Doaa El-Bey looks at the significance of the US intelligence report on Iran
The report released by the US National Intelligence Estimates (NIE), asserting that Iran has no nuclear weapons programme, confirms the validity of the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency over the past several years.
Writers seemed to differ on the significance of the NIE report released earlier this month. The report concluded that Iran froze its nuclear activities for military purposes in 2003. However, it could not confirm for sure whether it revived it after that date or would possibly restore it later.
Mahgoub Al-Zuweiri wrote that it was important to remember that the report will not change the attitude of the international community, especially the US, regarding Iran and its nuclear programme. Washington, Al-Zuweiri wrote, "will carry on pressing to impose new sanctions on Iran, something Al-Zuweiri believed could push Tehran into thinking seriously of reviving its nuclear plans for military purposes."
Regarding the reasons which made Iran take the decision, Al-Zuweiri wrote that it came in the wake of a discussion among the military and political elite in Iran who decided that it was of no use to earmark a huge budget to develop its nuclear project for military purposes since that would create a crisis with the international community. Instead they decided to focus on medium-range weapons which are deterrent enough and easy to develop.
Iran's quick acceptance of the US report -- although it rejected other US reports on the issue in the past -- indicated that it was looking for a way to ease international pressure on it. In addition, Al-Zuweiri wrote in the independent political Jordanian daily Al-Ghad that it would put Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an embarrassing situation for his failure to deal with the nuclear file properly. That is, given that Ahmadinejad knows that the nuclear programme for military purposes has been frozen since 2003, he should have dealt with the issue in a more efficient way in order to avoid the international community's escalation against Iran.
In the political Lebanese daily An-Nahar, Randa Haidar wrote that Iranian jubilation with the report was premature for it is, she said, "causing much controversy inside Israel." The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reviewed the difference between the US and the Israeli intelligence viewpoint regarding the Iranian nuclear programme. The newspaper mentioned the suggestion by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak that meetings be held between officials in the intelligence field in both states in order to compare the information they have.
Haidar said Israel aims to challenge the parties which made US intelligence reach their conclusion in their report. "Although Israel accepted the US conclusion that Iran froze its nuclear projects in 2003, Tel Aviv did not jump to the same conclusion that the US reached; that is, it is not possible that Iran could have restarted its nuclear project since then. Israel believed that given that Iran was capable of concealing its previous plan, more effort should be exerted to reveal any other concealed information," she wrote.
Saad Mahiou reviewed the article by former US state secretary Henry Kissinger in The Washington Post. Kissinger believed that Iran stopped its nuclear project for military purposes because their leaders were worried by an American strike against Tehran. Mahiou said Iranian hardline leaders were sure that nuclear and non-nuclear self-restraint was required at that stage.
Agreeing with Kissinger's conclusion, Mahiou wrote in the independent United Arab Emirates daily Al-Khaleej that at present the renewed threat of a US war against Iran imposed on the leaders to concede as they did in 2003, thus giving up their hardline approach. To drive his point home, he mentioned an incident that was ignored by the media: the present head of the Iranian Council of Experts and a relatively moderate leader, Hashemi Rafsanjani, sending a high-level delegation to Iran's spiritual and supreme leader Ali Khamenei. The delegation confirmed that Ahmadinejad's policies would not only harm the interests of Iran and the Iranian Revolution but the Shia in the world as well. Contrary to expectations, Khamenei listened to the delegation without showing any objections. Mahiou questioned whether Khamenei's reaction could be interpreted as being biased towards Rafsanjani and his moderate tendency in the next election and probably before that. He answered in the positive.
Abdel-Rahman Al-Rashed also agreed with Kissinger's conclusions in articles in the London-based pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat in which he advised the US to try to reach a solution with Iran that could satisfy its security needs.
However, he questioned whether Iran would be willing to give up its nuclear plans if the US presented Tehran an offer that meets its security needs. The practices of the present government, said Al-Rashed, showed that it was aiming to become a regional power at the expense of weakening all other powers surrounding it and to control all the issues and conflicts in the area.
In Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Rashed came to the conclusion that such practices indicated that Iran was serious in its quest for nuclear power. However, he wrote that the US should try to provide Iran with an offer that satisfies its security needs in return for stopping its nuclear programme for military purposes for the sake of giving peace in the region a chance, and putting Tehran in an embarrassing situation before its people and the world.
Mahmoud Awad wrote that the Iranian nuclear programme "had always served as a US cover for other undeclared objectives, exactly like the possession of weapons of mass destruction which the US used as a pretext to invade Iraq."
Awad wrote in the London based daily Al-Hayat that the report came as a surprise because the same US intelligence produced a report in 2005 stating that Iran was determined to develop nuclear weapons. It also came at a time when US President George Bush was warning that Iran's possession of nuclear weapons could lead to the eruption of a third world war and was exerting every effort to impose new sanctions on Tehran.
Other parties like the neo-cons and Israel rejected the report and considered it an intelligence coup against Bush. Israel's prime minister declared that Tel Aviv would carry on its efforts to stop Iran from possessing nuclear weapons.
However, "the sound assessment of the report is that the world after 3/12/2007 should differ from the world before that date as the spectre of a war by the US against Iran fades," he wrote.
In his conclusion, Awad wrote that the importance of the report lies in whether it would open a serious discussion among US politicians about the present US administration's policies towards the Middle East or would be a mere bureaucratic report like any other.