An ‘Ambivalent’ U.S. Intelligence Report
Does the recent U.S. intelligence estimate that Iran has shelved its nuclear weapons program since 2003, demonstrate the independence of America’s intelligence agencies? According to this editorial from French newspaper Le Monde, it’s time to renew a conciliatory approach since, ‘Beyond the nuances – and even contradictions, the report provides a confirmation of the strategy that up to now has been used by the West, followed by the Russians and the Chinese.’
“The lesson of Iraq has been learned. The heads of intelligence this time have refused to be used as instruments of the political leadership.”
By Kate Davis
December 6, 2007
France – Le Monde – Original Article (French)
The estimates of the American intelligence services on Iran , released on Monday, December 3, are sufficiently ambiguous to ensure that the secret services – whatever happens – will not be accused of a mistake or attempted manipulation. It notes an interruption of Iran’s nuclear program since the fall of 2003, but also says that the door for the development of nuclear weapons remains open. The lesson of Iraq has been learned. The heads of intelligence this time have refused to be used as instruments of the political leadership. At the risk of embarrassing the head of the White House, they have put on the table a balanced assessment of on a nation that Western leaders, from George W. Bush to Nicolas Sarkozy, consider the greatest threat to stability.
Beyond the nuances – and even contradictions, the report provides a confirmation of the strategy that up to now has been used by the West, followed by the Russians and the Chinese. It firmly states that the interruption of Iran’s military nuclear program is the result of international pressure, but also that centrifuges for enriching uranium would “probably” be the method chosen by the Iranians to obtain the fissile material needed to make a bomb. That is why the international community insists that Tehran suspend this enrichment activity before negotiations resume.
And so far, unsuccessfully. This method, which in 2003 forced the stoppage of the military program, seems to have reached its limits. The combination of sanctions and incentives hasn’t worked for nearly two years. Does this mean that the medicine or the dosage is wrong? Should we raise the pressure, as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (the Group of Six) were getting ready to do on the eve of the American report’s publication? Should we include – but not assume – the possibility of a military solution, even though Mr. Bush is the only one to say so? Or should we instead broaden the offers made to the Iranians? Or do both at the same time?
Before the first sanctions failed in June 2006, the head of European foreign policy, Javier Solana, presented proposals for cooperation to the Iranians on behalf of the Group of Six. These were described as “generous,” in several areas, including civilian nuclear power.