Tobin: It’s Iran, stupid

In his column this week, Jewish Exponent editor Jonathan Tobin complains that the release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran seems to have put an end to the attention being focused on the question of how to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

By leading with its claim that the Iranians had abandoned their nuclear-weapons program in 2003, the top American spies neatly spiked any chance that an international coalition could be formed to impose a tough sanctions regime on Tehran…. But there was one little problem with the NIE. It was probably wrong.

Critics of the document (in Israel, Europe and here) pointed out that a close reading of the text showed that, despite the opening language about a decision supposedly taken in 2003 on weapons design, the rest of the nuclear program was still going full-steam ahead. With their ongoing progress toward nuclear material capability, it wouldn’t take much to take the last step toward a weapon.

If that wasn’t reason enough to worry about the NIE’s conclusion, then surely, Iran’s brazen announcement earlier this month that it had begun to deploy a new generation of machinery to produce nuclear fuel should have set off alarms.

According to Tobin, “it isn’t necessarily too late to undo the damage” done by the NIE. One key step is to figure out where Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain stand on the Iran issue. The problem, he adds, is that though “some tactical differences have emerged,” observers are left with “a frustrating lack of information on what is, in all likelihood, the most important decision that the next president will take.”

That makes it all the more important that the press and the public begin to press the candidates for specifics about their ideas on this subject.

Given the stakes involved, we can’t wait until next year to find out more about their thinking. The latest revelations about the NIE make it imperative that the time to learn about their Iran policies is before November.

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