The Blog

Blair vs. Mullen on Iranian Nukes

12:29 PM, Mar 13, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Josh Rogin reports for CQ:

President Obama's top military and intelligence advisers disagree on the question of whether Iran is intentionally pursuing nuclear weapons, leaving lawmakers confused about what to believe.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a hold-over from the Bush administration, said in no uncertain terms Wednesday that he believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and that its government has made that decision.

"I believe that Iran is on a path to develop nuclear weapons," Mullen told members of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, a Washington based nonprofit organization focused on professional development, "We can debate the timeline, but it's very clear to me that that's their path and that's what their leadership is about."

Mullen's comments on Iran come only one day after Adm. Dennis C. Blair , President Obama's new director of national intelligence, gave the opposite analysis, saying he believed Iran had not made the decision to pursue a nuclear weapons capability.

"We assess that Iran has not yet made that decision," Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 10, speaking on behalf of the entire intelligence community.

Blair has been badly damaged by his appointment and subsequent defense of Chas Freeman, both of which showed incredibly poor political judgment if nothing else. Now Blair is claiming that the Iranians aren't actually working on building a bomb, in line with the "consensus view" of the 2007 NIE -- the worst NIE since the 2002 NIE that said Saddam was sitting on a stockpile of biological and chemical weapons. If there is no intervention, Iran is likely to have a nuclear capacity before the end of Obama's term. It will be a spectacular intelligence failure -- on par with the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- if Iran goes nuclear while the American IC is still insisting they have "not yet made the decision to do so."

My bet is that Mullen doesn't need 16 separate intelligence services to tell him what's patently obvious to everyone outside the Office of the Director of National Intelligence: the Iranians have made a decision to build a nuclear weapon.