About this time six years ago, I happened to find myself in the back of a Washington D.C. taxicab with Robert Einhorn, who had been in charge of nuclear non-proliferation efforts in the Clinton administration. I fished an IAEA report out of my briefcase documenting twenty years of secret Nonproliferation Treaty violations by Iran. Why, I asked Einhorn, had Iran concealed so much activity from the International Atomic Energy Agency, considering that all the activity would have been legal if Iran had just openly declared it?
"Because it's a nuclear weapons program," Einhorn said (with an air of talking to somebody who might be mentally retarded). It was as if he was echoing the famous Clinton campaign mantra, "It's the economy, stupid."
That conversation prompted me to make a trip to Vienna to visit the IEAE and write an investigative feature about Iran's program. One point made in that article: the U.S. government, having flubbed badly on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, might now err in the opposite direction on Iran.
Though the Obama administration is taking a very tough line on the secret Iranian facility, there are some signs our concerns may have been valid as far as the U.S. intelligence community is concerned. For several years U.S. intelligence has taken the position that Iran terminated efforts to develop a nuclear warhead design, and has not resumed them. But according to a report this week in The New York Times, Israeli intelligence believes that Iran has resumed with weapon design efforts, and German intelligence believes the Iranians never stopped such work in the first place.
France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, a human rights activist whose roots are in the French left, has accused the IEAE of concealing evidence of an Iranian weapons design effort.
A number of years ago, the neoconservative political scientist Robert Kagan wrote a widely noted book in which he postulated that Europeans are from Venus, Americans from Mars. But on the question of Iranian nuclear weaponization, it would appear that Europeans are more from Mars, Americans more from Venus.