Not that far
The LA Times headline is: "Doves find fault with Iran report too". And the key paragraphs are:
"The halting of the weaponization program in 2003 is less important from a proliferation standpoint than resumption of the enrichment program in 2006," said Samore, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Samore said the report undermined Bush's warnings about Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons and left Tehran in a strong position, allowing it to develop its enrichment capacity without a substantial challenge from the United States and its allies. The secret weaponization program is "on ice," he said, but Iran preserves the option to resume that when it wishes.
The key variable in the Iranian nuclear weapons equation is the character of the regime in Teheran. While it remains expansionist and aggressive there can be no real security in the Middle East. Sanctions and diplomacy aimed at making modifying the regime's weaponization policy or making the production of fissile material harder can ultimately only slow down a regime bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Diplomats have always asked for time.
Anthony Lake, who was a national security advisor to President Clinton, found no fault with the intelligence report. But he said a key message was the importance of taking action. "While we've got more time, we've got to use the time, because the enrichment activities are continuing," Lake said in an interview.
But time to do what? It's been suggested that no US administration since 1979 has made it a firm policy goal to topple the regime in Teheran. Although the Bush adminstration's rhetoric may at times have given that impression, it never actually implemented a serious program to topple the Ayatollahs. But at least it conveyed the idea that it was thinking about it.
What the new NIE has done -- and why I think even the liberals are so worried -- is that the intelligence assessment has made it very difficult to sustain even the bluff of working towards regime change; a threat they would have no truck with but at the same time probably found useful for so long as they could get a President George W. Bush to articulate it. Now that the doves have got what they ostensibly wanted, whether by design or misadventure, it has become apparent that it's not everything they wanted after all. It's ironic that an NIE which was supposed to have "proved" the usefulness of sanctions and diplomacy may wind up underlining its ultimate inadequacy without the threat of more dire action to give it teeth.
No President wants to face a Middle East in turmoil upon assuming office in 2008; and the last thing some liberals may really want is that anybody should actually be so foolish as to take their advice. St. Augustine once said, "give me chastity and continence, but not yet." There's no shortage of those who have advocated making bending over for the Ayatollahs. But now that the moment impends, we hear 'not yet, not yet'.