December 4, 2007

Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!

Hatched by Dafydd

If you believe the Democrats, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear-weapons program shows that there never was anything to worry about in the first place, so we must immediately stop all this "saber rattling" (Hillary's term) and tough talk -- and get down to the business of offering Iran incentives for promising to refrain in future from doing things that threaten us (which in civilian criminal terms is usually called "extortion").

In reality, a close look at the NIE -- if it's true and accurate -- demonstrates four points:

  • The Iranians absolutely had a nuclear-weapons program (NWP) that they built after extensive contact with Pakistan's proliferation-happy nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan; see the discussion below of the Bill Gertz story in today's Washington Times.
  • The Iranians suspended (not shut down) their NWP in late 2003 in direct response to President Bush's saber-rattling, and by my own conclusion, almost certainly in response to our invasion of next-door Iraq.

    The suspension (if it really occurred) was in "fall 2003," which is not only after we invaded Iraq and overthrew the Baathist regime, but also around the time al-Qaeda was establishing itself in Iraq, the Iranians were arming Shiite militias in Iran, and we were fighting both sides. Thus, they knew not only that we had swiftly overthrown Saddam Hussein, but also that we were not backing down, as many had predicted, but were fighting back hard against both insurgencies. This was a marked departure from what both Iran and the Arab nations believed about American resolve.

    Since our occupation of Iraq cannot possibly have made Teheran feel more secure, they must have suspended work on their NWP (if indeed they did) because they felt less secure; which can only mean they were worried that Bush might decide to invade or bomb the next target on the "axis of evil."

  • Iran continues its uranium-enrichment program, still striving for weapons-grade fissile materiel;
  • They can restart the NWP any time American and international pressure subsides... say, when either Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) is elected president.

Note that Israeli intelligence agrees that Iran shut down its NWP in 2003... but they believe they restarted it later (hat tip to Hugh Hewitt):

In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "it's apparently true" that Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program in 2003.

"But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Barak told Army Radio. "There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."

In my opinion, if the NIE is true and accurate, the Iranians essentially suspended their NWP during the tenure of George W. Bush; but if any of the current Democratic candidates is elected in 2008 and carries through on the Democratic plan, to which all the candidates have agreed, to start making nice with Iran -- inviting them into Iraq to help "stabilize" the country, offering incentives instead of sanctions and threats of attack, backing away from the demand for an intrusive inspections regime -- then the mullahs will order Iran's NWP back into full operation.

As the NIE states, they have not dismantled the program, and they have continued to enrich uranium all this time: They retain the knowledge to restart. They're just waiting out the vigilant Bush administration, praying for a changing of the guard.

The reason I keep saying about the NIE "if it's true and accurate" is that Kenneth Timmerman believes that this NIE was, in fact, cooked up to drive policy... fabricated by the appeasement arm of the State Department. The article was carried on Newsmax, which ordinarily would make me skeptical; but Timmerman has been investigating Iran's nuclear and CBW weapons program since at least 1990, in his book Poison Gas Connection: Western Suppliers of Unconventional Weapons and Technologies to Iraq and Iran. More recently, he has published two books that explore Iran, its drive for nukes, and the CIA's near-complicity in allowing it to do so, plus one book that touches on the subject:

I have found Timmerman to be a very substantive critic of the appeasement approach by the CIA and its parent, the State Department, to resolving the Iranian NWP crisis: He certainly has a bias on this issue; but he has also proven himself a reliable reporter on this issue in the past. So I take his claims now -- primarily drawn from his current book Shadow Warriors -- very seriously:

A highly controversial, 150 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear programs was coordinated and written by former State Department political and intelligence analysts -- not by more seasoned members of the U.S. intelligence community, Newsmax has learned.

Its most dramatic conclusion -- that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure -- is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.

Newsmax sources in Tehran believe that Washington has fallen for "a deliberate disinformation campaign" cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers posing as senior diplomats in Europe.

