Analyst: New NIE shows US intelligence has 'rediscovered its spine'
Mike Aivaz and Jason Rhyne
Published: Tuesday December 4, 2007
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Newly declassified portions of the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which indicate that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, prove that the US intelligence community is finally showing some spine, according to one nuclear analyst.

Appearing on the BBC World news program, Joseph Cirincione (above right), the director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, said that the US military and intelligence agencies were reasserting themselves as President Bush enters the final year of his administration. Cirincione agreed with the BBC host that intelligence had "rediscovered its spine."

"And they of course are now dealing with a lame-duck president...and you're seeing first the military reassert the integrity of its institutions, and now the intelligence agencies," he continued. "So both are now saying 'go slow on Iran, there is no good military option here.' And now, there isn't really an imminent threat. We have time to let diplomacy work."

Cirincione also suggested a change in strategy from intelligence community leadership since the publication of the 2005 NIE, which found that Iran was determined to acquire a nuclear weapon.

"Well, I think what you've seen is a change in the leadership of the intelligence agencies since the 2005 assessment, and this may be a very good sign that the agencies are now more professional," he continued. "The leadership is protecting the analysts from the kinds of political pressure that distorted the intelligence assessments before the Iraq war and up until very recently."

The new NIE's findings would severely undermine a case for US armed intervention in Iran, according to the analyst.

"It definitely undercuts the case for military action," said Cirincione. "It strengthens the case for direct diplomatic engagement."

Earlier in the segment, the BBC's North American editor, Justin Webb, said he had spoken with a former top White House staffer who was fuming about the NIE revelations.

"I talked just a few hours ago to a very senior former adviser to the Bush White House, someone who knew about these things when he was there, and he was hopping mad," Webb reported. "He said that the rug had been pulled from under the Bush administration, and that the possibilities of the administration being able to take action if it wanted to take action at some point in the future had been significantly reduced."

The following video is from BBC's BBC World, broadcast on December 03, 2007