Thompson expressed reservations with the NIE report on Iran.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican Fred Thompson downplayed the intelligence report released earlier in the week that said Iran’s nuclear program seemed to have ended in 2003, calling the assessment “awfully convenient” for current political leaders.
“[T]he administration gets to say its policies worked; the Democrats get to claim we should have eased up on Iran a long time ago: and Russia and China can claim sanctions on Iran are not necessary,” the presidential candidate said in a statement released Wednesday. “Who benefits from all this? Iran.”
Even if the report were accurate, he added, it was merely a snapshot of Iran’s intentions four years ago – not its agenda today.
The former Tennessee senator echoed the skepticism of GOP presidential rival John McCain, who warned reporters Tuesday that the Iranians were "still sponsoring terrorist organizations," and "sending dangerous and lethal explosive devices into Iraq."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has also said the report did little to shift his perspective on Iran, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said his tough policy prescription, which includes sanctions and “other pressures," remained unchanged.
Like McCain, Thompson listed past U.S. intelligence failures as the reason for his dubious reaction to the assessment, pointing to the nation’s continued inability to create “human intelligence” networks on the ground overseas.
The newly-released National Intelligence Estimate is causing a few headaches on the campaign trail. Most of the major Republican candidates have advocated taking a tough stance with Tehran, citing its nuclear ambitions – a view that seems to be challenged by the report’s findings.
Meanwhile, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee grabbed headlines Wednesday after he revealed to reporters that he was unfamiliar with the contents of the report.
– CNN’s Rebecca Sinderbrand