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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: A 'Pause' Over Iran Nuclear Intelligence

Council on Foreign Relations

May 11, 2006
Prepared by: Michael Moran

"Why should the American people, given the prewar failures in Iraq, be confident in what they are getting from the intelligence community on Iran?" That question, posed to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is on many minds these days. Precedent does indeed "give one pause" (CNN), Rumsfeld added.

So, too, do the similarities to early 2003. Once again, whether officially acknowledged or not, discussion of, and by some accounts (New Yorker) planning for a military strike against Iran is under debate. As in 2003, the scenario involves dire warnings of the consequence (StateDept) of the nation in question acquiring nuclear weapons, international inspectors combing its facilities (Global Security), debates in the UN Security Council over how to react (VOA), public threats against Israel (Haaretz), and exiled dissident groups touting evidence against a tyrannical regime.

This leads to an inevitable question: Given the flawed judgments and faulty intelligence that preceded the Iraq war, outlined in this 2004 report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a host of independent reports, can the American public or the world be sure the current debate rests on more solid ground?

Last year, after it became clear just how off the mark prewar Iraq intelligence had been, the bipartisan Robb-Silbermann presidential commission examined how the U.S. gathers and assesses intelligence on WMD. Its conclusions, besides confirming the abysmal performance on Iraq and the difficulty of the task generally, suggested the United States may not have much in the way of proof with regard to Iran, either.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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