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”:http://www.dni.gov/interviews/20060901_interview.pdf 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”:http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/15529884.htm concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities – especially when there’s no neutral third party to investigate “claims”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/14/AR2006091401533_pf.html 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.

2 thoughts on “DNI on Iran Nuclear Estimate

  1. abcd

    Just curious, what are significant factors driving assessments of when any given country should reach the capacity to churn out nukes? Is this taking into account possible outside assistance? Is it excluding the need to miniaturize the explosion into a cone? And why would the Israelis have such a vastly different assessment than the US, even given a hawkish US administration?

  2. hass

    Can’t any country theoretically obtain the capability to build a bomb in 5-10 years?

    As for the Additional Protocol, remember the Iranian experience: they implemented it for 2.5 years, and in return the goal posts were then moved again and the EU demanded that Iran abandon enrichment entirely.

    In fact, there’s good reason to assume that nothing Iran does will satisfy the NeoCons who are using the nuclear issue as a pretext for regime change.

    “In 2000, an America[n] said in our presence at
    Columbia University that they would continue to
    pressure Iran even if Iran signed the protocol 100
    times, unless they reach a political agreement with
    us. He said, jokingly, that that day they would give
    two of the latest models their nuclear reactors to
    Iran. Therefore, even if sign the Additional Protocol
    and resolve our problems with the agency, America will
    continue to exert political pressure on us.”
    Envoy to IAEA says Iran enriching uranium, takes
    “positive view” of NPT.27 July 2003 BBC Monitoring Middle East English


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