JPOST editor on U.S. backtracking on NIE: Too little, too late


Jeursalem Post editor David Horovitz takes a shot at Michael McConnell, “the man responsible for the US National Intelligence Estimate that two months ago essentially cleared Iran of pursuing a nuclear bomb.”

Last week, in testimony to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the admiral said that in hindsight, “I think I would change the way that we described [the Iranian] nuclear program.”

Here’s the very first sentence of that immensely ballyhooed NIE, which was greeted rapturously by Iran and with horror in Israel when it was published in early December: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Teheran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

What McConnell is now saying amounts to the very opposite: Yes, runs the amended narrative, we think the Iranians may have halted what we narrowly, foolishly and misleadingly defined as their nuclear weapons program four years ago, we’re not sure if they’ve restarted it, but the fact is that we led you all astray with our definition of that program in the first place.

You see, the new line continues, weapon design and weaponization – those narrow aspects that might have been halted – really constitute the “least significant portion” of a nuclear weapons program. In retrospect, we should have relied on more than a footnote to make that clear. The “most difficult challenge” is actually “uranium enrichment [to] enable the production of fissile material,” and, as we probably should have stressed more prominently, work on that is proceeding apace. …

Or, to put it another way: Whoops. We meant to say that Iran is closing in relentlessly on a nuclear weapons capability, but we didn’t express ourselves very effectively, and wound up making you believe the reverse. Sorry. But we’re fixing that now, so we’re all back on the same page. No biggie, right?


Horovitz notes that McConnel’s backtracking received scant coverage in the American press – and has done nothing to undue the various levels of damage caused by the NIE.

It has done nothing to dent Ahmadinejad’s public confidence that nobody is going to stop the Iranian drive now, and nothing to suggest to Iran that it need halt what McConnell acknowledged last week was the range of dual-purpose activities that daily bring it ever-closer to a nuclear weapons capability. The admiral’s climbdown has injected no new urgency, and no stronger teeth, into the weak and snail-paced UN-centered sanctions effort. It has prompted no rethink by Moscow about assisting Teheran’s “peaceful” nuclear programs. And with this US administration now counting down its final months, his “recalibration” has restored no credibility to Bush’s efforts to thwart Iran – credibility that was swept away when the shattering original NIE essentially removed his administration’s military option.

In short: Iran continues to threaten Israel and moved toward the bomb – “No biggie, Admiral McConnell,” Horovits concludes with a sarcastic finish.

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