After months of escalating rhetoric demanding that Iran abandon its aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons, the National Intelligence Estimate’s revelation that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 comes as quite a shock. Yet again, the capability of the United States intelligence community to assess the nuclear programs of hard targets has been called into question.
To assess the meaning and impact of the Iran N.I.E. and place it in the larger context of the U.S. intelligence communities’ ability to make accurate assessments of the intentions and capabilities of would-be proliferators, the Saban Center hosted Paul Pillar and Gary Samore for a policy luncheon. Paul Pillar, a Visiting Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University was the former National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and South Asia at the CIA. Gary Samore, Vice President and Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations was a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council. The dialogue was moderated by Kenneth M. Pollack, the Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and former U.S. government analyst on Iran.