Iran Report Raises Questions for U.S. Policy

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Much of the Bush administration's recent approach to Iran was predicated on the idea that Iran is actively seeking nuclear weapons. A new U.S. intelligence report says that's no longer the case.

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): From NPR News in New York, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

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This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News, your home for news, information and today, probably the only show on NPR that's putting the ha in Hanukkah -unless you spell it with a C, in which case we're putting the cha in Chanukkah.


And the cha in Chanukkah.

BURBANK: It's Tuesday, December 4th, 2007. I'm Luke Burbank.

STEWART: And I'm Alison Stewart.

You know, we have a - special guests coming in the studio today.

BURBANK: Yes, we do.

STEWART: They're a group called Good for the Jews. They used to be in a group called What I Like About Jew. Every year, they go on a tour and they talk -they sing about Hanukkah and all things Jewish. One of their big hit songs: "J-Date."

BURBANK: I think that I'm going to have to get their official Jewish opinion on this menorah that you reportedly brought home last night.

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BURBANK: Your jelly menorah. Yeah, that's classy. Classy.

STEWART: Look, I put up a Christmas tree. I have three wreaths in my home. My husband is a non-practicing Jew. He didn't really care. But I saw this really cute, little sort of jelly stick on the window menorah, and I wanted to make sure that we had representation in the household. And I won't say he laughed with me. He laughed at me for the menorah.

BURBANK: Well, you're trying, and that's what counts.

STEWART: I'm trying.

BURBANK: Coming up on today's show, when…

STEWART: I make a mean potato latke. It's going to happen.

BURBANK: …when local politics go national. We're going to start to look at presidential candidates through the eyes of the people who know them the best in the states and cities that they hail from. We're going to, today, start out with Rudy Giuliani and talk to a New Yorker who's been writing about how maybe not great all of Rudy is.

STEWART: And who needs Swift Boat Veterans for Truth this campaign cycle when we have Swift Kids for Truth. There's a new satire site coming up with some pretty funny ads, including some kids not happy with Hillary Clinton for waffling on her stance on cookie making. We have a preview of the site and the ad on our show.

BURBANK: We're going to get all of the news from our guest newscaster Korva Coleman in just a moment.

First, though, here's the BPP's Big Story.

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BURBANK: President Bush…

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President GEORGE W. BUSH: …people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

BURBANK: That was President Bush just six weeks ago, sounding the alarm over the threat of Iran's nuclear weapons program. But a new report by the U.S. intelligence community is offering a much less doom and gloom assessment of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

STEWART: According to the combined wisdom of 16 intelligence agencies which contributed to the National Intelligence Estimate, quote, "We judge with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program," end quote. The declassified portions of the NIE were released yesterday.

BURBANK: The report does note that Iran's atomic intentions remain unclear and that its nuclear program could give it the option of building weapons at some point. And it estimates the earliest Iran could do it would be 2010, although it probably wouldn't happen before 2015.

STEWART: The information comes from the same people who gave President Bush enough material to justify the war in Iraq, as in the weapons of mass destruction argument.

BURBANK: I remember that. The report contradicts a previous NIE released in 2005. That one concluded that Iran was relentlessly working towards a bomb.

STEWART: President Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley took a look at the report and said this.

Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (National Security Advisor, U.S. Department of State): It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen.

BURBANK: Iranian officials also choosing to accentuate the positive said that they're glad that, quote, "The condition of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities is becoming clear to the world." But Israeli officials say they still don't trust Iran. Its defense minister said, quote, "Only time will tell who is right."

STEWART: That is the BPP's Big Story.

Now here's NPR's Korva Coleman with even more news.

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