Rouhani, Obama Both Liars?

David Albright and Christina Walrond at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) make the point, in a recent piece on ISIS’ webpage, that new elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, in a series of overtures to the United States to overcome 34 years of “Cold War mentality” between the two countries, had lied when claiming, in an interview with Ann Curry of NBC, “We have never sought nor will ever seek nuclear weapons. We solely seek peaceful nuclear technology,” referring to the now notorious 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran (NIE). (Emphasis added.)

In that document, which had been published in November that year to the dismay of then President G.W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had stated that, “We [the 16 separate U.S. government intelligence agencies] judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.” And (followers are urged to read the unclassified part of the 2007 NIE here [pdf]),

“We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years.

We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

As far as we know, for instance from investigations by Seymour Hersh, a highly classified 2011 NIE had stated in essence still the same: Iran has halted it nuclear weapons program in 2003; it has not restarted it then but keeps the option to develop nuclear weapons open. So, accepting U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran had a nuclear weapons power until fall 2003 when Hassan Rouhani was actually Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, he frankly lied to Ann Curry (provided the interpreter had got it right).

(Albright and Walrond refer to the controversially discussed annex of the November 2011 IAEA report [pdf] on Iran in which, based on information by unnamed “member states”, the IAEA assesses that “[t]here are […] indications that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing.” The annex has been controversially discussed because of several factors. Iran has rejected its conclusions as they were allegedly based on fraud.)

And what does President Barack Obama do? Provided U.S. intelligence estimates on Iran are trustworthy, he continues misinforming the public about Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions in 2013. So, either the unclassified part of the 2007 and highly classified 2011 NIEs are incorrect or both folks are liars.

A brief remark on NBC’s Ann Curry in Tehran. Listeners to the interview get easily the impression of a harmless, naïve and uninformed inquirer. Her interview of Rouhani’s astute predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2011 has not been forgotten. When Rouhani said, “We never sought”, a better-informed (of the 2007 NIE) reporter should have interrupted him immediately rather than to confuse him and her audience with “yes” or “no” statements.

22 September 2013 @ 8:47 am.

Last modified September 22, 2013.

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