Up until today, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, had strongly insisted that the NIE’s major findings on the alleged Iran nuclear program would not be released. Now, suddenly, and without warning, those very findings — and ones strongly contradictory to Bush Administration policy — have, in fact, been released.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies released Monday concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting a judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.
The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran’s nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.
The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely to keep its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies “do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”
So what’s going on here? Why would Bush & Co. suddenly develop this uncharacteristic case of openness? Kevin Drum has a couple posts up speculating on the issue, here and here. But as Drum himself admits, his suggestions are less than entirely satisfying.
Here’s my best guess: facing open revolt from the Joint Chiefs of Staff against any offensive military move against Iran (because the military is already stretched to the breaking point), Bush found himself in a pickle. For months he’s been pushing the Iran bogeyman. How could he back out now? The NIE was his ticket out.
So what do you think?