Paul Kujawsky says KEEP THE PRESSURE ON IRAN
The issue arises with the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities." The NIE concludes that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in the autumn of 2003.
The "Bush lied" crowd is hugging the NIE to its breast. For example, MoveOn.org writes: "President Bush has been moving closer to war with Iran. But a stunning new intelligence report shows that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and Bush has known for months. It's Iraq all over again. . . . Just like he did with Iraq, Bush is ignoring the intelligence and recklessly pushing towards war. We can't afford to let Bush and Cheney start another disastrous war."
However, there are other bits in the NIE that the anti-war folks are not embracing—in fact, they’re positively ignoring the following:
The NIE has "high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons."
While the NIE has "high confidence" that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it has only "moderate confidence" that it didn’t resume the program, and "we do not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."
The NIE "cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad—or will acquire in the future—a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon."
The NIE has "high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so."
And, most significantly, the conclusion that Iran halted its work on nuclear weapons "primarily in response to international pressure."
The illiberal Left also ignores the fact that Israel disagrees with the NIE judgment that Iran is not currently trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Defense Minister Ehud Barak reacted to the report by saying, "Iran did stop its nuclear program for a time in 2003, but in our assessment, it resumed its work at a certain point. . . . The U.S. assessment does not jibe with ours." There may be some reason to prefer the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s opinion over Israel’s, but it isn’t obvious what that would be.
Given the inherent uncertainty in such intelligence reports, the Iranian mullocracy’s undeniable interest in obtaining nuclear weapons, its unwavering support for Islamist terrorism, its declared hostility to the U.S., and its stated desire for the destruction of Israel, Iran remains extraordinarily dangerous. This means that changing Iran’s government remains a crucial national and international interest. To the extent Iran has backed away from seeking nuclear weapons, military options may be put aside for the time being in favor of giving economic and political sanctions, as well as supporting liberal democrats within Iran, more time to work.
The "No war with Iran" people would be more credible if they admitted that Iran’s current government is a threat to civilization and its values; and that, if military confrontation is repugnant, undermining the mullahs non-militarily becomes even more important. Instead, as Andrew Lachman, president of Democrats for Israel, Los Angeles, has noted ("Progressives should join Jews on Iran strategy," Los Angeles Jewish Journal, November 9, 2007), "instead of supporting sanctions or diplomacy, many of these progressives have instead decided to turn the argument into a wholesale opposition to any action against Iran without acknowledging the real threats . . . ."
If the anti-war Left wants credibility on Iran, it must come out in favor of sanctions and democratization. But I’m not aware of any prominent anti-war organization or activist who has done so.
There is a risk that some will use the NIE to justify not merely holding in abeyance a military strike against Iran, but even weakening the sanctions that in all likelihood led to the good news in the NIE. That would be irrational. To neutralize the threat of war, keep up the pressure until liberal democracy begins to blossom in Iran.