Thursday, February 07, 2008

US Spy Chief Retreats From Iran NIE

The plot thickens.

First Russia's deputy foreign minister makes a 180 degree turnaround and calls Iran's launch of the Samir-1 rocket `a cause for concern' and now U.S. Spy Chief Mike McConnell is retreating from the Iran NIE, according to Eli Lake in the New York Sun.

At a hearing yesterday of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the intelligence director, Michael McConnell, said, "If I had 'til now to think about it, I probably would change a few things." He later added, "I would change the way we describe the Iranian nuclear program. I would have included that there are the component parts, that the portion of it, maybe the least significant, had halted."

Mr. McConnell was referring to the specific Iranian program to design potential nuclear warheads, which the December estimate said had halted in 2003. But in his opening testimony, Mr. McConnell noted that two other components of the nuclear program were moving ahead — the enrichment of uranium, which he said was the most difficult part of making a bomb, and the development of long-range missiles capable of hitting North Africa and Europe.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program released on December 3 distinguished Iran's enrichment of uranium at Natanz and Arak from its formal nuclear weapons program, which it said had halted in 2003 after the American invasion of Iraq.

Yesterday, Mr. McConnell struck a different tone. "Declared uranium enrichment efforts, which will enable the production of fissile material, continue. This is the most difficult challenge in nuclear production. Iran's efforts to perfect ballistic missiles that can reach North Africa and Europe also continue."

Of course, part of those efforts to perfect those ballistic missiles includes the launch of the Safir-1!

Could it be that the ostriches are finally taking their heads out of the sand?

Hat tip to Carl In Jerusalem.

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