Monthly Archives: September 2006

NPR on Iran Intel

_NPR_ had a “good segment”: [Via “Laura Rozen”: ] earlier today about, among other things, the Pentagon’s new Iran desk. It notes that several of its staffers worked for OSD’s Office of Special Plans.

[FYI, one of those staffers, Abram Shulsky, wrote “this gem”: about intelligence -gathering- analysis a few years ago. Ick.]

Another highlight: Negroponte said that he would be “terribly surprised” if unvetted intelligence on Iran was reaching US policymakers.

Yeah, that’d be effing shocking.

Part of the segment also features a hilarious defense of the OSP from none other than D Feith. Priceless.

Laura’s post reminded me of a “similar one from Josh Marshall”: a few months back.

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Here’s a topic I’d like to know more about.

As you may know, Vice President Cheney’s daughter Elizabeth is the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. She also has the title of “Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives.” Basically that means she’s in charge of democratizing the Middle East.

She has a budget of, I believe $75 million, for bringing about ‘regime change’ in Iran.

I also noticed this recent aside in The Nelson Report in which Chris Nelson wrote that his sources “say [Undersecretary of State Nick] Burns has been fighting an apparently losing battle with Undersecretary for non-proliferation Bob Joseph on a variety of issues, and that Vice President Cheney’s office seems to be sponsoring the hiring of exceptionally large numbers of political appointees, not career FSO’s, to staff the to-be-created Iran democracy projects to be run out of State.”

Pass the glue…

Israeli FM on Iranian Nukes

I mentioned in “this post”: earlier that Negroponte was asked about Israeli estimates RE: Iran’s nuclear potential.

I neglected to mention that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister “was on CNN this weekend”: discussing that very topic:

BLITZER: How much time do you believe the international community has before Iran crosses into an area of no return, in effect has a nuclear bomb?

LIVNI: The crucial moment is not the day of the bomb. The crucial moment is the day in which Iran will master the enrichment, the knowledge of enrichment.

BLITZER: And how long is that?

LIVNI: A few months from now.

BLITZER: What does that mean, a few months?

LIVNI: A few months, I mean…

BLITZER: Six months?

LIVNI: No, I don’t know for sure, because it takes time and this something that they have to try, in doing so…

BLITZER: Because other Israelis have said that would be the point of no return.

LIVNI: I don’t want to use the words “point of no return,” because the Iranians are using it against the international community. They are trying to send a message that it’s too late; you can stop your attempts because it’s too late.

It’s not too late. They have a few more months. And it is crucial because this is in the interests of the international community. The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran. It’s not only a threat to Israel. The recent understanding, also, of moderate Arab states is that Iran is a threat to the region. And I believe that this is time for sanctions.

BLITZER: Is this the biggest threat facing Israel?

DNI on Iran Nuclear Estimate

I missed this when it came out a couple of weeks ago.

Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte “told NPR”: that the IC’s estimate regarding Iran’s nuclear program is the same as it was a year ago.

He said:

MR. SIEGEL: …According to U.S. intelligence
agencies, how soon will Iran have a nuclear weapon given its present program? Well, Negroponte says the US made its estimate a year ago.

AMB. NEGROPONTE: These are estimates. These are judgments. They’re not hard and cold simple facts. But our best estimate at the time, and it continues to be the judgment of the Intelligence Community, is that sometime beginning in the next decade, perhaps out to the middle of the next decade would be a good time frame, a good estimate of when they might have such a capability.

*MR. SIEGEL: Sometime between four and 10 years from now you would assume they could achieve a nuclear weapon.

AMB. NEGROPONTE: Five to 10 years from now.*

MR. SIEGEL: The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on its inspections this week. They reported on rather little progress by the Iranians. Does that conform to U.S. intelligence or does it in any way alter your estimate?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: This is a judgment that was formed over a period of time based on all sources of intelligence that we have, and I think those basic pieces remain in place today, both the determination to acquire such a capability, and the efforts that are under way to achieve that. Now mind you . and this was why I was careful to say at the outset that these are estimates and judgments, because you don’t know what you don’t know. And Iran is by definition, from the point of view of the Intelligence Community, a hard target. They engage in denial and deception. They don’t want us to necessarily know everything that they’re doing. So we don’t, for example, know whether there’s a secret military program and to what extent that program has made progress.

