Iranian Nukes: Maybe Not So Soon After All


A new National Intelligence Estimate just released today concludes that Iran has stopped active efforts at building its own nukes. CNN's report.

"We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely," the report says. A more likely time frame for that production is between 2010 and 2015, it concludes.

The Bush administration doesn't think this means we can rest easy, though:

U.S. National Security adviser Stephen Hadley expressed hope after Monday's announcement, but he said Iran remains a serious threat.

"We have good reason to continue to be concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon even after this most recent National Intelligence Estimate," he told reporters at the White House. "In the words of the NIE, quote, Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons if a decision is made to do so."

The Inter-Press Service reported last month, based on "accounts of the process provided by participants to two former Central Intelligence Agency officers," that what seems to be this very NIE has actually been ready to go for nearly a year. I'm not 100 percent convinced by that sourcing, but Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly is, and notes:

This NIE was apparently finished a year ago, and its basic parameters were almost certainly common knowledge in the White House well before that. This means that all the leaks, all the World War III stuff, all the blustering about the IAEA — all of it was approved for public consumption after Cheney/Bush/Rice/etc. knew perfectly well it was mostly baseless.

The National Intelligence Estimate at issue.