Israel says one thing; American says another.

Netanyahu says go; Obama says wait.

Why the disconnect?

In 2010, a crisis erupted in America’s intelligence gathering community. Sixteen different agencies struggled to decide if the Iranians were in a crash program to develop nuclear explosives. The opinions were far from unanimous. In the end, many within this select and clandestine group concluded Iran might not have decided to pursue such a weapon yet.

These assessments certainly face a new pressure. During the Bush years, the United States badly mis-assessed Iraq’s race for nuclear weaponry. With a grinding of the teeth, officials of Bush’s administration now admit they were wrong. In spite of loud mouthed radio commentators, no missiles were found in the desert sands. Consequently, the current administration is reading and re-reading reports carefully.

However, there is another factor in this equation that makes the matter even more difficult. Accurate intelligence on Iran is harder to gather than was the case in Iraq.  A senior intelligence official recently stated it is even more difficult that it is with North Korea.


It is highly difficult to determine who speaks authoritatively on what. Serious divisions of opinion exist within Iran. While they all hate America and Israel (because we live in the 21st century while Iran is stuck in the 6th), the country has deep divisions. Several years ago, I was in Damascus, Syria when a group of tourist from Iran came through. Thinking I was a Canadian, a couple sat down to talk. with me. I discovered that they were trying to immigrate to Canada as they feared what was ahead for Iran. The couple whispered that they believed “craziness” ran the country. I hope they were able to get out.

We do know Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains Iran’s supreme leader and is more rigid than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, both are extremist. On the other hand, some estimates say that 80% of the country are opposed to these rulers. With their economy headed toward the bottom and international sanctions piling up, many predict it is only a matter of time before Tehran’s theocratic regime is pushed out of office.

No one can tell how accurate these reports are, but they do reflect highly significant divisions within the country. Actually, Iran is a weak and vulnerable country. Their recent decisions have made them increasingly isolated.  Of course, no one wants the military option. The problem is that a small group in that country do.

In the vacuum of solid information, it appears the Ayatollah holds the trump card. Would he play it? The Iranian couple I met in Damascus believe he would.

One of the great strengths of American life and politics is the recognition of the country’s founders that church and government must not mix. The shadow of the Ayatollah reminds us of how deadly religion can be when stirred up as a position in politics.

Back to where we started. America and Israel aren’t really that far apart. Mossad leaders tilt toward more aggressive action because of the existential threat to the Jewish state. Making sure of the facts concerning Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons remains the unresolved issue


What’s your guess? Do you think Iran is hotly pursuing a nuclear weapon?

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