- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2007

The recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran‘s nuclear weapon program not only left many questions unanswered but left our friends and allies caught off-base and confused. I am sure they wonder how they are to support efforts for more stringent sanctions against Iran’s enrichment program.

Let’s not forget that Iran’s drive to achieve the enrichment of uranium is the key element in its efforts to attain a nuclear weapons program. However, the NIE has had the reverse effect. Russia has now announced it intends to complete construction of the nuclear power plant. And with China moving rapidly to expand its commercial and military relations programs with Iran, any hope of stiffer sanctions coming out of the United Nations Security Council has been scuttled by our own ineptness.

Compounding the problem, there most likely will be a rush from the appeasement crowd to move forthright to see how we can establish normal relations with Iran. Let’s not forget Iran is an acknowledged state-sponsor of terrorism that has declared war against the United States not once but several times over the last 28 years with no meaningful retaliatory response from us.

Iran’s corrupt regime, by previously fomenting regional instability, has displayed an unwillingness to play a constructive role except on its own terms. The regime’s goal is hegemony over its neighbors with the United States driven from the region. This is unacceptable.

The damage caused by the inept release of the NIE must be addressed promptly. In my view, the authors of the NIE have been very cleverly subjected to “perception management” by the Iranians. They have used perception management in a very clever way to shift the focus of the main issue from uranium enrichment to nuclear weapons warheads. Certainly, the statement by the former Iranian President Hashimi Rafsanjani to a group of visiting American experts in 2005 that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons research program in 2003 was a key factor in the perception management ruse.

The NIE fails to address what state the nuclear weapon warhead had achieved in 2003. Nor does it address whether it has been restarted. It is stressed that the “new evidence” supporting the conclusion Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program was subjected to “Red Team” analysis. This is supposed to somehow raise our comfort level. We need to ask, “Who were the members of the DNI Red Team?” If they came within the DNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) structure, their credibility is suspect.

A commission needs to be formed immediately to examine in detail all the intelligence gathered that formed the basis for the NIE’s conclusions. The commission also must examine, in a comprehensive but time-constrained review, how the DNI’s Red Team challenged the conclusions of the NIE and what the Red Team’s findings were.

The fact that Iran has accelerated its work on uranium enrichment with more than 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz site is a key factor in its drive to attain a nuclear weapon capability that cannot be ignored. They are continuing work on a range of technical capabilities that could have dual use for producing nuclear weapons.

With Iran’s track record over the last 28 years for supporting terrorist operations throughout the Middle East plus its current support of the insurgency in Iraq, we cannot afford to be wrong on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

James Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations, and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.

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