Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Apocalypse postponed

I'm feeling slightly less gloomy today than a few days ago. This might partly be because the sun shows every intention of shining today. It might also be related to the fact that I had a chipped tooth fixed with remarkable ease, rapidity and lack-of-charge last evening.

For the somewhat brightened outlook, I have also to thank Ario, who offered a lovely Nina Simone song in response to my apocalyptic musings.

And then, last but not least, there's the American intelligence community, whose new National Intelligence Estimate -- while not entirely reassuring -- appears to be somewhat less immediately distressing than recent statements from the US government. As the New York Times reports:

Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is intended for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that the enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.

But the new report essentially disavows a judgment that the intelligence agencies issued in 2005, which concluded that Iran had an active secret arms program intended to transform the raw material into a nuclear weapon. The new estimate declares instead with “high confidence” that the military-run program was shut in 2003, and it concludes with “moderate confidence” that the program remains frozen. The report judges that the halt was imposed by Iran “primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”

The report, no doubt, will be bickered over in the usual noisy way, and what it all adds up to is, as ever, a bit murky. (And are these not the agencies -- at least some of them -- who dropped the ball on predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union, preventing September 11th and proving the presence -- or lack thereof -- of Iraqi WMD?)

Now, it's far from prophesying an imminent Age of Aquarius, but the fact that 'international scrutiny and pressure' has had an effect is encouraging. (And a good argument for more of the same.)

Apocalypse delayed, then.

'Tis the season to be jolly.

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