Thielmann: Anything New In 2011 NIE?

The Arms Control Association’s Greg Theilmann looks at some of the information creeping out of this year’s new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), and deducts that it doesn’t look like there will be many surprises about Iran.

The administration of Barack Obama has taken its sweet time preparing the report, perhaps because a consensus opinion from all the U.S. intelligence agencies has become a political football in recent years.

A controversial 2007 NIE that said Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program. The assessment took the wind out of the sails of many Iran hawks, and they have been warning ever since that the new report better be accurate. (Likewise, doves alleged that the 2002 NIE on Iraq was politicized to build a case for war.)

Here’s Thielmann, extrapolating hints of the reportedly completed NIE from the Congressional testimony of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper:

Notwithstanding recent developments, key judgments on Iran in the DNI’s 2011 statement are nearly identical to those delivered by the DNI in 2010 and virtually unchanged from those in the controversial 2007 NIE:

  • “Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.” (NIE 2007)
  • “We continue to assess Iran keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so.  We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” (DNI 2011)


  • “We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.” (NIE 2007)
  • “Iran is technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the next few years, if it chooses to do so.” (DNI 2011)


  • “Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.” (NIE 2007)
  • “We continue to judge Iran’s nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran.” (DNI 2011)

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.