Looking behind the NIE report re Iran’s nuclear program

In the endless game of “who do you trust,” I have to admit that I no longer trust America’s intelligence agencies, which have, of late, done shoddy and many of whose troops seem to be infected by Bush Derangement Syndrome. So, when an NIE comes out, and is then filtered through the NY Times, I take everything I hear with a dollop of salt. That’s just my instinct, without any practical facts to back myself up. Fortunately, others have both more facts and analytical ability in this area than I do, and they’re just as suspicious of the sudden announcement that Iran, rather than being on the verge of being a nuclear tiger, is merely a tired old mule. American Thinker has a good round-up of these doubters.

UPDATE: James Taranto, at Best of the Web, points out that the report directly contradicts its “high confidence” report of just two years ago. I find this significant, because everyone is saying that Bush was an idiot (again) by treating Iran as actually dangerous. However, up until the latest NIE estimate, which Democrats instantly treated as gospel truth, the same entity had said that Iran was, in fact, dangerous, a conclusion Democrats have always disregarded. Apparently the NIE is accurate only when it embarrasses the administration.

Taranto says something else I found quite interesting:

Here’s what troubles us about the report, though: If one can have high confidence in the NIE findings, then those findings are good news for America. They mean that a regime that has repeatedly shown its hostility toward our country is less of a threat than we had reason to fear. If Iran had nuclear weapons, it could create a humanitarian catastrophe. Or it could use the threat to do so to do all sorts of mischief that would be destructive to U.S. interests in the region.

But we haven’t seen anyone celebrating the NIE as good news for America. The people who profess to believe it all seem to view it as a partisan document, a weapon to be used in their battle against the Bush administration. To the administration’s domestic foes, it doesn’t seem to matter how much of a threat Iran poses; short-term political gain is more important than the interests of America.

The administration is vulnerable to the same criticism. By releasing the NIE now, it seems to be signaling that it has decided to throw in the towel on dealing with the Iranian threat, leaving it for the next administration.

This column does not have high confidence that the NIE is right. But we certainly hope it is, because if it isn’t, its consequences could prove very dangerous.

UPDATE II: Power Line looked to the Israeli take on the subject, which is less sanguine, more pragmatic and, historically, more accurate.

UPDATE IIIThe always astute Richard Baehr weighs in.

5 Responses

  1. […] and the claim is that Iran has not restarted its suspended nuclear weapons program. However, Bookworm points out that she does not trust the NIE because of the intelligence agencies past ineptnesses […]

  2. Something is really missing in the NIE. Now just based on public reports and IAEA documents Iran is continuing to do the things needed to get a weapon. They are continuing to produce heavy water, the reactor to use it is still being constructed, both of which can be part of a plutonium production cycle.

    They are continuing to develop centrifuge technology in ever larger cascades which is also needed for a uranium based system.

    The weaponization and R&D needed to construct and design a functional system can be hidden with ease.

    So my key question would be, exactly what has Iran stopped doing that leads one to believe their program is halted.

  3. So, let me see that I have this right:

    one NIE report, put together on very scanty evidence and chock full of caveats is to be taken as 100% reliable by your average Liberal/Lefty.

    However, scads of intelligence reports drawing from sources the world over, including the UN, over decades indicated that Saddam Hussein was building and stockpiling WMDs. These reports, of course, had to be rejected as wildly unreliable by those same Liberal/Lefties.

    Oh goody! I feel much safer now.

  4. Considering that the claim supporting the argument about Iran haveing a WMD program came solely from the “smoking laptop” I wouldn’t be too worried about this NIE. The smoking laptop was recovered by the MEK, a terrorist group in the pay of the Mossad and it never would have changed anyone’s mind about the nonexistence of Iran’s WMD program if it weren’t for the pressure from the Vice President.

    Things have changed for the better since then. Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans, which is famous for stovepiping bogus Isreali “intelligence” has been disbanded. Fith’s direct report, Larry Franklin, was found guilty of spying for Israel. Feith was forced to resign abruptly pursuant to the investigation into Larry Franklin, and Feith was censured by Congress for having manipulated the intelligence by contaminating it with self-serving Israeli crap. Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were also forced out and the VP’s role in pressuring intelligence analysts to provide the “intelligence” analysis that Cheney sought has been exposed.

    With Cheney chastened, Franklin in jail and AIPAC’s Rosen & Weissman awaiting trial and a whole host of neocons exposed for their transparent efforts to subordinate American policy to the desires of Israel, it is extremely unlikely that we’ll see the sort of manipulation of intelligence that the neocons want to wage another war for Israel.

  5. Great article in the American conservative about the NIE:
    http://amconmag.com/2008/2008_01_14/article2.html

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