiple agencies of the government. Competing opinions are argued, disputes are mediated, and dissent noted. At the end of the day a deliverable is due – the rough draft – and the involved parties get to sit at their home offices for a period of time, ruminate on the work, and forward to the principle drafter their comments, edits, suggestions and recommendations. What follows are several rounds of review and edit sessions with increasingly more senior members of the agencies involved and the National Intelligence Council, until the final draft is ready for review, approval and dissemination.

I spent almost 20 years in the intelligence community and I have absolutely no idea what the political affiliation or disposition of any of my colleagues or superiors were. No one talked politics; we talked data, methodology and analysis. The idea that a dozen-odd people would sit down for days at a time concocting a piece of work that was purely designed to thwart the efforts of a given administration is more than a little absurd. I have no doubt that I worked with people who did not agree with the Executive’s agenda (regardless of who the Executive was at any given time), but you show up to these things with data and arguments you can defend; you show up with political party talking points and you’re going to catch an intellectual beating.....
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Old 12-11-2007   #11
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Agreed, Ted. The agendas that come into a NiE session are more reflective of the agencies' collective cultures than the political leanings of the current heads of those agencies. We fought the agency culture battle in the NIEs and SNIEs leading up to Desert Storm. In some ways we have come full circle because one the outcomes of that effort was the complaint from senior leaders--CINCCENT in particular--about the use of caveats. As a result, there was greater emphasis placed on consensus buliding and reducing the number of caveats. I think it went too far. This NIE seems to have swung that particular pendulum back a bit.

The other issue with this NIE is that it does reflect a significant restructuring of the IC and tremendous changes in leadership. Mike McConnel as DNI is just one example. McConnell was the J2 in Desert Shield/Storm. Cambone is gone and Jim Clapper has replaced him. Clapper was the ACSI of the USAF in Desert Shield and went onto become Director DIA. Gates--a former DCI--is Sec Def. He became the DCI in 1991 after serving as Dep NSA during Desert Shield. All of these guys worked together at a critical time. Now they are doing it again. I have no doubt that McConnell and the other IC leadership wanted this NIE to be apolitical so it could weather the inevitable political battering it was likely to generate.

Best

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Last edited by Tom Odom; 12-11-2007 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 12-11-2007   #12
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Default Tom,

Anyone who is shocked that an intelligence product got reversed hasn't worked with intelligence very much (if at all). The new NIE reads as though they got their hands on a lot of new info.

What mystifies me is how the new one is, somehow or another, supposed to be an embarrassment to the Bush administration.

I'd also like to know why the brain surgeons in the punditocracy have decided we should develop policy against intentions rather than capabilities. I don't think we'll be ranking them with Sun Tzu, Clausewitz or Liddell-Hart any time soon.
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Old 12-11-2007   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Osborne View Post
The above speaks direct to the 3000 centrifuges producing HEU.
Iran hasn't yet revealed an accurate report of it's capabilities to produce HEU. It has old, unreliable centerfuges. If you read the AFCEA Intelligence newsletter NightWatch, the author, John McCreary writes:

Another paragraph of the Key Judgments merits special attention. “We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU (highly enriched uranium) for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely.” At last this is a judgment that is consistent with what the world knows about Pakistani P-1 centrifuges which is the type they proliferated to Iran and North Korea, according to multiple technical sources – they are engineering nightmares. The rotors break and the centrifuge cascade cannot be stabilized, which explains why the Pakistanis developed and use P-2 centrifuges in their cascades.

The 3000 centerfuge cascade, working properly with no downtime, would at best create enough HEU in one year for ONE nuclear warhead. And since that's unlikely, their only other use is to be a negotiating tool for Tehran to bargain with.
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Old 12-11-2007   #14
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Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
Anyone who is shocked that an intelligence product got reversed hasn't worked with intelligence very much (if at all). The new NIE reads as though they got their hands on a lot of new info.

What mystifies me is how the new one is, somehow or another, supposed to be an embarrassment to the Bush administration.

I'd also like to know why the brain surgeons in the punditocracy have decided we should develop policy against intentions rather than capabilities. I don't think we'll be ranking them with Sun Tzu, Clausewitz or Liddell-Hart any time soon.
John

Agree. Intelligence is all probability and never absolutes. Pundits regardless of ilk tend to offer absolutes regardless of probability.

Best

Tom
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Old 12-11-2007   #15
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Originally Posted by JeffC View Post
The 3000 centerfuge cascade, working properly with no downtime, would at best create enough HEU in one year for ONE nuclear warhead. And since that's unlikely, their only other use is to be a negotiating tool for Tehran to bargain with.

And if anyone really wants to look for hidden motives, the new NIE rather neatly takes Iran's nuke program out of play.

Some people might find that a clever diplomatic move on our part.
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Old 12-14-2007   #16
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Default This just in

Newsmax, Thursday, December 13, 2007: Kissinger: NIE Report Misread
Quote:
Former presidential adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger argues that the much-publicized report on the Iranian nuclear weapons program issued last week by the National Intelligence Estimate has been widely misread.

