NIE: Iran ‘Halted’ Nuclear Weapons Program In 2003, Unlikely To Develop A Weapon In This Decade

A new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released today concludes with “high confidence” that “in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” From the report’s findings:

We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.

The intelligence community’s 2005 assessment concluded, inaccurately, that “Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons” and “could produce enough fissile material for a weapon by the end of this decade.” But as the new NIE finds, Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability until after 2015 “because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.”

This new NIE is long overdue. It was reportedly completed a year ago, but blocked by the White House. IPS reported:

A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear programme, and thus make the document more supportive of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s militarily aggressive policy toward Iran.

As ThinkProgress has documented, the White House’s manipulation of the Iran NIE bore a striking resemblance to the controversies that played out over pre-war Iraq intelligence.


But even with Cheney’s meddling, this NIE makes it clear that there is no imminent danger from Iran’s nuclear program. Newsweek’s Howard Fineman recently reported that the intelligence community is trying to send a message to “slow down what the president, most particularly the vice president” in what they “want to do in Iran.”

UPDATE: National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley “quickly issued a statement describing the N.I.E. as containing positive news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes. ‘It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,’ Mr. Hadley said.” View his full statement here.

UPDATE II: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Iran NIE “indicates that we should do what I have talked about doing for more than a year now: Follow the Ronald Regan theory of diplomacy. … What did Ronald Reagan do? He started his diplomats working with the evil people in the Soviet people, as he referred to, to work something out. And he did. He met with the leaders of the Soviet Union he didn’t particularly like. And that’s what we should be doing with Iran. We should be having a surge of diplomacy with Iran. And based upon this, I think it would be a pretty good idea.”