As Ana notes below, the initial NY Times bulletin was not only correct, but understated the case. This is an N.I.E., a consensus view of all 16 US intelligence agencies…and here’s Steve Hadley’s hilarious reaction:
“It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,” Mr. Hadley said. “It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”
But even more embarrassing for the Administration is the intelligence community’s obvious conclusion that it is time to negotiate with the Iranians:
“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.
Ana’s right that this puts a stake in the heart of Podhoretz et al…but it also obliterates what the entire Republican presidential field has been saying about Iran for the past year. And, with Iraq quieting, it means that the election is more likely to focus on domestic concerns, which favor Democrats–that is, as long as the real Al Qaeda, the threat that Bush has been studiously ignoring, remains quiet.
And I also should have mentioned that this is the clearest sign yet that the intelligence community is determined maintain its independence and not to make a mistake like the October 2002 NIE about Iraq’s WMD capacities ever again.
Update Here’s how the neoconservatives over at Commentary are reporting this. Key judgment is almost as hilarious as Hadley:
In other words, the latest NIE is not a rock-solid judgment, and as we have already seen in a number of other dramatic instances, even the intelligence community’s rock-solid judgments might not be solid at all.