2006/04/29

Target: Negroponte & Iran

By Robert Parry, http://www.consortiumnews.com

In a replay of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction charade, neoconservative supporters of George W. Bush are pushing the U.S. intelligence community to take a more alarmist view about Iran’s nuclear program – only this time, the nation’s top spy John Negroponte is resisting the pressure unlike former CIA chief George Tenet.

Tenet joined in Bush’s hyping of the WMD evidence about Iraq – famously telling the President that the case was a “slam dunk.” But Negroponte is defying hardliners who want a worst-case scenario on Iran’s capabilities. Instead, he is citing Iran’s limited progress in refining uranium and their use of a cascade of only 164 centrifuges.

“According to the experts that I consult, achieving — getting 164 centrifuges to work is still a long way from having the capacity to manufacture sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon,” Negroponte said in an interview with NBC News on April 20.

“Our assessment is that the prospects of an Iranian weapon are still a number of years off, and probably into the next decade,” said Negroponte, who was appointed last year as the Director of National Intelligence, a new post that supplanted the traditional primacy of the CIA director as the head of the U.S. intelligence community.

Expressing a similar view about Iran’s nuclear program in a speech at the National Press Club, Negroponte said, “I think it’s important that this issue be kept in perspective.”

In effect, the Director of National Intelligence was splashing cold water on the fevered assessment of Iran’s nuclear progress favored by the neoconservatives. Some Bush supporters are now complaining that Negroponte has shown disloyalty to the President by siding with intelligence analysts who reject the direst predictions on Iran.
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