What happened
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed the news that U.S. intelligence officials believe that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, calling it a “victory” for Iran. President Bush praised the work of the intelligence community, and said the intelligence findings should serve as a “warning signal” that Iran could resume its quest for a nuclear bomb at any time. (Voice of America)

What the commentators said
“This is dangerous,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The intelligence community’s “180-degree turn”—in 2005 it said Tehran was determined to build nukes—will only feed complacency, making it easier for the mullahs to realize their nuclear dreams.

It is heartening to learn that the intelligence isn’t “cooking the books” to justify a war with Iran, said The Boston Globe in an editorial (free registration). No matter how you spin the newly declassified National Intelligence Estimate, “there can be no doubt that it undercuts the argument for an urgent military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.”

“This rebuttal of conventional wisdom will restore some integrity after the Iraq WMD debacle,” said David Ignatius in The Washington Post (free registration). The debate about what this reversal should mean for U.S. policy on Iran is only beginning, but this should dispel the “hawkish” myth that Iran’s mullahs are nothing but “irrational” madmen.

Now that the justification for a military strike is gone, said Robert Kagan, also in the Post, the Bush administration has two choices. It can “sit around isolated for the next year. Or it can seize the initiative, and do the next administration a favor, by opening direct talks with Tehran.”

“The stage is now set for a thaw in the hitherto hostile US-Iran relations,” said Kaveh L. Afrasiabi and Kayhan Barzegar in The Boston Globe (free registration). “Both sides should heed the call by the head of International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad ElBaradei, to use the intelligence report as the basis for a comprehensive dialogue geared toward normalization.”