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.

Iran admits that it is governing out of the 7th Century

I firmly believe that military force should be the last option in dealing with Iran. But I also believe that, whether we talk with the Iranians, enact embargoes against the Iranians, threaten the Iranians, or whatever else the heck we decide to do vis a vis the Iranians (including an Osirak or Syria approach), we ought to understand that we’re dealing with 7th Century people who are on the verge of possessing 21st Century WMDs:

Homosexuals deserve to be executed or tortured and possibly both, an Iranian leader told British MPs during a private meeting at a peace conference, The Times has learned.

Mohsen Yahyavi is the highest-ranked politician to admit that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality after a spate of reports that gay youths were being hanged.

***

The latest row involves a woman hanged this June in the town of Gorgan after becoming pregnant by her brother. He was absolved after expressing his remorse. Britain said that this demonstrated the unequal treatment of men and women in law and breached Iran’s pledge to restrict the death penalty to the most serious crimes.

A series of reported executions of gays, including two underage boys whose public hanging was posted on the internet, has alarmed human rights campaigners.

***

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FCO released papers to The Times about the death penalty being used in Iran for homosexuality, adultery and sex outside marriage.

Minutes taken by an official describe a meeting between British and Iranian MPs at the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a peace body, in May. When the Britons raised the hangings of Asqari and Marhouni, the leader of the Iranian delegation, Mr Yahyavi, a member of his parliament’s energy committee, was unflinching. He “explained that according to Islam gays and lesbianism were not permitted,” the record states. “He said that if homosexual activity is in private there is no problem, but those in overt activity should be executed [he initially said tortured but changed it to executed]. He argued that homosexuality is against human nature and that humans are here to reproduce. Homosexuals do not reproduce.”

***

Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Nigeria apply the death penalty for homosexuality, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

The same article concludes with a helpful list of some of the victim so Sharia law, a law that, when originally enacted, was probably consistent with the law in Western countries as well, during the 7th through 16th Centuries.  The problem is that we in the West have moved on, while those in Iran and other Islamist nations, have not:

2005

— Homosexuals Farbod Mostaar and Ahmad Chooka sentenced to death. Iran said Chooka had kidnapped, knifed and raped a student

— A woman called Soghra was sentenced to stoning for adultery and being an accomplice to her husband’s murder

— Two men executed in public after being found guilty of a homosexual relationship. A newspaper said they were convicted of sodomy, rape and kidnapping

— Zhila Izadi, 13, sentenced to stoning after becoming pregnant with her brother’s child

2006

— Malek Ghorbany sentenced to stoning for adultery

— Leila Qomi sentenced to stoning for adultery and assisting a man who killed her husband. He received 100 lashes

2007

— Jafar Kiana stoned for adultery. His female lover Mokarrameh Ebrahimi sentenced to the same fate.

While I have absolutely no doubt that there are thousands, nay, tens of thousands or even millions of good, decent, humane Iranians, it is patently clear that the country as a whole has embraced a leadership that has no conception of human rights as we understand them in the West.  Iran’s morality and belief systems are entirely different from ours, and we make a terrible mistake if we assume that they use the same decision-making algorithms we in the West do, whether we’re talking about women, gays, WMDs, or the destruction of nations.

Maybe Condi has a plan

I respect Condi Rice for the most part, but have thought her naive for believing (or, at least, appearing to believe) that the Palestinians want peace with Israel, as opposed to Israel in pieces.  David Brooks, however, thinks that there is a method to her madness, and that Iran’s follies may result in a back door route to some stability in the Middle East:

It’s not really about Israel and the Palestinians; it’s about Iran. Rice is constructing a coalition of the losing. There is a feeling among Arab and Israeli leaders that an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance is on the march. The nations that resist that alliance are in retreat. The peace process is an occasion to gather the “moderate” states and to construct what Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center calls an anti-Iran counter-alliance.

It’s slightly unfortunate that the peace process itself is hollow. It’s like having a wedding without a couple because you want to get the guests together for some other purpose. But that void can be filled in later. The main point is to organize the anti-Iranians around some vehicle and then reshape the strategic correlation of forces in the region.

Iran has done what decades of peace proposals have not done — brought Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians and the U.S. together. You can go to Jerusalem or to some Arab capitals and the diagnosis of the situation is the same: Iran is gaining hegemonic strength over the region and is spreading tentacles of instability all around.

Though this article originated in the NY Times, I take its conclusions with a grain of salt, simply because I’ve come to distrust the Times.  Nevertheless, this is certainly not a wacky idea, and it does reflect an impulse to bring some central stability to a region that will become entirely unbalanced if the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis does in fact ascend to real power, rather than stopping at the noises of power, along with the violence of terrorism.

What Ahmadinejad really said….

The media is congratulating itself for “exposing” Ahmadinejad with its constant focus on it’s “we have no gays in Iran” statement. Ha, ha, ha! Isn’t the man an idiot! Look, America, he thinks there are no gays in Iran!

Ahmadinejad is right, of course, when it comes to Iran. But he’s not right because he’s a silly little fool who doesn’t see what’s in front of him. He’s right because the Iranian government executes its gays — making it even worse than the Soviet Union, which “merely” sent them to Gulags and brutal “psychiatric” units.