Negroponte also discussed Israeli estimates regarding Iran:

MR. SIEGEL: When Americans hear of, or read of, say, an Israeli estimate that the Iranians are two years away from a nuclear weapon, do you think the Israelis are just making different inferences from the same evidence you see .


MR. SIEGEL: or they know differently?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: No, I don’t . I think that we basically operate from the same knowledge base. We also happen to consult with the Israelis quite closely. We have intelligence-sharing arrangements, procedures.

I think that sometimes what the Israelis will do. and I think that perhaps because it’s a more existential issue for them, they will give you the worst-case assessment.

We would agree that perhaps an equally valid assessment would be the same one that we put forward.

MR. SIEGEL: But you’re talking about differences in assessment and analysis of information.


MR. SIEGEL: . not differences in information?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: That . I would say that, yes. I think that’s fair.

Obviously, I don’t know what sources the US IC has on Iran, but I would point out that Iran’s diminished cooperation with the IAEA during the past few months has made the program a lot more of a black box, both to the public and (I bet) the US IC.

That’s why Tehran should resume implementing its additional protocol ASAP – the lack of public information, I think, hurts Iran at least as much as anyone else. That lack makes it tough for the public to resolve “debates”: concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities – especially when there’s no neutral third party to investigate “claims”: that Tehran has secret nuclear programs, etc.

That’s a problem. I think that the pace of Iran’s program gives us time for international diplomacy can work. But absent more Iranian cooperation, advocates for diplomacy will be increasingly hard-pressed to point to reliable public estimates of the program.

Libya/UK Peace and Security Letter

“This looks”: kind of interesting. Libya and the UK signed a joint letter of Peace and Security in June.

My colleague Michael Nguyen wrote about it in “this month’s _ACT_”:

He wrote:

bq. On June 26 in Tripoli, British Junior Foreign Minister Kim Howells signed a “Joint Letter of Peace and Security” with his counterpart, Libyan Secretary for European Affairs Abdullati Obidi. The letter pledges that the United Kingdom will seek UN Security Council action if another state attacks Libya with chemical or biological weapons. The United Kingdom also pledged to aid Libya in strengthening its defense capabilities, and both states pledged to work jointly to combat the proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD).

The US apparently has no plans to follow suit anytime soon.

Not if You Were the Last HPSCI on Earth

I have a feeling that telling “clowns”: like “Charles Krauthammer”: that exaggerated Iran intel could increase support for a bombing campaign is kind of like “Ordell Robbie admonishing”: his girlfriend while she smokes herb on the couch:

Ordell Robbie: That shit’ll rob you of your ambition.

Melanie: Not if your ambition is to get high and watch TV.

I’m sure all of you saw “yesterday’s _Post_ article”: regarding the “IAEA letter”: criticizing this “HPSCI report”: (which Jeffrey mocked “here”: about US intelligence on Iran.

You can read the letter “here”:, but the piece nicely adds value. For example:

bq. Privately, several intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either demonstrably wrong or impossible to substantiate. Hoekstra’s office said the report was reviewed by the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

One scary item that I haven’t seen mentioned much is that the HPSCI is busy on a similar report about North Korea:

Hoekstra’s committee is working on a separate report about North Korea that is also being written principally by Fleitz. A draft of the report, provided to The Post, includes several assertions about North Korea’s weapons program that the intelligence officials said they cannot substantiate, including one that Pyongyang is already enriching uranium.

The intelligence community believes North Korea is trying to acquire an enrichment capability but has no proof that an enrichment facility has been built, the officials said.


PSI and Interdictions

I ain’t no lawyer, but I thought I’d try and provide an answer to a comment made the other day in response to “this post”:
I thought I would make a post out of my response, lest it be lost in the comments section.

Hass said:

Sorry but there is a great deal of debate over the legality of PSI – even in its present form. The PSI docs claim that it is consistent with international law however under Article 110 of the Law of the Sea Convention the interdiction of vessels is legally only permitted if they’re engaged in five possible activities, all of which are themselves illegal such as carrying contraband (drug trafficking on the high seas is prohibited by the 1988 Vienna Convention.) Otherwise interdiction requires the consent of the flag State in international waters.

