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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Steinberg: Alarm Subsiding in Israel on Intelligence Estimate on Iran

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: Gerald M. Steinberg, Director, Political Studies Department, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor

December 10, 2007

Gerald M. Steinberg, an Israeli-American national security expert, says the initial Israeli alarm has eased over whether the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) would soften U.S. posture toward Iran. The estimate said Iran dropped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but Steinberg notes experts have increasingly focused on Iran’s continuing enrichment of uranium, which can lead to nuclear weapons. “The initial reaction was that this was designed to lead to a situation in which the Bush administration would be unable to threaten or to take military action against Iran,” says Steinberg. But now, he says, there’s a sense “the report may not change the direction of American policy.”

Last week, the United States intelligence agencies issued a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran which surprised most people because it contradicted one from two years ago that said Iran was working on a nuclear weapon. The new NIE said that since 2003 Iran had stopped work on that military program for nuclear weapons, but was still continuing its enrichment program on uranium, from which of course you can make nuclear weapons eventually. What is the reaction in Israel?

The initial reaction was that this was designed to lead to a situation in which the Bush administration would be unable to threaten or to take military action against Iran. The concern was that by the time a new administration was in place Iran would have enough enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons.

You saw this across the Israeli media, and this was to a large degree reflected in public statements by politicians and others—that this would leave Israel alone to have to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat.


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Copyright 2007 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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