The New Republic, in an apparent effort to embarrass anyone who defended them over Scott Beauchamp, busts out some truly irresponsible coverage with Yossi Klein Halevi’s “An Insult to Intelligence: The Israeli defense community responds to the NIE”. The article basically consists of an extended, evidence-free slander of the American Intelligence Community that asserts over and over again with no basis that the NIE’s conclusions are not just mistaken, but deliberately dishonest, “an expression of political machination and cowardice.”
Not only does Halevi have no basis for these assertions, but the overwhelming bulk of his disagreement with the NIE is based on a kind of sleight of hand. The conclusion that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program is based, one assumes, on evidence for the proposition that Iran doesn’t have an active nuclear weapons program. To Halevi — who throughout the piece simply claims to speak for the entire Eretz Yisroel, despite appearing to rely almost entirely on the say-so of one former official — the key point is something else entirely. Rather that concern about an active nuclear weapons program “Israel’s point of no return is when Iran attains the potential to produce sufficient fissile material for making a bomb.”
This standard, frequently applied by hawks in Israel, simply has no meaning either under relevant international law or in the world of science and engineering. But if Halevi wants to have an honest argument about thresholds — saying the United States should hold Iran to an arbitrary and unrealistic standard — then fair enough. But hard-working, patriotic people put this NIE together designed to answer a real question about the state, if any, of an active Iranian nuclear weapons program. The International Atomic Energy Agency had looked at this question previously and found no evidence of such a program, and now the American Intelligence Community assess that this is because there is no such program. According to Halevi, this is a “betrayal” of Israel, but the only thing that’s been betrayed is a sense of hysteria that Halevi seems determined to foster.