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December 11, 2006, 4:37 pm
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Seeking Iran Intelligence, U.S. Tries Google
A senior administration official acknowledged that the back-and-forth
with the CIA had been difficult, especially given the administration's
desire to isolate Iran and avoid a repeat of flawed intelligence that
preceded the Iraq war.
"In this instance, we were the requesters and the CIA was the clearer,"
the official said. "It's the process we go through on a lot of these
things. Both sides don't know a lot of reasons for why either side is
requesting or denying things. Sources and methods became their stated
rationale and that is what they do. But for policymaking, it can be
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At a Glance
U.N. Resolution 1696
Timeline: Iran's Nuclear Program
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The latest reports on Iran from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In Focus: IAEA and Iran
In Focus: Non-Proliferation Treaty
Full Text of Treaty (PDF)
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Washington's credibility in the U.N. Security Council on weapons
intelligence was sharply eroded by the collapse of prewar claims about
Iraq. A senior intelligence official said the intelligence community is
determined to avoid mistakes of the past when dealing with Iran and
other issues. "Once you push intelligence out there, you can't take it
back," the official said.
U=2ES., French and British officials came to agree that it was better to
stay away from names that would have to be justified with sensitive
information from intelligence programs, and instead put forward names
of Iranians whose jobs were publicly connected to the country's nuclear
energy and missile programs. European officials said their governments
did not rely on Google searches but came up with nearly identical lists
to the one U.S. officials offered.
"We do have concerns about Iranian activities that are overt, and
uranium enrichment is a case in point," said a senior administration
official who agreed to discuss the process on the condition of
anonymity. "We are concerned about what it means for the program, but
also because enrichment is in violation of a U.N. Security Council
The U.S.-backed draft resolution, formally offered by Britain and
France, would impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of 11
institutions and 12 individuals, including the commander of Iran's
Revolutionary Guards, the directors of Iran's chief nuclear energy
facilities, and several people involved in the missile program. It
would prohibit the sale of nuclear technologies to Iran and urges
states to "prevent specialised teaching or training" of Iranian
nationals in disciplines that could further Tehran's understanding of
banned nuclear activities.
The text says the council will be prepared to lift the sanctions if
Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director general, concludes within 60
days that Iran has suspended its enrichment and reprocessing of uranium
and has halted efforts to produce a heavy-water nuclear energy reactor.
Many Security Council members are uneasy about the sanctions. The
Russians and the Chinese -- whose support is essential for the
resolution to be approved -- have told the United States, Britain and
France they will not support the travel-ban element of the resolution,
according to three officials involved in the negotiations. Russia is
building a light-water nuclear reactor in Iran and some people on the
sanctions list are connected to the project.
"The Russians have already told us it would be demeaning for people to
ask the Security Council for permission to travel to Russia to discuss
an ongoing project," a European diplomat said yesterday.
U=2ES. and European officials said there is room for negotiation with
Russia on the names and organizations, but they also said it is
possible that by the time the Security Council approves the resolution,
the entire list could be removed.
"The real scope of debate will be on the number of sanctions," one
diplomat said. "Companies and individuals could go off the list or go