WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.Instapundit suggests that something else happened in 2003 that might have changed Iranian ambitions. Perhaps he means, "We invaded Iraq, and scared Iran witless."
The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to be major factor in the tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program. Concerns about Iran were raised sharply after President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III,” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.
The findings also come in the middle of a presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed.
The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran’s ultimate intentions about gaining a nuclear weapon remain unclear, but that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
“Some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways might — if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program,” the estimate states.
Or perhaps (and this is my guess), Iran was developing WMDs because they were afraid that Iraq was doing so (just like we thought Iraq was doing). Without the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iraq, Iran might well have decided that they had better things to spend their money on.
Of course, if Iran did stop development of nuclear weapons because we invaded Iraq, this would be an example of a positive unintended consequence. But Bush, the U.S., and the Coalition of the Willing, won't get any credit for it, you can be sure.