PrintPrint CiteCite
Style: MLAAPAChicago Close


No Change

Author: Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies
December 10, 2007
The New Republic


A new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report on Iran’s nuclear intentions and capabilities, released by the U.S. government earlier this week, has stunned the world by announcing “in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program,” and assessing, with moderate confidence, that the program is still on ice. That appears to differ sharply from its judgment just two years ago that Iran was engaged in an active effort to develop nuclear weapons, and strikes a discordant note with the recent push by the Bush administration to not-so-subtly insinuate that Iran was an imminent threat. It was no surprise, then, that pundits quickly concluded that the NIE heralded a major shift in U.S. policy. Wrote Steven Lee Meyers of The New York Times: “Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here.”

Forgive me, then, for pointing out that the debate I hear sounds pretty similar to how it did last week. The intelligence report will do little to change the position and strategy of the United States, nor will it have much of an effect on the approaches taken by Russia, China, and Israel. It will have more of an effect in Europe—notably Britain and France—but not as much of one as many suppose. (Those six countries, along with Iran, are the major players: they include every permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, along with the state most clearly in Tehran’s crosshairs.) There should be no doubt that the administration has a political opportunity to use the new intelligence to justify a long overdue change of course, engaging directly with Tehran while continuing to apply pressure. But there is no indication that the administration will seize that opportunity and change its strategy.

In Washington, the real debate has long been between those who see some value in direct and immediate discussions with Tehran, and those who, like the administration, believe that engagement would be counterproductive, at least it if were pursued while Iran continues to enrich uranium. Military action has never been a significant near-term possibility, despite breathless media reports suggesting the contrary, while intensified sanctions, an administration priority, have long enjoyed bipartisan support.

View full text of article.

More on This Topic


Qarantina: Film Screening and Discussion

Speaker: Oday Rasheed
Presider: Deborah Amos

Iraqi filmmaker Oday Rasheed discusses his second film, Qarantina, which follows the story of a broken family in Baghdad who takes in a...


The Gulf States and Iran

Author: Max Boot
Wall Street Journal

Max Boot urges the United States to “tell the Gulf Arabs that if they expect the U.S. to stand with them in the future, they need to stand...


The Iran Nuclear Talks Impasse

Interview of: Michael A. Levi

This week's latest round of Iran talks seems to have done little to reconcile the two sides on the country's nuclear position, says CFR's...