Obama Gets New U.S. NIE: Iran Making Surprising Progress Toward Nuclear Capability

National Intelligence Estimate backs Israel's view of surprising, significant progress; 2007 NIE report claimed Iran had suspended nuclear program.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

President Barack Obama recently received a new National Intelligence Estimate report on the Iranian nuclear program, which shares Israel's view that Iran has made surprising, significant progress toward military nuclear capability, Western diplomats and Israeli officials have informed Haaretz.

This NIE report on Iran was supposed to have been submitted to Obama a few weeks ago, but it was revised to include new and alarming intelligence information about military components of Iran's nuclear program. Haaretz has learned that the report's conclusions are quite similar to those drawn by Israel's intelligence community.

The NIE report contends that Iran has made surprising, notable progress in the research and development of key components of its military nuclear program.

The NIE reports are the most important assessments compiled by the U.S. intelligence community and are submitted to the president and other top governmental officials. This NIE report was compiled by an inter-departmental team headed by director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Its contents articulate the views of American intelligence agencies.

In 2007, the NIE report on the Iranian issue included a non-classified abstract, but this time the White House decided to keep the new report's contents under wraps. There has been no clear disclosure of the very existence of the report and its submission to Obama.

The 2007 NIE report on Iran stunned Israel, many Western countries and even some White House officials. The report maintained that Iran suspended its military nuclear program in 2003, and that there was no conclusive proof of its revival.

Serious blow

The report's conclusions delivered a serious blow to the international campaign waged by Israel against the Iranian nuclear program. Israeli officials reasoned at the time that the NIE report's conclusions were influenced by the failure of the U.S. intelligence community with regard to rumors of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq's arsenal. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, American intelligence analysts concluded that Saddam Hussein had continued his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction; that assessment spurred President George W. Bush's war plans.

But after American forces occupied Iraq, it became clear that Saddam had suspended his nuclear program, as well as his chemical weapons program. This intelligence failure sparked public criticism in the U.S.

Israeli officials reasoned in 2007 that American intelligence and defense officials were concerned that Bush would launch a war against Iran, concurrent to U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so these U.S. intelligence experts concluded in the 2007 document that a drive by Tehran to develop nuclear weapons could not be conclusively demonstrated.

In response to inquiries, Tommy Vietor, the Spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House said that he "is not going to comment on intelligence matters like this."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, is escorted by technicians during a tour of Tehran's research reactor center in northern Tehran, Iran, on Feb. 15, 2012.Credit: AP

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