What I am about to mention is not "news" and will be familiar to people following the Iran story. But it is important. Precisely because there is so much daily chatter about a possible military strike on Iran, it is worth going back to make sure this part does not vanish from the public record or front-of-mind consciousness.
This past week, the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community said that they were not sure that Iran was even trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Why does this matter? Much of the mounting chatter about Iran takes absolutely for granted that its leaders have a bomb-building program under way. Thus the only questions worth asking are:
- How close are they?
- How dangerous would they be?
- What would it take to stop them?
- How much time does anyone else have to fend them off, before it's too late?
But here is what happened last week.
1) At a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last Tuesday, Olympia Snowe of Maine had this exchange with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence -- who was appearing with David Petraeus of the CIA. Emphasis added:
Senator Snowe: I gather we agree with the fact that Iran has not made the decision to weaponize at this point. Director Clapper, do you agree on that?
General Clapper: Yes, but they are certainly moving on that path, but we don't believe they've actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon.
I heard this exchange while I was driving around yesterday (on C-SPAN radio -- yes, now you know my darkest secret). You can see a video of the whole hearing at C-Span's site, and a reference to the exchange on the CFR site.