Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today issued the following statement on the Bush Administration’s long-overdue announcement regarding talks with Iran about that country’s nuclear program. Two weeks ago, Reid and other leading Senators sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to direct the Intelligence Community to produce an updated National Intelligence Estimate on Iran; the Bush Administration has not responded. The Senators’ letter is attached below.
“The Bush Administration’s apparent new willingness to work closely with our allies and more directly engage the Iranian government is a long overdue step forward in addressing the challenge of Iran’s nuclear pursuits. Three years ago, the Bush Administration decided to invade the one country in the axis of evil that was not actively pursuing nuclear weapons while both Iran and North Korea expanded their nuclear activities. I am pleased that the White House now appears to be taking this challenge seriously and pursuing a vigorous diplomatic course to address this situation.
“Two weeks ago, I joined with other Senate leaders to call on the president to direct the Intelligence Community to provide a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. As we continue down the diplomatic course, this intelligence analysis grows in importance. The Administration must provide the Congress and the American people with up-to-date and accurate intelligence about Iran’s capabilities and intentions.”
May 19, 2006
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
An Iranian nuclear weapons program would be a significant threat to international peace and security. Iran’s refusal to conclusively explain or halt its uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities and its acquisition of ballistic missiles, coupled with the troubling rhetoric of its President, presents serious challenges to security in the Middle East and requires the United States to energetically pursue a diplomatic solution. The international community must not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and Iran must know that it ultimately will not succeed in undermining international peace and stability.
There are many questions about the exact nature of Iran’s activities and intentions, the objectives of US policy, and your Administration’s strategy, including the role of diplomacy, sanctions and the potential role of military force. In order to avoid repeating mistakes made in the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, we must have objective intelligence untainted by political considerations or policy preferences and a comprehensive debate in the Congress about the best short and long-term approaches to resolving the international community’s differences with Iran.
As a first step in these efforts, we therefore request that you direct the intelligence community to provide Congress with an updated National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. In order to facilitate the public debate we ask that you provide, consistent with protecting sources and methods, an unclassified summary of the key judgments. The process should be started now to enable the Intelligence Community to have sufficient time to produce a comprehensive, well-thought out product.
Among other potential issues, we believe this assessment should explore:
1. Iran’s foreign policy and regime objectives.
2. The current status of Iran’s nuclear programs, including any current and projected capabilities to design, build and deploy a nuclear weapon, and the intelligence community’s assessment of Iran’s intentions regarding possible development of nuclear weapons, what motivations underlie those intentions, and what might cause those intentions to change.
3. Iran’s military and defense capabilities, including any other weapons of mass destruction programs and their delivery systems.
4. Iran’s relationship with terrorist organizations, its use of terrorist organizations in furtherance of its foreign policy objectives, and what might cause Iran to reduce or end these relationships.
5. The prospects for support from the international community for various potential courses of action, including diplomacy, sanctions, and military action.
6. Iran’s expected reaction to a range of diplomatic, economic, and military options available to the United States and the international community, including an assessment of what steps are most likely to successfully influence Iran’s objectionable policies.
7. The level of popular and elite support within Iran for that country’s nuclear ambitions and for the Iranian regime and its policies, and prospects for reform and political change within Iran.
8. Popular and elite Iranian views of the United States, including views of direct discussions with or normalization of relations with the United States, and views of other key states involved in nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
9. The likely consequences of military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program or other regime interests.
10. The confidence level of key judgments, the quality of the sources of intelligence on Iran, the nature and scope of any intelligence gaps, and any significant alternative views.
We hope that such an updated intelligence estimate can be provided at the earliest opportunity. We also hope that you and other Administration officials will take the opportunity in the coming weeks to provide members of Congress and the American people a full overview of your strategy on Iran.
Harry Reid – Democratic Leader
Richard Durbin – Assistant Democratic Leader
John D. Rockefeller IV – Vice Chairman, Select Committee on Intelligence
Carl Levin – Ranking Member, Committee on Armed Services
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. – Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Relations
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