Monday, December 3, 2007

More on the Iranian NIE

Here's a link to the actual document (in PDF), straight from the horse's mouth.

A couple of interesting things in here:
  • We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

  • We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

This does, indeed indicate that the whole program was probably shut down. Then we get this:
We assess centrifuge enrichment is how Iran probably could first produce enough fissile material for a weapon, if it decides to do so. Iran resumed its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006, despite the continued halt in the nuclear weapons program. Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz, but we judge with moderate confidence it still faces significant technical problems operating

Reading between the lines, this implies that the current set of cascades that Iran has up and running are mostly a paper tiger.

Presumably a very expensive paper tiger.

The similarity to Saddam's bluff on WMD are eerie. Is this coincidental, or are we dealing with a strategy here?

Is it possible that Iran was attempting to goad the US and Israel into attacking to consolidate its domestic power?

The whole thing makes no sense, at least from a Western perspective. Am I missing something cultural that would make Iran's behavior plausible?

Update 12/3/07: The more I think about it, a couple of billion might be a small price to pay for a sure-fire way for the mullahs and Ahmadinejad to unify the country against US, thereby consolidating their political power. If that's the case, then their internal stability must be even worse than the West thinks.

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