Saturday, April 14, 2012

Attack on Iran Postponed at Least Partially Due to Increased US Intelligence on the Iranians' Nuclear Program

US Drones Spy on Iran 
After much anticipation that the talks between Iran and the P5+1 (composed of six world powers - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) would not be productive, it appears as though Iran has come to the table prepared for serious negotiations.  According to the BBC, there was general consensus among the P5+1 that there had been real progress in the talks and further talks have been scheduled.

There is one other factor though that may be playing a major role behind the scenes in allowing the Obama administration to feel confident that there is no need to launch an attack on Iran now.  According to a fascinating article in the Washington Post, US intelligence about Iran's nuclear program has improved significantly.  This is due to a number of factors:

  • The success of the CIA using a stealth drone called the RQ-170 Sentinel that has made hundreds of flights over suspicious Iranian facilities;
  • Increased eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (NSA);
  • Formation of an Iran task force among satellite-imagery analysts; and
  • Better human intelligence ("Humint") through an expanded network of spies.

This has led the Administration to feel confident that it would have a minimum of a 6-12 month advance warning of any indication that Iran has definitely decided to take the final steps in obtaining nuclear weapons.  With growing confidence of their knowledge of Iran's nuclear program, the US now feels that it could, if necessary, preempt any Iranian nuclear break-out using military force.  This allows more time for a combination of sanctions and talks to play themselves, as the US is now confident that if push came to shove they would have the ability to act militarily if the talks and sanctions do not succeed in stopping the Iranians.

I assume - and hope - that this knowledge has been shared with the Israelis, and that this would reduce the chance that Israel would attack Iran on its own.  My strong personal opinion is that President Obama would order a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities in this 6-12 month window and that he is deadly serious about not allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but that the President now has both intention and - with this improved intelligence - the ability to allow the talks and sanctions to play themselves out before resorting to military action.  Frankly speaking, I think the Obama Administration is handling this crisis with extraordinary foresight and sophistication, and that the President is to be commended on his approach.

Do read the entire Washington Post article about the US' improved intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.

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