Iranian Intentions

The newly released National Intelligence Estimate claims that Iran gave up its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons in 2003—not coincidentally, the year in which U.S. forces deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and the year in which Libyan strongman Moammar Khaddafy gave up his nuclear program. It directly contradicts the Estimate of 2005, which maintained with high confidence that Iran was pursuing nuclear capability.

I don’t know what to make of that. The contradictory assessment, within two years, undermines the credibility of both, it seems to me. The idea that this somehow discredits the Bush administration’s policy toward Iran similarly baffles me. If the assessment is correct, then the invasion of Iraq eliminated still another program developing weapons of mass destruction.

Some reactions from others:

Right Truth:

Something stinks about the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran. For years now the civilized world has worked diligently, both through the United Nations and independently, to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons. Suddenly we are told there IS NO current nuclear weapons program and has not been since 2003. What gives here?

Eric Scheie, Classical Values:

What I want to know is simply, who is in charge of the contradictions?
Is there a contradictor in chief?

The New York Sun:

The proper way to read this report is through the lens of the long struggle the professional intelligence community has been waging against the elected civilian administration in Washington. They have opposed President Bush on nearly every major policy decision. They were against the Iraqi National Congress. They were against elections in Iraq. They were against I. Lewis Libby. They are against a tough line on Iran.
One could call all this revenge of the bureaucrats. Vann Van Diepen, one of the estimate’s main authors, has spent the last five years trying to get America to accept Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Mr. Van Diepen no doubt reckons that in helping push the estimate through the system, he has succeeded in influencing the policy debate in Washington. The bureaucrats may even think they are stopping another war.

Power Line:

In other words, the NIE is another installment in the continuing saga that I call “Three years of the Condor.”

Power Line, again:

Given the astonishingly poor record of U.S. intelligence agencies when it comes to the weapons programs of hostile nations, I suggested last night that we might do well to defer to Israeli intelligence on the matter of Iran’s program. Although Israel too has made mistakes, and has interests that are not necessarily aligned with ours in every respect, its track record is far better than that of our intelligence community. (This is due perhaps to the following “imperfection” in the alignment of interests: Israel faces the prospect of annihilation if its assessments are mistaken).

International Herald Tribune:

Israeli intelligence believes Iran is still trying to develop a nuclear weapon, Israel’s defense minister said Tuesday, disputing a U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran has halted its program.
“It’s apparently true that in 2003 Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program for a time. But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio.

Roger Simon:

Excuse me if I think there is more here than meets the eye. My old and fraying mystery writer hat tells me some kind of deal was struck.

3 thoughts on “Iranian Intentions

  1. “I don’t know what to make of that. The contradictory assessment, within two years, undermines the credibility of both, it seems to me.”

    I think we should apply that principle to everything.

    Two years ago my mechanic said that my car is working fine, but last week, that same mechanic said my car is about to explode.

    I guess neither one can be true. Oh well.

    “The idea that this somehow discredits the Bush administration’s policy toward Iran similarly baffles me.”

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Just because Iran is no longer pursuing a nuclear weapon doesn’t mean that aggressive “preventative” war, saber-rattling, and hostility towards non-military solutions are good solutions.

  2. The 2005 report expressed high confidence that the Iranians were seeking nuclear weapons in 2005. The 2007 report expressed high confidence that the Iranians have not sought nuclear weapons since 2003, and, so, were not seeking them in 2005. To be analogous, therefore, the case would have to be something like this: your mechanic would have to report in 2005 that your car was then having serious mechanical difficulties, but report now that your car was just fine back in 2005. Wouldn’t that make you distrust your mechanic?

    For the rest, I don’t see how this discredits administration policy, as I said, but I don’t mean to defend that policy either. In fact, I don’t know what it is, and I don’t think many other people do either. The President included Iran in the axis of evil, but has been remarkably silent about Iranian interference in Iraq. He has pushed for sanctions, but has taken no military action, expressing hope that diplomacy and sanctions can solve the problem. There has been some saber-rattling, but not so consistently that it amounts to a strategy. I see no hostility toward non-military solutions; in fact, I would argue that, without some threat of force, non-military solutions have no hope at all. So far, that threat has consisted solely of words that no options are off the table; there has not been any significant buildup of forces in the region.

    One might conclude that there’s no policy here at all, but rather a jumble of ideas and tactics that have at best a very loose coherence. Or, one might hope, as I do, that public statements are only the tip of the iceberg; the real strategy may be largely hidden from public view.

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