This Should Make The War-With-Iran Argument Much More Difficultby Doug Mataconis
The latest National Intelligence Estimate finds that the Iranians stopped actively pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003:
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015, a U.S. intelligence report says.
A declassified summary of the latest National Intelligence Estimate found with “high confidence” that the Islamic republic stopped an effort to develop nuclear weapons in the fall of 2003.
The estimate is less severe than a 2005 report that judged the Iranian leadership was “determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure.”
But the latest report says Iran — which declared its ability to produced enriched uranium for a civilian energy program in 2006 — could reverse that decision and eventually produce a nuclear weapon if it wanted to do so.
Enriched uranium at low concentrations can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, but much higher concentrations are needed to yield a nuclear explosion.
“We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely,” the report says. A more likely time frame for that production is between 2010 and 2015, it concludes.
By which time there may not even be an Islamic Republic of Iran.
This should make the foreign policy debate during the upcoming elections more interesting. For Republicans at least, standing up to Iran was close to being a litmus test with every candidate with the exception of Ron Paul refusing to take the possibility military action off the table. Even the major Democratic candidates have been hedging their bets on Iran; and the unstated assumption underlying the debate as been that some kind of confrontation between the United States and/or Israel and Iran was coming.
The release of this report would seem to make the political argument for any military action much harder to make.