The US has tried to fit the PSI into international law by dressing it up in the language of international law and later by claiming it constitutes “self-defense” but few are buying that. Even some in the US worry that it could just as easily be applied to the US.
Since the PSI is selectively applied to states which are designated (by whom?) of “proliferation concern” this raises even more doubts that the PSI constitutes a general norm or standard of international law. It is at best a multilateral agreement which is enforceable only among its participants but which is otherwise contrary to international law

First of all, arguing that there is a “debate” about the legality of interdictions isn’t the same thing as the argument made in the original comment. Leave the goalposts where they are, please.

[Hass originally said, “But hasn’t the Bush administration instituted the “Proliferation Security Initiative” outside of the UN Law of the Sea system to (illegally) interdict missiles and other “wmd-related” material from going to countries we don’t like on an ad hoc basis?”]

Second, I’d like to see how widespread any debate over the PSI’s legality really is. According to “this State Dept. fact sheet”:, 60+ countries have voiced support for the PSI, which includes “this statement of principles.”:

There _has_ been a debate about the legality of on interdictions on the high seas. But that’s not really the focus of PSI. To the extent that the initiative deals with those sorts of interdictions, it works within existing legal authority by, for example, U.S. bilateral boarding agreements.

As my colleague Wade Boese “has written”:

Legal Authority: The initiative does not empower countries to do anything that they previously could not do. Most importantly, PSI does not grant governments any new legal authority to conduct interdictions in international waters or airspace. Such interdictions may take place, but they must be confined to what is currently permissible under international law. For example, a ship can be stopped in international waters if it is not flying a national flag or properly registered. It cannot be stopped simply because it is suspected of transporting WMD or related goods. PSI is primarily intended to encourage participating countries to take greater advantage of their own existing national laws to intercept threatening trade passing through their territories and where they have jurisdiction to act. In situations where the legal authority to act may be ambiguous, Bolton said participants might go to the UN Security Council for authorization.[3]

PSI participants are working to expand their legal authority to interdict shipments by signing bilateral boarding agreements with select countries to secure expedited processes or pre-approval for stopping and searching their ships at sea. The United States has concluded such agreements with Belize, Croatia, Cyprus, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, and Panama. Liberia and Panama possess the largest fleets of registered ocean-going vessels in the world.

To be fair, “there is evidence”: that Bolton was pushing the boundaries on high-seas interdictions:

bq. Still, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton holds out the hope that the initiative will lead countries to act more aggressively within current law and, in effect, change it. In comments published Oct. 21 by The Wall Street Journal, Bolton said, “As state practice changes, customary international law changes.”

For more information, Jofi Joseph dropped a bunch of PSI knowledge “here”:

ACA N Korea Event and ACT Survey

Two things:

ACA is hosting “an event”: 19 Sept. about the current North Korean nuclear situation.

Here’s the lineup:


Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. First elected to Congress in 1976, Congressman Leach began his government service on the staff of then-Representative Donald Rumsfeld. Afterward, he became a Foreign Service Officer, during which time he worked at the former Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

James A. Kelly, Senior Advisor and Distinguished Alumni at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). From 2001 through 2004, Kelly served as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he was directly involved in talks with North Korea. His government career also included stints as Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to President Ronald Reagan, Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (East Asia and the Pacific).

Daniel Poneman, Principal at The Scowcroft Group. Mr. Poneman is a former National Security Council (NSC) staff director. He first joined the NSC in 1990 as Director of Defense Policy and Arms Control and was then promoted to Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls from 1993 through 1996. Mr. Poneman is the author or co-author of several books, including Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis.

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association.

“Click this link”: if you wish to RSVP.

Even if you’re not attending that event, please take a minute to complete “this ACT survey”: It would be helpful.


More on Iran suspension

Following up on “yesterday’s”: post, “this AP story”: indicates that Iran’s proposal may not have been all that:

Tehran said over the weekend that it was considering suspending enrichment, which can produce fissile material for nuclear warheads, for up to two months. The willingness to consider such a halt was seen as an important opening.

