This sounds like a pretty big deal. From the NYT:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.
The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to be major factor in the tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program. Concerns about Iran were raised sharply after President Bush had suggested in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III,” and Vice President Dick Cheney promised “serious consequences” if the government in Tehran did not abandon its nuclear program.
The finding also come in the middle of a presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed. The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran’s ultimate intentions about gaining a nuclear weapon remain unclear, but that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
“Some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways might — if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible — prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program,” the estimate states.
The new report comes out just over five years after a deeply flawed N.I.E. concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons programs and was determined to restart its nuclear program. The report led to congressional authorization for a military invasion of Iraq, although most of the N.I.E.’s conclusions turned out to be wrong. The estimate does say that Iran’s ultimate goal is still to develop the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.
Me: It seems to me one can have all of the usual caveats that come with both our intelligence agencies and The New York Times (Full disclosure: The author of this Times story is a good friend of mine), and still agree that the bar for bombing Iran has not only not been met yet, but that it’s arguably moving farther away.