US intel chief to come for Iran consultations

Mike McConnell slated to make rare visit to Israel amid reports that Bush considering action on Iran.

mcconnell 224.88 (photo credit:)
mcconnell 224.88
(photo credit: )
Amidst reports that President George W. Bush is considering taking military action against Iran, the US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell paid a rare visit to Israel Tuesday for talks with heads of the Israeli intelligence community. McConnell was scheduled to meet with head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. McConnell's office published the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report late last year, which claimed that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 even though it had renewed its enrichment of uranium in 2005. The publication of the report raised Israeli ire and delegations from the Mossad and Military Intelligence traveled several times to the US in recent months to present the Americans with Israel's estimates concerning Iran's race towards nuclear power. Defense officials said that McConnell's visit to Israel was part of the ongoing intelligence dialogue between the two countries and that he would be presented with the most updated Mossad and MI assessments regarding Iran's nuclear program. MI recently moved up its assessment and now believes that Iran will master centrifuge technology by the end of the year, meaning that Iran could have a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade. Despite the visit, officials said it was unlikely that McConnell's office would put out a new and revised NIE before the US elections in November. "We do not expect a change to the earlier American assessments," one official said. "Just like we do not expect the current administration to take military action against Iran." On Monday, Barak told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel needed to do everything possible to ensure that the Iranians did not obtain nuclear power. "There are many things we can do, but the last things that help us are words and criticism," Barak said.