The Iran threat: Real or just another excuse?

Call it Deja Vu all over again. An American warning that another middle eastern country is a threat because of a secret nuclear program.

This time, it’s Iran.

Only the program wasn’t all that secret and the threat may not be all that great.

Sound familiar? We heard the same thing in George W. Bush’s buildup to the Iraq war.

And while America and its allies appeared to stand in unanimous agreement about the purported threat from Iran, they disagree behind the scenes about the validity and depth of the threat.

And, as usual, there is a wild card called Israel.

Reports The New York Times:

When President Obama stood last week with the leaders of Britain and France to denounce Iran’s construction of a secret nuclear plant, the Western powers all appeared to be on the same page.

Behind their show of unity about Iran’s clandestine efforts to manufacture nuclear fuel, however, is a continuing debate among American, European and Israeli spies about a separate component of Iran’s nuclear program: its clandestine efforts to design a nuclear warhead.

The Israelis, who have delivered veiled threats of a military strike, say they believe that Iran has restarted these “weaponization” efforts, which would mark a final step in building a nuclear weapon. The Germans say they believe that the weapons work was never halted. The French have strongly suggested that independent international inspectors have more information about the weapons work than they have made public.

Meanwhile, in closed-door discussions, American spy agencies have stood firm in their conclusion that while Iran may ultimately want a bomb, the country halted work on weapons design in 2003 and probably has not restarted that effort — a judgment first made public in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.

The debate, in essence, is a mirror image of the intelligence dispute on the eve of the Iraq war.