Iran: nuclear intentions and capabilities.

Author:DeAtkine, Norvell B.
Position:Viewpoint essay

Released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

As the Army staff's Middle East desk officer for intelligence, I once represented my service during preparation of National Intelligence Estimates (NIE). In that capacity I became part of the infamous August 1978 estimate that made the crucial judgment that "Iran is not in a revolutionary or even pre-revolutionary stage." Six months later the Shah fled the country.

Within the context of that experience I assessed the latest Iranian NIE, a document seemingly analyzed from every angle, including the political angle of principal interest to newsmen eager to determine which presidential candidate the new estimate best serves.

The professional consensus, by contrast, is that the intelligence community, specifically the CIA, has further diminished its reputation. Responses to the new NIE range from incredulous to lukewarm approval for admitting, by inference, that the analysts have little idea where Iran's nuclear program stands.

So it was in 1978. Most of us preparing that NIE had read the same reports but had very little experience on the ground in Iran. The intelligence coming from Iran, as is the case today, was suspect, and no one at the table understood the religious mystic named Khomeini, whom they generally dismissed as a pawn in the hands of some state power. They regarded the real threat as Iran's...

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