Iran's nuke threat underestimated by NIE


The revelation by Herb Meyer that the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) cited by Rick Moran  is, in fact, a finished product indicates serious problems within our intelligence community or our Administration.  Sadly, the available evidence points to Herb's second possibility, which is that Negroponte signed off on the estimate without a clear understanding of how the CIA has consistently understated Iran's nuclear capability.

Rick Moran is correct to remind us of the CIA's tendency to report on only one type of potential Iranian weapon, the implosion type.  This is the most complex type of weapon to build, and would be the last choice of a bunch of crazies anxious to quickly produce a nuke for their use, or for 'export.' 

As Rick suggests, the gun—type is simple and reliable.  The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a gun type, and was not even tested by US engineers since the design was almost foolproof.  Also, Iran is only concerned with production of HEU, which can be used in both types of designs.  Plutonium can be used only in an implosion type of weapon.  Technically, all indications are that Iran's objective is to build a simple gun—type device using HEU as the fuel, despite the CIA's conclusion that they would wait several years to develop an implosion—type weapon.

Mr. Meyer suggests third possibility in that the NIE was deliberately leaked to provide cover for secret negotiations between the mullahs and the Administration.  This option was discussed by Dr. Mohamed Ibn Guadi and me this past April.  Should a deal be cut, it would enable the mullahs to retain power, they would call off their mercenaries in Iraq, and they would sweeten the deal with energy concessions.  There is only one problem; the people of Iran would have an infinitely harder time of throwing off the shackles of oppression if the mullahs remained in power.  If GW sticks to his principles, this option is off the table.

Anything is possible in a war where intense battles are fought both overseas and within our government agencies.  However, the CIA's track record suggests that Mr. Meyer's misgivings about John Negroponte are correct.

Doug Hanson   08—04—05