Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bush and Iran

The news channels are all abuzz with the news yesterday of the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about Iran, and also about Bush's response today. I just read the NIE (you can find it here). As a former intel professional, I understood the nuances of all the "probably" and "with high confidence" and other such terms. I was amazed at what I read for a couple of reasons. One, things like this didn't normally turn up in unclassified forums like the internet. Yes, this is a stripped-down version with all the classified stuff pulled out or hidden, but still, there's a lot of information there. Two, and this is extremely encouraging, this is the straight scoop, unfettered with neocon ideology. Unlike the "intel" that came out of the intel world during the Rumsfeld era, there's no bending the facts to fit the preconceived end. The intelligence world has re-asserted itself and is doing what it's supposed to do: provide its best guesstimate about a particular problem. God, you don't know how good that makes me feel. Admiral McConnell is my hero. He and the rest of the intel wienies have stood up to Bush and told him, and the rest of us, the truth. After seven years, it's a breath of fresh air.

Bush is completely flummoxed. Here he and Dickie have been rattling their sabers as hard as they can, trying to drum up yet another war, and suddenly the rug has been pulled out from under him. And being the dweeb he is, he can't admit it. So there he was today in the press conference, saying that the NIE doesn't really change anything, that Iran is still dangerous and that all options are still on the table. So I'm still scared that he may push the "war" button just because that's what he's wanted to do for years.

Okay, so let's go back to the NIE for a second. What does it say, really? Well, it says that Iran had a program to develop nuclear weapons, but that it halted the program in 2003 because of international exposure and pressure. Iran is still interested in nukes and is still active in some projects that are peripherally associated with them. But they're not actively pursuing the capability. If they reactivated the program and hit full speed tomorrow, they might be able to have a weapon by 2009. But since the program is shut down, the acquisition date is more likely 2013-2015, and that's if they restart the program.

What the NIE doesn't address is why the Iranians shut it all down. Well, it wasn't because of George Bush, that's for sure. In 2003, he was busy invading Iraq. He didn't start threatening Iran until last year, three years after the Iranians closed up the nuke weapon shop. No, it was the Europeans who were the ones patiently pressuring and negotiating with Iran. And their efforts have paid off. Iran is still interested in nukes, but they've backed off developing them, for the time being at least. International pressure, international opinion, and international sanctions really do have an influence on nations that want to play in the international arena. Which Iran does.

A while back, I wrote letters to my senators and congressman about preventing Bush from launching another war. I got a response back from Elizabeth Dole's office, with a nice stamped signature, in which she said that Iran doesn't respond to negotiations and that the only way to stop a nuclear threat was to have military force "available". Well, Libby, you were wrong.

One more thought and I'll stop. Bush said today that he was told in August that there was some new information about Iran and that the intel analysts were looking at it. But he didn't get the full story until last week. Joe Biden (Democratic presidential wannabe and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) was flabbergasted. "Are you telling me a president that's briefed every single morning, who's fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the U.S. government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in '03? I refuse to believe that. If that's true, he has the most incompetent staff in modern American history, and he's one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history."

You go, Joe.

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