But officials from delegations familiar with the outcome of the weekend’s negotiations between Iranian and European negotiators said Tuesday that Iran had also made clear it would not halt enrichment before broader, six-power talks aimed at persuading Iran to agree to a long-term moratorium. They demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging confidential information.

Iran faces the threat of U.N. sanctions if those talks fail.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press as the
International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board reconvened at a session that would focus on Iran, likely on Wednesday.

In other news, I am having trouble figuring out what’s new about “Rice’s comments from yesterday.”: “Several”: news “reports”: have suggested that she was articulating a new policy, but I don’t see it.

She said:

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, there’s a report that the Iranians have floated the idea of a two-month suspension of their enrichment activities after talks begin. Does that idea have any interest at all — hold any interest at all for you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have had a chance to talk with Javier Solana after his talks with the Iranians, and the issue is are the Iranians prepared to suspend so that negotiations can begin. And I think they thought that the atmosphere was good for the talks, but I don’t have any — I don’t think there is an outcome yet that would permit negotiations to begin because the condition for negotiations to begin is that there has to be a suspension of the Iranian enrichment and reprocessing activities.

And that is the condition set not by the United States but by the IAEA Board of Governors and now by the Security Council. I should just note that work is continuing among the members of the Security Council coming out of the political directors meeting that took place that Nick Burns attended a couple of days ago, and that work is going to continue. But we’ve always said we would keep open the path for discussions, and if the Iranians wish to suspend so that we can begin negotiations, that would be a good thing.

QUESTION: So just to clarify, this offer, which seems to be an offer to suspend for a month or two, is not sufficient?

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t think there is an offer, Jonathan, at this point. And the point is there would have to be a suspension. If there is a suspension, then we can have discussions, but there has to be a suspension. And as far as I know, the Iranians have not yet said that they would suspend prior to negotiations, which is what the issue has been.

QUESTION: Sorry. One more clarification on this. If the Iranians said — if they were in fact willing to suspend, negotiations could begin? Their offer, as we understand it, has to do with what happens next, that there could then be two months worth of negotiations but they wouldn’t — their suspension would be time-limited.

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, it’s suspension. Verified suspension. That’s the condition. Secondly, it’s suspension for suspension. We’ve said that if the Iranians are in a state of suspension, then we will be prepared not to have activity in the Security Council, but there has to be a suspension if there are going to be any negotiations. As for time limitations, I don’t — I haven’t heard any Iranian offer so I don’t know what to make of that. But the question is: Are they prepared to suspend verifiably so that negotiations can begin? That’s the issue.

QUESTION: (off-mic)

SECRETARY RICE: Our clock would be running, too.

“This Reuters piece”: has the State Dept. throwing some cold water on the reported Iranian offer.

Anyway, I think it’s a little interesting that Rice didn’t directly criticize the limited-duration suspension. But it’s not _that_ interesting, because the “P5+1 are only asking”: Iran to agree to suspend its enrichment activities for the duration of the talks.

I did some reporting about that “here”: You should also check out “this 7 June _ACT_ interview”: with Amb. Greg Schulte where he addressed the suspension issue:

ACT: What do you think of their responses so far?

Schulte: … As the president [George W. Bush] said, the initial response after the package was presented to Iran sounded positive, but we’re giving them the opportunity to respond. We want them to make the positive decision, but they need to manifest this by a willingness to negotiate seriously, and they need to manifest this by verifiably and fully suspending their enrichment-related activities.

ACT: Does this suspension have to be permanent?

Schulte: We’re just asking for a suspension.

I think it’s clear from Rice’s statements that the US wants Iran to suspend before negotiations begin/the UNSC stops pushing for sanctions, which is really the sticking point.

Here’s more:

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we seem to be moving, if the suspension does not go forward, toward sanctions. Do you think that the menu of sanctions that the UN Security Council is considering are strong enough to get Iran to suspend? And if they don’t, what are our options after that? Should Americans start getting used to living with a nuclear-armed Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Nobody is going to become accustomed to the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran. That’s why we’re on this course. I do think you will see that there will be a series of sanctions that are commensurate with Iranian behavior and with what the Iranians do in response to the Security Council resolution. The international community can bring a lot of isolation on Iran, both formally and informally, both through the Security Council and through likeminded states taking action even if the Security Council does not.