What’s really important about the media’s coverage, though, is that all of it is besides the point. Whether it exposes Ahmadinejad as a laughable ignoramus or a murderous tyrant, it still misses what really happened during his speeches before the UN and at Columbia: he is an Islamic fanatic who is telling us that our culture is woefully corrupt and that his burgeoning nuclear weapon program is the way to purify our culture by destroying it, which in turn will pave the way for the glorious dawning of an Islamic takeover.

One person who totally gets this is Caroline Glick. In a wide-ranging article, she explains the text of his speech, explains how willfully world political leaders misunderstand it, and exposes how the Islamists are using the world’s antipathy to Israel as the wedge in their ongoing battle against the West itself. After detailing the Islamist’s explicit statement of their goals (statements we ignore at our peril) and the strides they have already made towards their goals, Glick says this:

THE POINT in all of this couldn’t be clearer. And Ahmadinejad made it at every opportunity. The Free World today finds itself embroiled in an ideological war for its very survival. Our enemies – whether Shi’ite or Sunni – are followers of a totalitarian ideology based on Islam which tells them that Allah wishes to rule the world through them. Israel is a central front in this war. Given the weakness of Western support for the Jews, jihadists see attacking Israel as a strategic tool for eroding the West’s ideological defenses and shoring up their supporters throughout the world.

The thing of it is that aside from blind narcissism, there is a reason that the West ignores the dangers facing it. The Western media ignored Ahmadinejad’s message, just as it has insistently ignored the messages of bin Laden and Fatah throughout the years, because Westerners have a hard time believing that anyone would want to abide by the Islamic world view which denies mankind’s desire for freedom.

But no matter how ugly an ideology is, in the absence of real competition it gains adherents and power. The only way to ensure that jihadists’ demonic views are defeated is by stridently defending and upholding the fundamental principles on which the Free World is based. And the West hasn’t even begun to take up this challenge.

As a result, it has handed its enemies two victories already. It has demoralized its potential allies in the Islamic world, and it has failed to rally its own people to defend themselves.

In spite of what the West would like to believe, Ahmadinejad and his allies from Ramallah to Waziristan, from Gaza to Kandahar to Baghdad, are not negotiating. They are fighting. Rather than ignore them or seek to find nonexistent common ground, we must defeat them – first and foremost on the battleground of ideas.

Right now, not only should we be afraid, by very afraid, of Iran, we should be even more afraid of our own leaders, who empower what should be an economically and intellectually disabled movement every time they negotiate with it and fail to send out an equally strong message supporting our own culture and world view.
Hat tip:  Paragraph Farmer

Coulter on Ahamadinejad

This is why, even when conservatives feel Ann’s crossed a line, as she has in the past, they still read her articles — she’s nailed the whole Columbia, “free speech,” Ahmadinejad thing.

What’s left to say about Ahmadinejad?

You might have noticed that, aside from a few asides, I haven’t had anything to say about Ahmadinejad’s little kaffee klatch at Columbia. Frankly, anything I’ve even thought has been said better and louder at some of my favorite blogs. For lengthy analysis, you should check in with American Thinker or Power Line; for hourly updates go to Michelle Malkin and Little Green Football. I bet you can add to the list of conservative (or reasonable) websites that are not wildly excited that this megalomaniac has come to town. (For the opposing point of view, of course, there’s always the Kos or HuffPo.) As it is, something will emerge from the depths of my brain in a week or two, after I’ve had a chance to get a little perspective on this whole thing but, for now, you’re going to have to read about Ahmadinejad’s “I’ll take Manhattan” moment somewhere else.

How New York should handle Ahmadinejad’s proposed visit to Ground Zero

Much cyber-ink was spilled today about Ahmadinejad’s insistence that he visit Ground Zero. The upset, of course, was that we knew he wanted to go there, not to mourn, but to gloat. As it is, the matter was a tempest in a teapot, since his request was denied.  (But see the update, below.)

Next time the matter arises, though (and it will), I do have a suggestion for how to handle the visit. My idea comes from a story I heard about Teddy Roosevelt’s tenure as president of the board of New York City Police Commissioners. I don’t know if it’s a true story or not, but if it isn’t, it should be.

The story goes that, while Teddy occupied this position, a famous German anti-Semite came to speak in New York. Because he was such an incendiary speaker, and because he was journeying to a City that already had a huge Jewish population, the German man demanded police protection. Despite the outcry from people who would rather have seen the man stopped at the border, or left to his own devices on New York’s hostile streets, Teddy agreed to the man’s request. The German and his followers were convinced they had emerged victorious, until the morning when the German’s police protection appeared. It turned out that each of the armed men surrounding him was a Jewish police officer. The story ends there, but one has to assume that the man spent his entire visit haunted by the fear that, if someone were to attack him, his guard would be slow, very slow, to protect him.

So, perhaps, if Bloomberg eventually feels compelled to allow Ahmadinejad to visit the site, the mayor should make sure the assembled guard is composed of Jewish police officers or officers who are refugees from the Iranian revolution.

UPDATE: Whoops. Seems it’s back on again, so apparently my idea is still in play. Anyone in government listening?