IF IRAQ INTEL WAS WRONG, WHY BELIEVE NEW IRAN INTEL?
That very interesting question was asked today on the forum of my local paper. I posted the following answer...
1) It goes against what Bush wants, i.e., some sort of conflict with Iran. If the recent NIE had said that there was "high confidence" that Iran was working on nuclear weapons, it would have been seen as merely being what Bush wanted to hear. Since the NIE said the opposite of what Bush wanted to hear, it seems more trustworthy.
2) Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which it is allowed to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Since Iran in fact ratified the treaty before the U.S. did, it seems likely that Iran is in fact developing nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes.
3) Iran is aware that the U.S. military is sitting right across the border in Iraq (and special ops-type troops have been reported to be in Iran) and Afghanistan--the U.S. already has Iran boxed in to the east and the west. They know that if they were found to be developing nuclear weapons, they'd have a real problem on their hands.
4) Iran has been enduring IAEA inspections and made good-faith efforts to be transparent, even letting the IAEA visit their heavy-water reactor at Arak in July of this year.
5) The U.S. intelligence community knows it's under scrutiny and has every incentive to get it right with regard to Iran.
And so on. That's why the Iran intel seems trustworthy. Also, I should point out that before we invaded Iraq, we had a very intrusive inspection regime being imposed on that country under the threat of war. The inspectors on the ground before the war never found any WMD and said so before our invasion. And that's why the Iran NIE is trustworthy.