US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is from 2010, experts say

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The last U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program was from late 2010, several Iran experts said Friday.

The question over whether there is a new NIE on Iran arose this week after Israel’s Defense Minister told Israel Radio Thursday that a new U.S. intelligence assessment shares Israel’s sense of heightened urgency about Iran’s nuclear program. A U.S. intelligence report “making the rounds” in Washington “comes comes very close to our own estimate…It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one and it is even less likely that we will know every development in time on the Iranian nuclear program,” Ehud Barak told Israel Radio Thursday, CBS News reported. His comments echoed a report in Israeli daily Haaretz the same day that said the more alarming American assessment was contained in a new U.S. NIE on Iran.

But current and former American officials said that the Israeli claims are unduly alarmist.

“We have eyes, we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made what’s called a breakout move towards acquiring a weapon,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told journalists Friday, AFP reported. Continue reading

Israeli Defense Minister publicly divulges US intelligence report


Israel’s Defense Minister raised some eyebrows in the United States when he told Israel Radio Thursday that a new, previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence assessment shares Israel’s sense of heightened urgency about Iran’s nuclear program.

Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that there is “apparently a report by American intelligence agencies – I don’t know if it’s under the title NIE or under another title – which is making the rounds of high offices,” in Washington, CBS News reported.

“As far as we know, it comes very close to our own estimate, I would say, as opposed to earlier American estimates,” Barak continued. “It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one and it is even less likely that we will know every development in time on the Iranian nuclear program.”

Generally, foreign leaders don’t publicly disclose allied nations’ classified intelligence reports in such a provocative manner, intelligence experts said.

“The rules of the spy game are clear,” former US Navy intelligence analyst John Schindler wrote on his blog. “When intelligence services share information, as they do every day, you don’t pass it to third parties without clearance. Ever. And if you do, eventually you will get burned and nobody will want to play marbles with you.”

A cavalcade of top American officials have traveled to Israel in recent weeks to confer on Iran, and President Obama this month signed a $70 million US military aid package for Israel. Israeli officials have expressed growing impatience with US reluctance to endorse military action on Iran at this time.

The Israeli Defense Minister’s comments followed a report in Israeli daily Haaretz Thursday which said that there was a new US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. But several American former intelligence and security officials told Al-Monitor that the product is not an NIE, but a smaller, more focused report or series of reports on certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, perhaps related to suspected weapons-relevant research activity. Continue reading

Successor sought for US National Intelligence Officer for Iran (Updated)

Correction: The National Intelligence Council has been searching for a successor for Jillian Burns, who has served as the National Intelligence Officer for Iran for the past few months. Burns is due to rotate out of the NIC to take a new Foreign Service assignment,  colleagues say. I regret the error.

Original Post: The National Intelligence Council (NIC) has named its first National Intelligence Officer for Iran. She is Jillian Burns, a senior State Department Foreign Service officer and veteran Iran hand, who most recently served as an Iran advisor in State’s Policy Planning shop. Previously, the well-regarded Burns served as the first director of the US’s Iran regional presence office (a kind of virtual consulate in exile) in Dubai, UAE. Burns opened the office in 2006, after serving as an “Iran watcher” in Dubai. Continue reading