Friday, December 07, 2007

Iran in Infamy

UPDATE: below

Item - The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear intentions, released this week, came to startling new conclusions:
  • We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

  • We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

  • We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.

  • We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

  • Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.
Item - According to the Wall Street Journal:
the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials . . . Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Item - According to former UN Ambassador John Bolton:
[M]any involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as "intelligence judgments."
Item - Citing "an intelligence source," the Wall Street Journal says the three principal authors have "previous reputations as 'hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials.'"

Item - Atlas Shrugged calls the authors of the new NIE "saboteurs." Somehow I'm reminded of Richard Clarke.

Item - According to 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.
Item - According to Pundita, "Thomas Fingar is no more suited for US threat analysis work than Miss Beazley."

Item - As noted by Free Frank Warner, in February 2001, Fingar (then Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence And Research) said this before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:
[A]lthough the basic understanding of nuclear weapons physics is widespread, nuclear weapons are, fortunately, the most difficult kind to produce or acquire. Access to fissile material is a critical impediment.
Item - As Gateway Pundit recalled, in April 2006, the same official focused, properly, on Iran's potential threat: "The nation's 16 intelligence agencies haven't changed their view of Iran's capability, said Thomas Fingar, chairman of the National Intelligence Council." And Fingar reiterated the point this past April:
At a briefing on Thursday, Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, said the official view of the intelligence agencies remained that Iran was unlikely to have nuclear weapons before 2010 at the earliest. But he also acknowledged that the mistakes made in assessing Iraq's capabilities had made the intelligence agencies far more cautious about delivering definitive assessments to President Bush.

But on Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons, he said, there has been virtually no dissent. "Certainly none that has surfaced," he said, "and this is a question we revisit all the time."
Item - As reported by The Weekly Standard :
[O]n July 11, 2007, roughly four or so months prior to the most recent NIE’s publication, Deputy Director of Analysis Thomas Fingar gave the following testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (emphasis added):
Iran and North Korea are the states of most concern to us. The United States’ concerns about Iran are shared by many nations, including many of Iran’s neighbors. Iran is continuing to pursue uranium enrichment and has shown more interest in protracting negotiations and working to delay and diminish the impact of UNSC sanctions than in reaching an acceptable diplomatic solution. We assess that Tehran is determined to develop nuclear weapons--despite its international obligations and international pressure. This is a grave concern to the other countries in the region whose security would be threatened should Iran acquire nuclear weapons.
This paragraph appeared under the subheading: "Iran Assessed As Determined to Develop Nuclear Weapons." And the entirety of Fingar’s 22-page testimony was labeled "Information as of July 11, 2007." No part of it is consistent with the latest NIE, in which our spooks tell us Iran suspended its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003 "primarily in response to international pressure" and they "do not know whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."
Item - Historically, we have failed to predict additions to the nuclear weapons club, suggesting skepticism about the new NIE is warranted.

Item - As linked by Pundita, the Israelis dispute America's sudden intel flip-flop:
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.
Item - If Iran quit bomb-building half a decade ago, why did it block International Atomic Energy Agency inspections required under its commitments to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty? As President Bush said Wednesday:
It is clear from the latest NIE that the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions, especially the covert nuclear weapons program pursued until the fall of 2003, which the Iranian regime has yet to acknowledge. The Iranians have a strategic choice to make. They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities and fully accept the longstanding offer to suspend their enrichment program and come to the table and negotiate, or they can continue on a path of isolation.
Item - As the Wall Street Journal observes:
No less odd is the NIE's conclusion that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to "international pressure." The only serious pressure we can recall from that year was the U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the time, an Iranian opposition group revealed the existence of a covert Iranian nuclear program to mill and enrich uranium and produce heavy water at sites previously unknown to U.S. intelligence. The Bush Administration's response was to punt the issue to the Europeans, who in 2003 were just beginning years of fruitless diplomacy before the matter was turned over to the U.N. Security Council.
Item - As Don Surber says:
It is folly on [Democrat Senator] Byrd's part to credit the international community with Iran backing down.

The only thing that changed in 2003 was that we put 100,000-plus troops in the nation to the west of Iran. This was on top of the troops we placed in the nation north of Iran.
Item - Further, the Wall Street Journal argues:
[T]he real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale--that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions.
Item - With the media, Democrats, Bush haters, lefty blogs, Iran, Russia and China citing the NIE as proof the Administration's tough stance is wrong, Free Frank Warner notes that "Iran has thousands of centrifuges spinning, enriching uranium, overcoming the "critical impediment.'"

