Alas, the joke’s on us: This same bit could have run more or less unaltered at any point over the last seven years. Skip ahead to halfway through for the Iran stuff, which begins with, I kid you not, more than a minute of semen puns.
Want to hear something funnier than the Daily Show segment? Even now, even now, after the president himself announced the discovery of a secret nuclear site that’s too small to power a reactor but juuust right for making a bomb, U.S. intel’s still willing to given Iran the benefit of the doubt on weaponization. Really:
Behind their show of unity about Iran’s clandestine efforts to manufacture nuclear fuel, however, is a continuing debate among American, European and Israeli spies about a separate component of Iran’s nuclear program: its clandestine efforts to design a nuclear warhead.
The Israelis, who have delivered veiled threats of a military strike, say they believe that Iran has restarted these “weaponization” efforts, which would mark a final step in building a nuclear weapon. The Germans say they believe that the weapons work was never halted. The French have strongly suggested that independent international inspectors have more information about the weapons work than they have made public.
Meanwhile, in closed-door discussions, American spy agencies have stood firm in their conclusion that while Iran may ultimately want a bomb, the country halted work on weapons design in 2003 and probably has not restarted that effort — a judgment first made public in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate…
In the case of the plant outside Qum, designed for uranium enrichment, some nuclear experts speculate that it is only part of something larger. But a senior American official with access to intelligence about it said he believed the secret plant was itself “the big one,” but cautioned that “it’s a big country.”
This distinction has huge political consequences. If Mr. Obama can convince Israel that the exposure of the Qum plant has dealt a significant setback to the Iranian effort, he may buy some time from the Israelis.
Per that last bit, if there’s one thing Iraq doves and Iran hawks should be able to agree on at this point, it’s this: Tragically, American intelligence simply can’t be trusted anymore not to skew its findings to suit a political agenda. Beyond that, the debate over whether Iran has designed a warhead yet is a debate about nothing, really. As any nuclear expert will tell you, and as I reminded our readers just a few days after the now infamous 2007 NIE was released, building a bomb is the easy part; the hard part is figuring out how to enrich uranium to the point where it’s suitable for a warhead, which of course is what Iran’s been busy doing for most of the last decade. It’s like arguing over whether a nut with a machine gun and a loaded clip in his hands is dangerous yet if the clip hasn’t been inserted into the gun. As for the claim by the unnamed U.S. official that the Qom site is “the big one,” read down to the bottom of the Times piece and look for the response from nuke expert Graham Allison. I made the same point he did over the weekend: Given that Iran’s whole strategy in dispersing its nuclear facilities geographically was to avoid a decapitating strike by Israel a la the Osirak raid on Iraq, why on earth would they build a single secret site and make that the linchpin of their enrichment program? If you believe the official, they’ve basically built an Osirak in the mountain near Qom — precisely the opposite of what they’ve intended all along. How likely is it that they’re that stupid?
Exit question via Ynet: What if the talks in Geneva this week break down, sanctions are imposed, and then Iran retaliates by deciding to pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty? If they do that, calling the west’s bluff by kicking out UN nuclear inspectors and throwing NATO into a panic that they’re about to go full-bore towards weaponization, what’s the next move from Europe and the U.S. then?
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