Timmerman writes that the new NIE was pushed by the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Thomas Fingar, who appears to be a classical "Persianist," a neologism I just invented to parallel the well-known cadre of Arabists in the State Department, most of whom long ago "went native," and now seem to be beguiled by their erstwhile extremist targets in Arab countries. If Fingar fell for Iranian disinformation, it would be because he was predisposed to think the mullahs were serious in their diplomatic discussions -- and because, like far too many entrenched commisars in the Department of State, he was predisposed to think George W. Bush was a greater threat to national security than Iranian nuclear weapons.

Timmerman pegs Fingar as a career State Department intelligence analyst and a long-time Democratic critic of the Bush administration; Fingar helped Democrats coordinate their successful spiking of John Bolton's appointment as permanent representative to the United Nations. Fingar has consistently fired or threatened to fire other intelligence analysts at State or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence whenever those analysts conclude that Iran is a threat to the United States, that Iran is allied with Venezuela and Oogo Chavez, or that Chavez is allied with Fidel Castro's Cuba.

If true, this indicates that, far from being a disinterested analyst reporting "just the facts and [the] assessment of those facts and their reliability to policy-makers," Fingar and his proteges -- Kenneth Brill, director of the National Counterproliferation Center, and Vann H. Van Diepen, National Intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation -- started with the policy they were pushing and cobbled up an NIE that would support that policy.

This is an astonishing and deeply troubling charge. It's bad enough that anti-war, anti-Bush appeasers at the CIA and State have repeatedly leaked classified information in ways that will damage the administration. If they have now graduated to fabricating National Intelligence Estimates to the benefit of our most active enemy, then that drifts perilously close to the T-word that Big Lizards has been very reluctant to sling around. Such actions cross a very bright danger line... and demand action on the part of the president.

Timmerman references this article by the Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz; Gertz suggests that the likely source of the "new evidence" that caused the reversal of the 2005 assessment was former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari, who defected in February of this year. From Timmerman:

Asgari had detailed knowledge of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units operating in Iraq and Lebanon because he had trained some of them. He also knew some of the secrets of Iran's nuclear weapons program, because he had been a top procurement officer and a deputy minister of defense in charge of logistics. But Asgari never had responsibility for nuclear weapons development, and probably did not have access to information about the status of the secret programs being run by the Revolutionary Guards, Iranian sources tell Newsmax.

Gertz's story offers some support for the central Timmerman allegation, in the form of a non-denial from intelligence officials:

Senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Iran nuclear estimate said it is "plausible, but not likely" that Iran's suspension is part of a "strategic deception" operation, because of continued Iranian government "denial and deception" efforts.

"We do not know if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons but assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," said one official involved in drafting the more-than-140-page document.

So even the officials involved in producing and briefing the NIE agree that it's at least "plausible" that the supposed suspension is a "deliberate disinformation campaign." As several commentators have said, it's a lot more dangerous to believe the program is suspended if it really isn't -- than to believe it hasn't been suspended when it really has.

We desperately need to get to the bottom of this: What, exactly, is the new source of evidence that led Fingar to reverse the finding of intransigence of the earlier NIE... was is Asgari? If so, has the United States interviewed him? If not, why not?

If it turns out this NIE is purely political, a snow job by the Persianist wing of the State Department... then what is the president going to do to restore some sense of mission to the National Intelligence Council?

To Democrats, of course, this NIE "vindicates" what they have said all along... that we need to "walk softly and carry a big carrot":

"They should have stopped the saber rattling, should never have started it," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Bush "should seize this opportunity." But she also said it was clear that pressure on Iran has had an effect - a point disputed by rival Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware....

Bush said he did not know about the new findings until he was briefed last week - a point challenged by some.

"The president knew, even as he was saying 'World War III' and all that kind of stuff," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. "He knew. He knew, he had been briefed...."

"President Bush has lost all credibility with the American people," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "We were misled on Iraq, now it's Iran. We need to get to the truth so our foreign policy is not only tough but smart."

In fact, as Gertz notes, the new NIE is even more adamant than the 2005 estimate that Iran had (or still has) an NWP, which they have consistently denied and continue to deny to this day, and it emphasizes that Iran continues to enrich uranium at a speed unchecked by the supposed suspension of that program. In addition, even the current NIE says that it was pressure exerted by Bush and his European allies that drove Iran to suspend its NWP, the same pressure the Democrats now want to eliminate.

