Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the senior Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, today urged Congress to establish an independent “red team” of outside experts to examine recent revelations about Iran’s nuclear program and review the conclusions of a controversial 2007 National Intelligence Estimate issued by the U.S. intelligence community, which assessed that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Hoekstra warned that: “New revelations about Iran’s nuclear weapons program are presenting our elected leaders and our intelligence agencies with a crisis of confidence – a crisis that would not exist if they had objectively looked at the evidence about Iran’s nuclear program like the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did in 2006.” Hoekstra, the former chairman of the committee, complained that:
“Our intelligence analysts seem to be stuck in an analytical rut and unwilling to alter their corporate line on Iran’s nuclear program despite a preponderance of evidence and the fact that America’s allies strongly disagree with their assessment that Iran’s nuclear weapons program was halted in 2003. I propose this problem be addressed by establishing a “red team” of independent experts to challenge the career intelligence analysts’ assessment of the Iranian nuclear program.”
Congressman Hoekstra is right to be concerned about the quality of American intelligence about Iran’s drive for a nuclear weapon. The Heritage Foundation long has been dubious about the reliability of the misleading 2007 NIE, which underestimated the importance of Iran’s “civilian” uranium enrichment efforts and mistakenly assumed that weaponization of the warhead was the key aspect of Iran’s nuclear efforts that constituted a potential threat. Given the recent revelations about the discovery of Iran’s covert uranium enrichment plant near Qom and the failure of the U.S. intelligence community to revise the widely discredited conclusions of the 2007 NIE, an independent review of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program is urgently needed.
In fact, the Obama Administration should rethink its engagement strategy with Iran in light of the mounting evidence of Tehran’s continued duplicity on the nuclear issue and implacable hostility to the United States. In the latest issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria questioned the prospects for a genuine engagement and noted that “the fundamental analysis is flawed.” Zakaria concluded:
“I do not believe the Iranian regime, at its core, wants normalized relations with America. Isolation from the West and hostility toward the United States are fundamental pillars that prop up the current regime—the reason that this system of government came into being and what sustains it every day. This is not simply a matter of ideology— though that is important—but economics. Those who rule in Tehran have created a closed, oligarchic economy that channels the country’s oil revenues into the coffers of its religious foundations (for compliant clerics) and the increasingly powerful Revolutionary Guard. They benefit from a closed economy that they can manipulate. An opening to the world, which would mean more trade, commerce, and contact with the United States, would strengthen Iran’s civil society, its trading class, its students, its bourgeoisie, and thus strengthen opposition to the regime.”
Instead of succumbing to the wishful thinking inherent in trying to engage the hostile regime in Iran, Zakaria recommended a strategy of containing Iran. Earlier this year, the Heritage Foundation published a Special Report that reached similar conclusions about U.S. policy regarding Iran. The study, Iran’s Nuclear Threat: The Day After, recommended that the United States should lead an international coalition to impose the strongest possible sanctions on Tehran to dissuade it from continuing on a nuclear path and to contain and mitigate the threat posed by Iran if it attains a nuclear weapon.
For more on Iran, see: Iran Briefing Room