Iran NIE Revisited

Another interesting sidenote from the Syria intel briefing was this mention of last December’s NIE on Iran’s nuclear program:

When we published our NIE, we had not planned to make unclassified key judgments available to the public; therefore we wrote our estimate for a very sophisticated audience believing or understanding that they understood that in the program, it’s basically three large pieces: There is pursuit of fissile material; there is a delivery system – ballistic missiles or some other; and then there is weapons design. The only thing that the Iranians halted that we had awareness of was design of the warhead. They continue with ballistic missiles and they continue with fissile material pursuit. It was a secret program that they halted. They have never admitted that.

That’s a pretty definitive declaration that the NIE’s conclusions about Iran’s frozen weaponization program were not meant to suggest that Iran had abandoned its ultimate goal of a nuclear weapons capacity. So the widespread interpretation of the NIE as the intelligence community’s pushback against administration Iran hawks might have been wildly optimistic. That’s something to keep in mind when considering both the Fallon dismissal and the Petraeus appointment at CENTCOM.

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