President Obama, like Bush before him, has long preferred unsubstantiated claims about Iran’s “pursuit” or “development” of nuclear weapons to the reports of the IAEA and the view of his own Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair. Over the past few months, time and time again top administration officials — with the exception of Blair — have repeatedly contradicted the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate’s assessment that Iran halted any weapons program it may have had more than five years ago.
That said, it’s only fair to note when the president says something reasonable. As Steve Hynd notes, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued this joint statement following a meeting this week where the two discussed reducing their respective nuclear arsenals (always a good thing):
“While we recognize that under the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear program, Iran needs to restore confidence in its exclusively peaceful nature.”
Obama and his aides were particularly pleased at what they saw as small progress on Russia’s position on Iran, with Moscow coming closer to agreeing that Tehran could be pursuing nuclear weapons and thus pose a threat . . .”
Indeed, an unnamed “senior administration official” told reporters that Obama and Medvedev had discussed “Iran and its illicit nuclear program” — illicit presumably referring to the UN Security Council’s resolutions calling for a suspension of uranium enrichment, since Iran has an absolute right under the NPT to develop civilian nuclear technology — adding this observation:
”I’ve dealt with [Russian Foreign Minister] Mr. Lavrov over the last several weeks and they’ve always said Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon — “We have no evidence of that, show me that this is there.” And this was a different tone than that.
“We had an assessment of the threat for a long time that they did not accept, and I would say today we came closer to having a mutual understanding of what that threat is.”
And what is that official U.S. assessment anyway?
Senator Carl Levin (D-MI): Now does the intelligence community assess that Iran currently has made the decision to produce highly enriched uranium for a warhead or a bomb?
Admiral Dennis Blair: We assess that Iran has not yet made that decision.
Perhaps that unnamed “senior official” — along with the entire Obama cabinet — should have a chat with this Blair guy sometime.