Conclusion - Iran's longstanding policy and wide-ranging actions are contrary to U.S. interests. America's national security depends on readiness to counter the risk posed by the capabilities of potential foes--something we forgot sixty-six years ago today.


Jim Hoagland in Sunday's Washington Post:
The publication of an unclassified version of the NIE, which concludes that Iran is "probably" not working on a nuclear weapon at this time, has triggered unintended consequences. Iran's diplomatic hand is strengthened, while foreign diplomats and officials who have pushed their governments to join the U.S. campaign of sanctions and international condemnation are suddenly undermined. "We will be exposed to a lot of criticism at home now," one official from the developing world glumly told me shortly after the estimate was issued.

"They won't say it, but our leaders must be devastated by the way this was handled," an Israeli friend said. "Not by the facts of the report, which can be discussed reasonably, but by the presentation and interpretation of the report. This happens when intelligence agencies become traumatized by previous mistakes and overreact the other way the next time."

Domestically, the most significant fact about the NIE is its public manifestation. The White House was powerless to prevent publication of a document that made Bush aides unhappy and uncomfortable. The administration went along because it knew that the document -- and any attempt to suppress it -- would have been immediately leaked.

As Gateway Pundit reports, students at Tehran U. haven't given up on freedom and democracy: Hundreds staged renewed protests on Sunday, denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The students
burned a copy of Kayhan newspaper, the mouthpiece of the clerical establishment that is bitterly critical of the Iranian reformist movement, [the FARS news agency] said.

According to IRNA, anti-riot police were stationed outside the campus but did not intervene.

There has been a string of demonstrations at Tehran universities in past months as students protest against the replacement of liberal professors, pressure on activists by the authorities and the detention of three students.

The demonstration on Sunday was at least the second within a week at Tehran University after dozens of students held a similar protest on Tuesday.
According to AFP:
"The students chanted slogans and carried protesting placards," IRNA reported.

"Ahmadi-Pinochet, Iran will not become Chile!" chanted the protesters, playing on the names of the Iranian president and late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Fars reported.

Pictures published by the student ISNA agency showed the students crowded round the main gate and bending back its iron railings to allow others through.

A dense crowd of hundreds of people then gathered inside the university grounds for the protest, the pictures showed. "Live Free or Die," read one of the banners.

source: ISNA via Gateway Pundit
Says Instapundit, it's a "catchy slogan." Fleeting Perusal observes:
[T]hose English language signs and banners that students carry with them means that the students inside of Iran want foreign press coverage and want the foreign observers to know what's going on in that country occupied by the mullahs. This needs to be supported by all bloggers who care about freedom and democracy.
MORE3: Christopher Hitchens in Slate:
It is completely false for anybody to claim, on the basis of this admitted "estimate," that Iran has ceased to be a candidate member of the fatuously named nuclear "club." It has the desire to acquire the weaponry, it retains the means to do so, and it has been caught lying and cheating about the process. If it suspended some overtly military elements of the project out of a justifiable apprehension in 2003, it has energetically persisted in the implicit aspects—most notably the installation of gas centrifuges at the plant in Natanz and the building of a heavy water reactor at Arak. All that the estimate has done is to define weaponry down and to suggest a distinction without much difference between a "civilian" and a "military" dimension of the same program. The acquisition of enriched uranium and of plutonium, for any purpose, is identical with the acquisition of a thermonuclear weapons capacity. Iran continues to strive to produce both, neither of which, as it happens, are required for its ostensible civilian energy needs.

The briefing that I was given by the British Embassy in Tehran in 2005, showing the howlingly glaring discrepancy between what Iran claims and what Iran does, is not in the least challenged by the most recent conclusions. To say that Iran has "stopped" rather than paused its program is to offer an opinion, not to present a finding.


Anonymous said...

And what do you think of Obadiah Shoher's arguments against the peace process ( )?

@nooil4pacifists said...


I'm sympathetic with some of the Shoher's points, and made similar arguments almost four years ago. Were I an Israeli, I wouldn't favor further negotiations. Were I President Bush, I would resist pressure that would force a bad deal.

But, let's face it, the "peace process" isn't about law, rights, justice, or fairness. It's about raw power, a quality Israel, fortunately, has, and about surviving until the next sunrise which, unfortunately, Israel is not and may never be sure of.