And so this is the beginning of a road. I continue to hope that the Iranians are going to take the opportunity put before them, which is to suspend and to begin negotiations. It’s only in that way that we can explore whether there really is an answer to this problem through negotiation. But I’m quite certain that you’re going to see, if this does not work out, that you’re going to see sanctions and that those will be commensurate with Iranian behavior.

It may well be, Helene, that it will be several resolutions. I wouldn’t suspect that everything is going to be in resolution number one, but I do think you’ll see in resolution number one an important signal to the Iranians that they are now under international not just scrutiny but international pressure and indeed international isolation. And as I’ve said, that can have effects both formally and informally.

But we’ll see what comes out of these talks. From our point of view, we have nothing to lose by – as we work towards the sanctions resolution – having Javier Solana explore with the Iranians whether there’s a way to get to negotiations. That’s just fine. But the time is coming very soon when we’re going to have to vote a Security Council resolution, when it’s ready, when it’s been consulted and prepared.

Regrettably, no package jokes. Instead, I give you “Devvo”: [warning, profanity included].

Iran Suspension Offer?

By now, most of you have probably seen “the AP,”: “Reuters,”: and “AFP”: reports that, during a meeting b/t Solana and Larijani, the latter said that Iran would consider suspending its enrichment program for up to two months.

“Another AP article”:
and “this AFP piece”: offered some more details.

According to the 2nd AP story, a “diplomat familiar with the issue” said that the Iranians “are essentially seeking assurances that they would not be bombed while they are talking.”

For its part, AFP makes Larijani’s offer sound decidedly unappealing:

In giving details of a closed-door meeting between top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and European foreign policy chief Javier Solana last weekend in Vienna, the diplomat said Iran “had a long list (of conditions) including (a) complete and total halt in activity at the UN Security Council, an absolute stepping down from going for sanctions and that Iran would have the right to nuclear fuel technology on its soil.”

“In return for this, Larijani said the Iranians would consider, consider not actually carry out, a two-month halt in enrichment. It was all very conditional,” the diplomat said, in relating a briefing from Solana.


There was not any new offer on the table from the Iranians. It was all incredibly conditional and all temporary,” the diplomat said, adding that the suspension would come before negotiations.

With respect to Iran’s reaction,”AFP reported that”: Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, denied that Larijani made the suspension offer.

The “response from Iran’s MFA”: seemed a little softer to me:

Referring to suspension of Iran uranium enrichment activities as a precondition for resumption of nuclear talks), the spokesman said

“The era of suspension is over. The question of the suspension (of uranium enrichment) is a thing of the past.”

“Iran will not take a step back,” stressed the official.

He added, “If the Europeans have points of view (about suspension) we are ready to hear them, but we, too, have questions to ask,” Asefi stressed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi expressed hope on Sunday in the second round of Larijani-Solana talks in Vienna, the European side “will adopt a reasonable policy.”Asefi was referring to the nuclear talks between Iran`s Secretary of Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Larijani and the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana in the Austrian capital.

The two officials held the first round of their talks on Saturday behind closed doors. Addressing domestic and foreign reporters at his weekly press briefing, Asefi described the talks as “good”.

However, the spokesman warned “If the Europeans insist on improper grounds during the second round of talks (due to begin within hours Sunday), then the case would proceed in another way.”

“In the nuclear case we enjoy some rights that we pursue them in the talks,” Asefi stressed.

He expressed hope the second round of Larijani-Solana talks would lead to “mutually agreed upon” consequences.

Obviously, other details RE: scope and duration will need to be seen before one can render a proper judgment on Iran’s offer. I would note that, during its previous negotiations with the E3 (and prior to restarting its conversion facility in August 2005), Iran failed to make good on more than one threat to abandon its suspension agreement.

Iran Feels Out Package

ISIS has “a copy of Iran’s response”: to the “P5+1 package”: offered to Iran 6 June.

There’s also a “brief analysis”: which you should read.