U.S. intel wonders: Hey, maybe it's time to revisit that NIE on Iran

The CYA element here is that they’re supposedly not revisiting the key finding — disputed by all of our relevant allies since practically the day the report appeared — that Iran suspended its weapons program from 2003 to 2007. Instead, they’re inevitably going to conclude that the program was restarted in 2007. Which, frankly, might be for the best: After the Iraq WMD debacle, a well meaning lie to convince the public that our intel on Iran wasn’t also completely FUBARed and politicized would go a long way.

The report reversed earlier findings that Iran was pursuing a nuclear-weapons program. It found with “high confidence” that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and with “moderate confidence” that it hadn’t been restarted as of mid-2007.

So far, intelligence officials are not “ready to declare that invalid,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said, emphasizing that the judgment covered the 2003-2007 time frame only. That leaves room for a reassessment of the period since the December 2007 report was completed, the official suggested.

The spy agencies “have a lot more information since we last did” a national intelligence estimate, the official said. Some of it “tracks precisely with what we’ve seen before,” while other information “causes us to reassess what we’ve seen before,” the official added…

In addition to the Qom disclosure, European intelligence services and United Nations inspectors have gathered new information pointing to a resumption of Iran’s weapons work…

[T]he White House could also use the new report to galvanize wider international support for sanctions against Tehran.

“Countries would no longer be able to hide behind the NIE,” said a European official working on Iran.

Ponder the idea of our country’s intel assessments being treated as though they’re concealing enemy activity; as the Journal reminds us, U.S. analysts have actually been more willing to give Iran the benefit of the doubt than the UN has. Now, the question: Was this leaked to the Journal at the White House’s behest or against the White House’s wishes? Rumors of an impending U.S. finding that their weapons program is back in business does give The One some extra leverage over Iran internationally (although the report itself wouldn’t be ready anytime soon), but it could also be the Bush dynamic in reverse — i.e. hawkish intelligence officers trying to force Obama to be more aggressive by feeding this to the media for public consumption. If it’s the latter, I hope the administration cracks down hard: It’s tough enough to make foreign-policy decisions when your generals are giving speeches about what troop levels are needed, but this nonsense with intel people trying to force the president’s hand by applying public pressure has to stop. Who’s working for whom here?

And of course, it cuts both ways. Check out this unbelievably conveniently timed bombshell about how there may be impurities in Iran’s enriched uranium that render it unfit for bombmaking, which would explain why they might be amenable to letting Russia enrich it for them. The talking-point takeaway, per David Ignatius: “Here’s the bottom line: There may be more time on the Iranian nuclear clock than some analysts had feared.” How simply wonderful for doves. Why hasn’t anyone said anything about this before?