The years since the US invasion of Iraq have witnessed a decline in public confidence in the US Intelligence Community's ability to understand and report on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and in US policymakers' capacity to deal effectively with proliferation. Negative reactions to the US government's decision to use military force to remove the Saddam regime—which the administration stated was partly intended to eliminate Iraq's WMD programs—along with the lack of significant proof of the existence of such weapons, resulted in much acrimony and severe criticism of the Intelligence Community's ability to monitor accurately Saddam's clandestine efforts to produce or acquire nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.
During this same period the Intelligence Community has been unable to judge definitively whether North Korea has an ongoing, clandestine uranium enrichment program, which could circumvent a shutdown of Pyongyang's plutonium weapon program. More recently, questions regarding Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons have been raised after the Intelligence Community, in a National Intelligence Estimate issued in late 2007, changed one of its Key Judgments on the status of Iran's nuclear weapon program. These episodes, especially Iraq (see Chapter 5), illustrate the confluence of intelligence and the world of politics in most foreign and national policies; furthermore, intelligence is often blamed for policy failures. Clearly, US intelligence on proliferation issues has sometimes been faulty, as in the case of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs in 2002. In the arena of nuclear weapon proliferation, however, the track record shows that intelligence has gotten it right more often than not, even to some degree in the case of Iraq (see Chapter 3).
Limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and preventing their use is a top priority for the United States and the world community in the twenty-first century. With respect to nuclear