March 19, 2012 in Featured
Mossad, CIA agree Iran has yet to decide to build nuclear weapon (Ha’aretz):
Israel’s intelligence services agree with American intelligence assessments that there is not enough proof to determine whether Iran is building a nuclear bomb, according to a report published Sunday in the New York Times.
The newspaper said that senior American officials believe there is little disagreement between the Mossad and U.S. intelligence agencies over Iran’s nuclear program, despite the fact that Israeli political leaders have been pushing for quick action to block Iran from becoming what they describe as an existential threat.
The report further quoted one former senior American intelligence official who states that the Mossad “does not disagree with the U.S. on the weapons program,” adding that there is “not a lot of dispute between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities on the facts.”
U.S. Faces a Tricky Task in Assessment of Data on Iran (New York Times):
Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, agrees with the American intelligence assessments, even while Israeli political leaders have been pushing for quick, aggressive action to block Iran from becoming what they describe as an existential threat to the Jewish state.
“Their people ask very hard questions, but Mossad does not disagree with the U.S. on the weapons program,” said one former senior American intelligence official, who, like others for this article, would speak only on the condition of anonymity about classified information. “There is not a lot of dispute between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities on the facts.”
In trying to evaluate the potential perils of Iran’s nuclear program, the United States’ spy agencies have spent years trying to track its efforts to enrich uranium and develop missile technology, and watching for any move toward weaponization — designing and building a bomb.
The United States and Israel share intelligence on Iran, American officials said. For its spying efforts, Israel relies in part on an Iranian exile group that is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or M.E.K., which is based in Iraq. The Israelis have also developed close ties in the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, and they are believed to use Kurdish agents who can move back and forth across the border into Iran.
American intelligence officials, however, are wary of relying on information from an opposition group like the M.E.K., particularly after their experience in Iraq of relying on flawed information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group run by Ahmad Chalabi.
“I’m very suspicious of anything that the M.E.K. provides,” said David A. Kay, who led the C.I.A.’s fruitless effort to find weapons program in Iraq. “We all dealt with the Chalabis of the world once.”
Just as in 2010, new evidence about the Iranian nuclear program delayed the National Intelligence Estimate in 2007, the last previous assessment. Current and former American officials say that a draft version of the assessment had been completed when the United States began to collect surprising intelligence suggesting that Iran had suspended its weapons program and disbanded its weapons team four years earlier.
The draft version had concluded that the Iranians were still trying to build a bomb, the same finding of a 2005 assessment. But as they scrutinized the new intelligence from several sources, including intercepted communications in which Iranian officials were heard complaining to one another about stopping the program, the American intelligence officials decided they had to change course, officials said. While enrichment activities continued, the evidence that Iran had halted its weapons program in 2003 at the direction of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was too strong to ignore, they said.
One former senior official characterized the information as very persuasive. “I had high confidence in it,” he said. “There was tremendous evidence that the program had been halted.”
And today, despite criticism of that assessment from some outside observers and hawkish politicians, American intelligence analysts still believe that the Iranians have not gotten the go-ahead from Ayatollah Khamenei to revive the program.
“That assessment,” said one American official, “holds up really well.”
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- U.S. “Assures” Israel That Iran Is Not An Imminent Threat
- Iran Nuclear Sites: Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant
- Iran Meets U.S. and Allies for Nuclear Talks in Geneva
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