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World Politics Review, December 18, 2007

The Fantasy World of the Iran NIE

By Matthias Küntzel

The latest American intelligence estimate on Iran has provoked an emotional response in Europe reminiscent of the euphoria inspired by Chamberlain’s words on Sept. 30, 1938, as he appeared before the throng in front of 10 Downing Street and announced that he had achieved “peace in our time.”

Even if many commentators warn not to reduce the pressure on Tehran, the dominant sentiment is a feeling of relief: a sentiment to which the German weekly Die Zeit, for example, gave expression with the headline “Phew! There’ll Be No World War Then!” The focus of the coverage in the media is not on the bitter realization that until 2003 the Iranian military apparatus was explicitly pursuing the development of an atomic weapon, but rather on the “good news” in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE): namely that this military program “was halted primarily in response to international pressure,” which is supposed to prove that “Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.” If Iran gave in to international pressure in 2003, the implicit reasoning of the report runs, then it will certainly do so as well in the future. Thus, summarizing the implications of the NIE report, the author of the article in Die Zeit can conclude that “the Iranian regime does not so much conduct its foreign policy according to ideological criteria, but rather according to a lucid cost-benefit analysis.”

In such reflections, wishful-thinking has anesthetized rational thought. Read the full article here