By Juan Cole
"The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran says that Iran did have a nuclear weapons research program until early 2003, but then dismantled it. See Farideh Farhi's excellent discussion of this development at our joint Global Affairs weblog.....
So what convinced the US intelligence community that Iran's weapons program was long ago dismantled?
A prominent Iran specialist is suggesting on a private email list that very likely, it is explained by one name: Ali Reza Asghari.
Asghari had been head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon in the 1980s. He is someone who knows where all the bodies are buried with regard to Iranian covert operations, from involvement in the 1983 attack on the Marines in Beirut, to the training of the Badr Corps (now back in Iraq) and any Iran links to the Mahdi Army. Likewise he was allegedly privy to information on Iran's nuclear research. He rose to be deputy minister of defense. It is alleged that around 2003 he was recruited by a foreign intelligence agency (very likely that of Turkey) as a spy. The Iranian authorities may have gotten wise to him in late 2006, forcing him abruptly to flee to Istanbul in early 2007......
Thus, the Iranian government's decision to drop the experiments at Natanz were probably prompted by a combination of discouragement about the likelihood they could be kept secret and an ambition to do what Libya later did and reposition itself in a less adversarial posture toward Washington.
The Iranians must have been astonished when Dick Cheney shot down their overtures.
Some speculate that Asghari also had information about a secret Syrian missile site, leading to the Israeli strike on it in September.
If the decisive evidence for the lack of any nuclear weapons program in Iran was the documents Asghari spirited out when he defected last winter, then the US intelligence community has had this information for at least 6 months.
So why has the Bush administration continued to rattle sabers at Iran all this time.......
Why did Bush go so far as to say that World War III could only be prevented if Iran was denied the knowledge of how to enrich uranium?
Cheney and Bush have probably known since at least April that Iran has no weapons program.
I can only speculate, of course. But I believe that Bush and Cheney want regime change in Tehran. Being oil men, they are very well aware that petroleum switched over in the late 1990s to being a seller's market. There was a danger of China doing proprietary deals with Iran (and Iraq and others) that would ultimately deny the US access to the Gulf oil and gas bonanza......"