The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

DNI report: "We do not know whether Iran Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons."

The Director of National Intelligence, who heads the 16 US intelligence services, published it's annual report to Congress on WMD developments in foreign countries. It contains some interesting information on what we know about the Iranian nuclear programme. Here we go:

"We continue to assess that Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons though we do not know whether Tehran eventually will decide to produce nuclear weapons. Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.

During the reporting period, Iran continued to expand its nuclear infrastructure and continued uranium enrichment and activities related to its heavy water research reactor, despite multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions since late 2006 calling for the suspension of those activities. Although Iran made progress in expanding its nuclear infrastructure during 2009, some obstacles slowed progress during this period."
The report goes on with the description of technical details of the Iranian nuclear activities.

So, what do we learn?
1) Iran acts in violation of several UN SC resolutions.
2) Iran has not yet made the decision to build the bomb.
3) We do not know whether the decision to build the bomb will ever be taken.

Well, that means that Iran is not building the bomb, I guess.

I think once that is clear, we can stop threatening Iran with sanctions or military intervention.


  1. US intelligence obviously has incomplete knowledge of the situation so it's difficult to fully assess the situation, and also this report was unclassified so I wonder what they had to say at higher classifications. this article is indicative of the behind the scenes stuff that must be going on. It's a dirty business! It's also interesting to bear in mind that the US intel community got it wrong for India, Pakistan, North Korea. The intelligence community works with the information it has, mostly fragmentary. The whole thing depends on interpretation - if they're continuing to build the capability (and bearing in mind our imperfect knowledge) then we simply can't discount the possibility that they are! Developments such as Qom would point to the jury still being out.

  2. I totally agree that we have incomplete knowledge of the situation in Iran. The US intel community got it wrong not only for India, Pakistan and North Korea, but also most notably for Iraq (Let's disregard the fact for a second that intel got it right but said the opposite to please the government. See Bob Woodward's book on that). Because of this intel failure about 100.000 Iraqi civilians and 4700 coalition forces died.

    I would argue that it is not helpful to anybody to base political action on suspicion. In dubio pro reo: as long as we don't have hard evidence we should not treat Iran as a state that is building a nuclear bomb.

    One last point: You mentioned Quom. The DNI report actually mentions Quom and points out that Iran declared it to the international community. Of course, Iran violated the Additional Protocol of the NPT by declaring it when the building was well under way. But since Iran never signed the Additional Protocol they acted according to their legal obligations.

  3. I agree with the three points you've made, but you missed the fourth one. Iran also acts in violation of its obligations under the NPT. And the one question that needs to be answered: If they really do not or do not want to build a bomb, why the hell do they not cooperate with the IAEA?