U.S. Intel Chief Says Iran Isn’t Building Nukes. Is Anybody Listening?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday March 12, 2013, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reaffirmed what the U.S. intelligence community has been saying for years: Iran has no nuclear weapons program, is not building a nuclear weapon and has not even made a decision to do so.

The annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” which compiles the collective conclusions of all American intelligence agencies, has long held that Iran maintains defensive capabilities and has a military doctrine of deterrence and retaliation, but is not an aggressive state actor and has no intention of beginning a conflict, let alone triggering a nuclear apocalypse.

While the U.S. intelligence community assumes that Iran already has the technical capability to produce nuclear weapons, “should a decision be made to do so,” Clapper’s report states (as it has for years now), “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Were this decision ever to be made, Iran wouldn’t even be able to secretly start building a nuclear bomb. “[W]e assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU [weapons-grade uranium] before this activity is discovered,” Clapper told Congress.

Even Clapper, who is no stranger to alarmism, acknowledges that “Iran prefers to avoid direct confrontation with the United States” and would only act defensively “in response to perceived offenses.”  Iran’s “decision making is guided by a cost-benefit approach” based on considerations of “security, prestige and influence, as well as the international political and security environment,” Clapper said, thereby dismissing allegations that the Islamic Republic is an irrational martyr state. Speaking at a national security conference in Herzliya on Thursday, Israel’s own military intelligence chief concurred with Clapper’s assessment. While sure to continue advancing its nuclear program in the coming year, he said, Iran had not actually decided to build a bomb.

Such findings are wholly consistent with past assessments.

In April 2010, Defense Intelligence Agency director Ronald Burgess told the Senate Committee on Armed Services, “Iran’s military strategy is designed to defend against external threats, particularly from the United States and Israel” and “to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.” The following year, he explained that “Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack,” and reiterated this conclusion in early 2012.

With these findings in mind – assessed and reaffirmed as they are year after year – it is alarming indeed that journalists, pundits, establishment think tank analysts, and a wide array of government officials continue to parrot the claim that Iran is “the world’s most dangerous state” and “one of the gravest threats to international security.”

Such hysteria and fear-mongering, as always, is simply not borne out by the facts.

 

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