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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Last nail in the alliance against Iran?

Three weeks ago, I reported that the US was abandoning Israel and leaving it to its own devices in dealing with Iran by not preparing a pre-emptive attack against Iran. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud K. Olmert, decided to deal with that scenario by drawing up plans for Israel to live with a nuclear Iran. It seems unlikely that a nuclear Iran would wait long to attack Israel, but perhaps Olmert didn't react too strongly to the news three weeks ago because he thought it would be dealt with at Annapolis.

Apparently, nothing good happened on the Iranian front at Annapolis either. In fact, the picture at top left of Ahmadinejad being warmly greeted yesterday by Saudi King Abdullah at a Doha meeting of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council shows that, if anything, the 'moderate' Arab countries have aligned themselves with Iran, despite their attendance at Annapolis.

Yesterday, the Americans put what might have been the final nail in their alliance with Israel against Iran. They 'discovered' a convenient National Intelligence Estimate that claims that Iran stopped pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003, and therefore it would take the Iranians until 2010-15 to develop them. This gets the US off the hook altogether when it comes to Iran. Except that some awfully smart people are calling it a scam:
Something is happening here. This smells like another leak by forces in our intel community trying to - once again - influence our national elections. The NY Times even goes out of its way to hint this news is all about our upcoming Presidential elections:

The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to be major factor in the tense international negotiations aimed at getting Iran to halt its nuclear energy program, and they come in the middle of a presidential campaign during which a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear program has been discussed.

Emphasis mine. But why would this impact the Presidential election? First off the news is clearly, as the NY Times notes, a dramatic NEW shift in the opinion of the intel community - a new view that opposes the views held up until this point and outlined in the 2005 NIE. So any decisions or views held prior to this change in assessment are valid based on what was known prior to be true.

Second point: Bush is not up for election next year so what he does based on the intel given him has little bearing on where the future will go. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat. I mean maybe this is just a face saving way for Iran to climb down off the nuclear limb they are on. But Iran with nukes is something the world cannot abide. I am sure Bush would take some snide remarks from the far left if it meant he could get verifiable assurance from Iran it is dropping its dreams of the bomb.

In the end even this newly leaked NIE notes Iran is not really dropping its dreams of the atomic bomb:

The estimate does say that Iran’s ultimate goal is still to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapon.

The new report concludes that if Iran were to end the freeze of its weapons program, it would still be at least two years before Tehran would have enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. But it says it is still “very unlikely” Iran could produce enough of the material by then.

Instead, the N.I.E. concludes it is more likely Iran could have a bomb by the early part to the middle of the next decade. The report states that the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this goal before 2013, “because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.”

Well, this is good news if true. Sadly it is intelligence and therefore fraught with potential errors. The question is whether this situation can be verified by independent inspectors! That will be the real test. I hope Iran has come to its senses. And my guess is there may be a lot of classified aspects of this we will not know for decades to come. It seems awfully convenient that we get a big “never mind” as Iran is working to get out from under all that international pressure!

For those interested here is the actual report (well caveated).

This is from Giuliani foreign policy adviser Norman Podhoretz:

I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view (including as is evident from the 2005 NIE, within the intelligence community itself) that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. I also suspect that, having been excoriated as well for minimizing the time it would take Saddam to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal, the intelligence community is now bending over backward to maximize the time it will take Iran to reach the same goal.

But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations. As the intelligence community must know, if he were to do so, it would be as a last resort, only after it had become undeniable that neither negotiations nor sanctions could prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and only after being convinced that it was very close to succeeding. How better, then, to stop Bush in his tracks than by telling him and the world that such pressures have already been effective and that keeping them up could well bring about “a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program”—especially if the negotiations and sanctions were combined with a goodly dose of appeasement or, in the NIE’s own euphemistic formulation, “with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways.”

If this is what lies behind the release of the new NIE, its authors can take satisfaction in the response it has elicited from the White House. Quoth Stephen Hadley, George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser: “The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically—without the use of force—as the administration has been trying to do.”

I should add that I offer these assessments and judgments with no more than “moderate confidence.”

But if my friend Freedom Fighter is right, the Bush administration has already fallen into the intelligence report's trap:
I don't think the`leaking' of this report is an accident. Translation? I see the Bush Administration signaling publicly that it is taking the military option against Iran off the table. There could be a number of reasons for this..a secret quid pro quo we don't know about, more appeasement of the Saudis and fallout from Annapolis, the State Department indulging in a new diplomatic gambit or simple fatigue on the part of the president and unwillingness to get involved in another firestorm so close to retirement. Or this could have something to do with it.


While the idea that the Bush Administration suddenly has no basis for a hard line with Iran and can postpone things will be pointed at with glee in certain quarters,it flies in the face of logic and all available evidence. For one thing, skeptics might ask themselves how they could acknowledge that Israel could take out a nuclear weapons facility that apparently existed for years in Syria and still assume there was nothing like that in Iran. I would remind my readers that it wasn't the Bush Administration's intel or the IAEA who first busted Iran's illegal clandestine nukes program..it was Iranian dissidents, and that was four and a half years ago.

And if Iran really gave up its quest for nukes, why the expensive and advanced air defenses around `harmless' facilities? Why the secrecy and lies? Why the failure to accept huge economic incentives from the west in exchange for transparency and abandoning the development for nuclear weapons? Why the threats?
Here's my take on this: I believe the report is false and that it was purposely leaked to throw a monkey wrench into any thought the Bush administration might have entertained of pre-emptively attacking Iran. I believe that the State Department has been looking for just such a report to justify 'negotiating' with the Mullahs. I believe that Israel is going to have to go it alone or find ourselves looking at a nuclear-armed hostile neighbor just a few hundred miles to our east. Unfortunately, I don't believe that our 'leadership' is capable of handling this threat. It's time to get the prayer books out.


At 12:23 AM, Blogger Gershon said...

Or, you could be optimistic and say that the US wants Iran to think they're in the clear...


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