Paul Pillar’s recently published Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform explores some of the missteps in reorganizing intelligence in the wake of al-Qaeda attacks. One of the most crucial challenges facing U.S. intelligence and foreign policy today is, of course, Iran and its nuclear program.
As Paul Pillar has argued that Western intelligence cannot detect a decision that hasn’t been made about Iran’s nuclear program and cannot be completely relied upon. He writes in a recent post for The National Interest that the United States should seriously consider Iran’s offer to allow nuclear inspectors of its activities. Pillar argues:
It would be a mistake to respond as Americans have too often responded, which is to assume the worst about the intentions on the other side and to act in a way that would make sense only if that assumption were true, even though we don’t know it to be true. It would make far more sense to act with the realization that as far as we know the Iranian statement could be anything from a major breakthrough to a phony bit of rhetoric. The only way to find out is to explore the unexplored road and talk with the Iranians about it. If the favorable possibility turns out to be true, talking could be the first step toward a comprehensive safeguards agreement. If the unfavorable possibility turns out to be true, little or nothing is lost; in fact the Western case for pressuring Iran would be strengthened by demonstrating that the West is willing to go the extra mile.
Paul Pillar also recently participated at a public briefing at the Atlantic Council, in which they discussed a recent report they issued, How Reliable is Intelligence on Iran’s Nuclear Program? You can read a summary or listen to the panel discussion here.