Following rumors in Israel of a new US intelligence report warning of Iranian progress on a nuclear weapon, US officials told Reuters on Thursday that their intelligence still says Iran is not on the verge of getting nuclear weapons.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli news media early Thursday that a new US intelligence report parted ways with earlier estimates finding Iran had no nuclear weapons program. No new or credible evidence was given in these reports of any Iranian weapons program, however.
Officials in Washington were reportedly “livid” with the unilateral Israeli leak of US intelligence. “The rules of the spy game are clear,” former US Navy intelligence analyst John Schindler wrote on his blog. “When intelligence services share information, as they do every day, you don’t pass it to third parties without clearance. Ever. And if you do, eventually you will get burned and nobody will want to play marbles with you.”
But a White House National Security Council spokesman disagreed with Barak’s claim that the new US intelligence “transforms the Iranian situation into an even more urgent one.” He said the US intelligence assessment of Iran’s nuclear activities had not changed from the last National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran halted its weapons program in 2003.
“We believe that there is time and space to continue to pursue a diplomatic path, backed by growing international pressure on the Iranian government,” the spokesman said. “We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated this, saying the Obama administration is focusing on economic sanctions and diplomacy with Iran. He also refused to discuss any rumors about new intelligence assessments.
The incident underscored the apparent distrust between the Obama administration and that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite record levels of economic and military aid to Israel under Obama, as well as consistent diplomatic support even of Israel’s worst crimes against the Palestinians, the Israelis continue be unhappy with Obama’s support and continue to pressure for a US war with Iran.
In the meantime, Obama has refused to launch a military strike on Iran’s non-existent weapons program, but he has given in to Israeli pressure to impose economic warfare on Iran. After extremely severe economic sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors, Iranian civilians are being subjected to high unemployment, rampant inflation and food shortages, and even dramatically less access to vital pharmaceuticals and medical treatment. Some estimate the sanctions could end up killing tens of thousands of Iranians.