And he asserts that it does not indicate that Iran has abandoned efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.

The key passage in the report reads: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Kissinger states that the passage “was, in fact, qualified by a footnote whose complex phraseology obfuscated that the suspension really applied to only one aspect of the Iranian nuclear weapons program (and not even the most significant one): the construction of warheads. That qualification was not restated in the rest of the document, which continued to refer to the "halt of the weapons program" repeatedly and without qualification.

“The reality is that the concern about Iranian nuclear weapons has had three components: the production of fissile material, the development of missiles and the building of warheads.....
This tosses a monkey wrench into the fray!

Last edited by Jedburgh; 12-14-2007 at 02:04 PM. Reason: Added link, edited content.
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Old 12-14-2007   #17
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Wasn't Paul Bremer one of Kissinger's boys?

Pat Lang on Kissinger's editorial.

Quote:
In this piece Kissinger insists that he (and his friends) know best what is important (and dangerous) in Iran's nuclear program. He insists that the mere enrichment of uranium is the most dangerous part of such a program. He denigrates the focus of the NIE on actual weapon and warhead research and production, claiming that such prodigies of engineering could be achieved with relative ease once the all-important store of enriched uranium is obtained.

In this process of reasoning, Kissinger ignores the fact that uranium enrichment is also necessary to produce fuel needed to have a large number of atomic electric plants. The difference in the two kinds of enrichment is that weapons production requires a much higher percentage of enrichment. The difference is detectable and so far the IAEA has not detected any efforts to produce weapons grade enriched fuel.
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Old 12-14-2007   #18
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Default Been "Watching" to see the spin-offs...

...of the 2007 NIE. Just a few minor "pol" observations.

First (from a pol standpoint), this isn't a "game changer" as much as it is a "playing field changer". It was sort of like trying to play soccer on an ice hockey rink, and now that's been changed to a basketball court. But, now it's not a major priority like it was before, so nobody wants to really play PERIOD.

Second, it's been an early Christmas present for all the political "Body and Fender" shops out there. The 2007 NIE conclusions weren't expected, so all the political punditry had to scramble around and had to acquire all the "expertise" they could get on the QT. Nice little unexpected bonus there, some people made out really well. The spin resulting from all of this has run the full spectrum, with some of it being nothing short of spectacular (from a "spin appreciation" standpoint).

Third, most of the major political candidates are silently counting their blessings. Took an item off the boards that nobody had a really good answer on, and nobody wanted to really run with.

Conclusions (political) I'm hearing: Iran is no longer a front burner International issue, for the domestic political front. And from the looks of it, the pols like it that way.

Thoughts?
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Old 12-14-2007   #19
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Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
Despite whatever one may think about the opinions of a given individual I have always found it wise to listen to those to whom many other prominent decision makers listen.

If nothing else you know exactly where they stand in relation to yourself.
I wonder how much support towards Iran's nuclear ambitions Kissinger provided when he was Nixon's National Security Advisor, and if he's having any second thoughts, particularly as regards the loopholes in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty? Here's a bit of Iran's nuclear history back in the 60's and 70's:

Although Iran began developing its nuclear program in the 1950s, it was slow to progress until late in the 1960s, when the U.S.-supplied 5MW thermal research reactor (TRR) went online at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC). In 1973, spurred by an influx of oil revenues, the Shah of Iran embarked on an ambitious goal of modernizing the country and building its image abroad. He did this by shifting the country's budgets toward the military and the newly established Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The Shah set his goal high: "...get, as soon as possible, 23,000MWe from nuclear power stations."[1] In 1968, Iran signed the NPT in an effort to speed up its negotiations for nuclear agreements, particularly with the United States. In 1970, the government ratified the NPT and its obligations went into force.

In the five years that followed, Iran concluded several contracts for the construction of nuclear plants and the supply of nuclear fuel: with the United States in 1974; Germany in 1976; and France in 1977. In 1976, Iran also purchased a stake in Eurodif's (the European consortium) Tricastin uranium enrichment plant in France and purchased a stake in the RTZ uranium mine in Rossing, Namibia. Also in 1976, the government signed a $700 million contract to purchase uranium yellowcake from South Africa and sent Iranian technicians abroad for training in nuclear sciences.


(source: http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Iran/1819.html)
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Old 12-14-2007   #20
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I'm very far from a Kissinger fan, and as has been apparent on this board I've been critical of (bellicose) Administration handling of Iran (nuclear and other issues).

His editorial does point out an important issue, however.

The enrichment issue is an absolutely key aspect of a weapons programme, and also relates directly to future Iranian strategic power. It is also the hardest part to crash-start, and the hardest part to do covertly.

The unclassified portions of the NIE seems to suggest that it is the weapons design/weaponization portion of the programme has been stopped. Whether the enrichment programme is meant to have civilian, military (immediate weapons production), or strategic-scientific-technical (future weapons potential) goals is still unclear. I suspect the third is at least as important as the first.
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