Many activists and analysts have been pushing for the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. The NIE is the consensus of the US intelligence community and can help put the heated political debates about US relations with Iran in context.
After much delay, the NIE on Iran has been released, and it concludes that Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been on hold since 2003, and that it would take at least two years, though likely many more, to obtain the material necessary for a nuclear bomb:
The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran’s ultimate intentions about gaining a nuclear weapon remain unclear, but that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
“Some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways might — if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program,” the estimate states…
… The N.I.E. concludes that if Iran were to end the freeze of its weapons program, it would still be at least two years before Tehran would have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. But it says it is still “very unlikely” Iran could produce enough of the material by then.
Instead, today’s report concludes it is more likely Iran could have a bomb by the early part to the middle of the next decade. The report states that the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this goal before 2013, “because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.”
This is a significant report, especially in the wake of tense relations and hostile rhetoric between the US and Iran, as well as a presidential race in which possible military action against Iran has been a constant theme. The NIE offers an opportunity to highlight that there is plenty of time to engage in productive diplomacy, and that this is the best and only way to resolve tensions with Iran. You can download the report by clicking here.