Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Another NIE and Iran's bomb, or lack thereof.

The WaPo reports a new National Intelligence Estimate concludes Iran stopped it nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The NIE says: "We do not know whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."

The WaPo:

"The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency."

After this bombshell exploded in DC yesterday, the administration initially canceled all press briefings by the White House and instead sent national security adviser Stephen Hadley out to flak for the administration while W.'s handlers came up with a response to the NIE. Hadley, the same guy who took the fall for Condi over the 16-words in W.'s State of the Union speech on Saddam's yellow cake purchases in Africa, naturally saw nothing but good things in the NIE.

Sure W. just last month was suggesting Iran's WMD program could cause World War III at any minute, but Hadley said, "On balance, the estimate is good news. On the one hand it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen."

This morning W. held a snap press conference which, of course, was already planned long in advance -- even though the White House press office hadn't mentioned it anyone -- where he dismissed the report and remained defiant about his bellicose approach to Iran.


"What happened to them in 2007? How come they couldn't see the impending danger? What caused them not to understand that a country that once had a weapons program could reconstitute the weapons program? . . . What blinded them to the realities of the world?"

I dunno . . . he went on:

"And it's not going to happen on my watch. And so, you know, kind of Psychology 101 ain't working. It's just not working, you know? I am -- I understand the issues, I clearly see the problems, and I'm going to use the NIE to continue to rally the international community for the sake of peace." [the bombing begins in five minutes.]

"Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous and Iran will be dangerous if they have the know-how to make a nuclear weapon."

There we are, back to to Iran having the "knowledge" to build a bomb. Since they aren't actually building a bomb and, in fact, haven't been in the business of building one for the last four years, simply possessing the "know-how" to build one -- in oh say, 2 to 7 years -- is reason enough to keep threatening to blow the world up to stop them. W. wants his European partners to know he thinks diplomacy is the way to go but "effective diplomacy is one in which all options are on the table." [Kaboom!]

For its part the International Atomic Energy Agency released a statement today saying:

"IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei received with great interest the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate about Iran´s nuclear program which concludes that there has been no on-going nuclear weapons program in Iran since the fall of 2003. He notes in particular that the Estimate tallies with the Agency´s consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the Agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran."

See, again they were right all along. Not to say the Iranians are making it any easier to figure out what exactly they're up to. If they aren't in the process of building weapons why don't they just let the inspectors in and show everyone they're not a threat?

Just as Rummy so succinctly put it:

"As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know. There are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things ee do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know." [Slate]

The fact that they apparently ended their program in 2003 is telling. Hadley might want to take credit for it by claiming US pressure or the Iraq invasion caused it, but if you think about it; after we overthrew Saddam we eliminated Iran's biggest threat, so there wasn't any real reason to waste all that money on a bomb.

If you'll recall, also, the reformers in power back in 2003 offered the United States a Grand Bargain, a modus vivendi, to normalize relations between the two countries. Probably, the thinking then was partly influenced by the fact that the US military was firmly planted on both Iran's West, East and Southern flanks, but Mohammad Khatami and the people in power with him weren't exactly the bunch that's in control now.

A slight refresher: Spencer Akerman writes in TPM Muckraker:

"Through a Swiss intermediary, the Iranian regime proposed the basis for comprehensive discussions. If accepted, it would have meant the Iranians would have put on the table ending its support for Palestinian terrorist groups; 'action' on transforming Hezbollah into a 'mere political organization within Lebanon'; 'transparency' that Iran isn't trying to develop WMD; and 'enhanced action against Al Qaida members in Iran.' In return, the U.S. would ultimately lift all sanctions on Iran; ensure 'full access' to nuclear technology (!); and provide, in general, a 'halt in hostile U.S. behavior,' to include action against 'anti-Iranian' terrorist groups."

The line about Iran not trying to develop WMD at least now seems to ring true. Another indicator that they ended their bomb making plan in 2003 is a paragraph in an article in last week's Economist about Ahamadinejad going after the reformers of 2003:

"Following a speech in which he blasted critics of his nuclear policy as traitors, his government announced it would press espionage charges against Hossein Mousavian, who served as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator under Mr Khatami. . . . The common explanation in Tehran is that the espionage charge was aimed at tarring the previous administration and reformists in general as dangers to the revolution."

Yes, ending a nuclear bomb making project might qualify.


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