This is like a person who has blocked aortic arteries; he gets a bypass operation and feels much better. So much better that Democrats say this proves the operation was a wild overreaction!

Even if this estimate turns out to be true, it simply means that President Bush's response to Iran and his prosecution of the Iraq war worked. If the suspension claim is accurate, it means that Iran, like Libya, saw the writing on the Babylonian wall and decided to put everything on hold -- at least until a Democrat is elected president.

I don't exactly see how this helps Obama, Edwards, or Hillary. But on the other hand, if we're relying upon the GOP to do an effective job communicating this to the American voters... well, then we may be in trouble after all.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 4, 2007, at the time of 6:45 PM

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The following hissed in response by: WGPu

What is important in all of this is that the Iranians have NOT shut down their uranium enrichment program. President Bush pointed this out yesterday in his press conference, but most media folks do not understand the significance of this. Building a simple, functional, nuclear weapon (fission only) is not that difficult if you have the requisite fissile material, particularly enrcihed uranium. "Little Boy" was a fairly simple "gun-type" weapon that was never tested before it was used.

The hard part in getting to a weapon is enriching uranium. But, if you can enrich to levels needed for reactors (3-5%) you can get to levels needed for weapons. The Iranians have figured out how to enrich uranium. Restarting their "weapons program" and getting to a bomb is not that hard. They're just waiting for a weaker U.S. President.

The above hissed in response by: WGPu [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 4:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: Davod

Good work:

This is the most comprehensive reporting I have seen.

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 4:54 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

So, the NIE in 2005 was utterly, completely, wrong? You know, the one just two years ago that said Iran had an active NWP? But this NIE, is completely and utterly correct? Well, that's a relief.

And what every news organization and Dem. idiot ignores is that all of this concern could be resolved, completely and immediately, by the Iranians. They could say they have decided to halt uranium enrichment and allow the international community full inspections of their peaceful nuclear program. Comply in every way with every request. After all, they have nothing hide. This is supposed to be a civilian, peaceful, energy program, right?

What if the international community accused the U.S. of using the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in CA of manufacturing and distributing nuclear bombs to terrorist orginizations, what would we do, besides laugh? Why, invite them all over for coffee and a lookiloo, show them records, offer to allow inspectors to interview employees. Even offer to station observers to monitor operations.

But Iran hasn't done that. Iran refuses to do that. Let's just take their word for it, shall we?

Another possibility - Saddam Hussein faked a WMD program to discourage the Iranians from attacking, and the Iranians started a real WMD program in response. Perhaps their suspension of such was the confirmation by the U.S. (via invasion) that no such program existed, or would exist in the future. Just a variation on the "Bush scared them straight" meme.

I sense Bush's frustration here - reporters seem unable to honestly portray what has happened or what was actually written in the report. I also sense the relief of reporter - they were just on the verge of having to admit Bush was right about the surge. Bush the crazed warmonger is alive and well!

And you are completely correct, the hard part about building the bomb is getting the materials to do it. The gun triggered fission bomb is inefficient, but it well enough. An implosion bomb is 10 times more powerful, but much harder to build.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 6:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

The NIE stinks of the agenda-driven faulty analysis the CIA has been infamous for throughout its history.
Only this time, instead of biasing the results to protect American and its allies, it is bending over backwards to rationalize doing nothing about a group that has been open and vocal and active in the field in harming Americans, America, our interests and our allies.
The bizarre and dysfunctional behavior that made Plame some sort of hero is now making Iran safe until it is too late.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 6:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/05/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 8:50 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

This is a good analysis of the NIE. It is quite possible that the Iranians are just biding their time until Barak is president.

Or so they hope.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 9:53 AM

The following hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist

As noted above, you need a trigger and fissile material. The trigger is not that difficult, especially if you have a plan from A.Q. Khan. Perhaps the Iranians already have the trigger to the point that the next step is a test. Therefore, that part of the development was put on hold until the enriched uranium is available.

The above hissed in response by: Roy Lofquist [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 12:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

What part of "Death to America!" don't these guys get?

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 5, 2007 12:21 PM

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