Sunday’s Washington Post featured an extensive article titled “U.S. Sees Gains in Iran Intelligence,” that details efforts by American intelligence services to penetrate Iran’s nuclear program by both technical means and human agents. Sources in the article describe U.S. drones flying undetected over Iran, the CIA working through countries in the region to place spies in Iran and connect to knowledgeable Iranians. The tone of the article is self-assured, conveying the message that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. It might more accurately be titled We Know What We’re Doing, under the Obama Administration’s byline.
The article is anonymously sourced by “seven current or former advisers on security policy who agreed to discuss U.S. options on Iran.” Far from being a journalistic scoop of clandestine intelligence operations, the article should be read as a policy gambit by the Obama Administration. They are attempting to discredit the need for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The article follows by a discreet few weeks testimony by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that Iran has not made the decision to build a nuclear weapon -- even as Iran trumpets enriching uranium to 20% (beyond what is needed for nuclear fuel), and expends enormous effort and money to shift their nuclear program to deep underground facilities. Secretary Panetta gave the same message in comments to reporters. The article has “a senior U.S. official involved in high-level discussions about Iran policy” quoted saying “Across the board, our access has been significantly improved...There is confidence that we would see activity indicating that a decision had been made.”
These views are not shared by American allies -- most notably Britain and Israel. The article acknowledges that those countries are looking at the same intelligence as our intelligence services, but have come to the conclusion that Iran is building a nuclear weapons capability. None of the seven anonymous sources attempted to explain why Britain and Israel are not persuaded; nor did the authors ask the Administration.
The article also conveniently appears before negotiations with Iran next week, negotiations that seem unlikely to produce a breakthrough capitulation by Iran, given that they’re even contesting the location of Turkey for holding the talks.
President Obama championed openness to Iran -- instead of branding the theocratic government as evil, he set out to engage with it. The Administration disavowed regime change, stressed both the high price any attack on Iran would accrue and that it could not destroy the program (because it could be rebuilt). In return for these concessions, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain agreed to increased sanctions on Iran for not complying with UN Security Council resolutions and allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.
Iran, however, has still -- three years into the Obama Administration -- not complied with the IAEA or UN Security Council Resolutions. Sanctions are clearly biting, but it has not compelled Iran’s leadership to renounce its nuclear ambitions. So the Obama Administration has taken it upon themselves to renounce Iran’s nuclear ambitions for them.