The fallout from the new Iran NIE continues. In today’s Roll Call, Mort Kondracke touches upon the practical consequences of the intelligence community’s U-turn: “The finding that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 — reversing a 2005 declaration that Iran had such a program — ended any possibility that Bush could win support for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. It also undercut Bush’s ability to win support for United Nations sanctions, though European sanctions still are possible.”
Therein lies the rub. Even before the release of the new NIE, the Bush Administration was having a tough time convincing Russia and China of the need for more serious measures against Iran. In its aftermath, that task has become well nigh impossible. After all, why should Moscow and Beijing get behind the Administration’s assessment of the Iranian threat when its own intelligence community doesn’t? And without any serious sticks that it can use against Tehran, the White House has less leverage to modify Iranian behavior than ever before — something that the Iranian regime understands all too well. A pretty pickle indeed.