Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at 11:02 AM

The NIE on Iran: How can a non-nuclear Iran be a nuclear threat?

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Of course, any sane person would say that a non-nuclear Iran cannot be a nuclear threat. Therefore, I suppose it should come as no surprise that President George W. Bush disagrees.

Because here’s how he answered this no-brainer during a White House press conference yesterday:

Look, Iran was dangerous. Iran is dangerous. And Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

After yesterday’s press conference, however, even his dead-end supporters were beginning to question his sanity. Because most people reasonably assumed that Monday’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a report produced by the government’s 16 intelligence agencies, would have compelled Bush to moderate his bellicose rhetoric against this Muslim state – especially his crazy talk about a confrontation with it igniting World War III. After all, this NIE contained the shocking assessment that Iran ended its covert nuclear program in 2003; perhaps fearing that the blitzkrieg of American military forces into Baghdad might end in Tehran….

Instead, Bush rationalized his determination to stay on his rhetorical course as follows:

What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program? I still feel strongly that Iran’s a danger. Nothing’s changed in this NIE that says, okay, why don’t we just stop worrying about it. Quite the contrary.

But since this NIE effectively neutered Bush of what little power he retained to launch preemptive strikes against Iran, there seems no point in commenting on his twisted logic or congenital mendacity. Besides, I’m encouraged by the fact that there seems to be a bipartisan resolve now to impeach him if he even thinks about doing so.

Rather, I think it’s important to appreciate the mixed messages this NIE sends – not only to Americans, but also to friends and foes abroad. Because on the one hand, the US intelligence community should be commended for conducting a diligent review and publishing this revised report, which makes a lie of almost everything Bush has said about Iran over the past four years. While on the other hand, given the egregious and notorious intelligence failures that led to the invasion of Iraq, the only conclusion most people will draw from this report is that the US government cannot be trusted.

But frankly, I am stupefied. Because just weeks ago I was commenting on how French President Nicolas Sarkozy seems as determined to march with Bush into Iran to destroy its nuclear program as British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to march with him into Iraq to find its WMDs.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government – which has what is generally recognized as the most reliable intelligence agency in the world – felt compelled after Bush’s press conference to declare that this latest American NIE on Iran is wrong. In fact, the Israelis insist that the Iranians remain actively engaged in developing nuclear weapons:

I am familiar with the American intelligence assessment. Nevertheless, I say again that Iran is today a central threat on the world and the State of Israel. [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ]

Then, of course, we all have just cause to doubt any report by American intelligence agencies. After all, these are the same experts who gave us not only the NIE in 2003, which contained the “slam dunk” assessment that Iraq possessed WMDs, but also the NIE in 2005, which reported then what the Israelis insist remains true today about Iran’s nuclear program.

Therefore, since only a western fool would claim to know what those Iranian Mullahs are really up to, I’m going to take it on faith that this latest NIE is correct, and shall leave it to the Israelis to deal with the import of their own intelligence in this respect. But I’m ever so mindful that Iran has vowed to wipe Israel, not America, off the map as soon as it develops nuclear weapons….

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  1. Alex December 11, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    And what do you think of the very popular view by a leading Israeli analyst Obadiah Shoher? He argues (here, for example, www. ) that the Bush Administration made a deal with Iran: nuclear program in exchange for curtailing the Iranian support for Iraqi terrorists. His story seems plausible, isn’t it?

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