Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The US Intelligence Community -- mistaken on Iran

Frank Gaffney, Michael Ledeen and Thomas Joscelyn -- all intel experts who know their field, have blasted the recent National Intelligence Estimate's Key Findings that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon as pure wistful thinking.

Gaffney says the US needs a Winston Churchill to cut through the hopeful nonsense and forthrightly discuss the Iran threat. He notes:

The just-released unclassified Key Judgments of a still-secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) confirm that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons as recently as 2002 or 2003. [But] [t]his homogenized product of the various intelligence agencies performed under the supervision of the deputy director of national intelligence, Thomas Fingar, avers [ ] that the Iranians may have abandoned this program. The reasons given for such a contention are, to say the least, highly subjective and debatable.

The truth is that neither the U.S. intelligence community, nor the International Atomic Energy Agency, nor anybody else outside a very small circle in Iran has certain knowledge about the current state of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, or how far it is from producing one or more usable devices. But, like their counterparts in pre-World War II Britain, today’s spies are serving up soporific conclusions certain (if not calculated) to encourage inaction by the West — and to buy our enemies time to prepare their onslaught.

Worse yet, Gaffney notes that the NIE conclusions are driven more by the diplomatic corps than career intelligence officers. Foggy Bottom has been hostile to the Bush Administration since Day One, has actively rebelled against Bush policies and is accommodative of rogue regimes, including the Saddamized Iraq and Iran. When John Negroponte came over from the State Department to become the National Intelligence Director,

he put a coterie of fellow foreign-service officers, like Tom Fingar, in key leadership positions. A number of these displayed a visceral hostility to President Bush and his most robust policies, including Fingar and the national-intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction (lead author of the new Iran NIE), Vann Van Diepen, and yet remain in place even since Negroponte's move back home to the State Department as its deputy secretary.

Ledeen doesn't buy the conclusion either:

Moreover, there’s the old smell test. We went from zero to bomb in four years leading up to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at a time when nobody even knew if the thing was doable. On the IC’s account, the Iranians have been at this since “at least the late 1980’s.” (I actually think it didn’t get into gear until 1991, but let’s not quibble.) During that time, almost everything was for sale (and Iran has lots of money), A.Q. Khan was running his bazaar, Soviet nuclear physicists were hired by Tehran, and the Iranians themselves are very smart. Is it likely, that Iran hasn’t been able to build nukes in two decades? No way.

Joscelyn doubts the methodology of the analysis.

. . . , there are good reasons to suspect that the IC does not have good intelligence inside Iran. For example, both of the leading members (one Republican, one Democrat) of the House Intelligence Committee explained back in 2006 that we did not really know then what was going on inside Iran. And the Robb-Silberman Commission, which investigated what the IC knew about WMD programs around the world, found in 2005: "Across the board, the Intelligence Community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors. In some cases, it knows less now than it did five or ten years ago."

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As this latest NIE notes, its conclusions are at odds with what the IC believed in 2005. The last page of the declassified Key Judgments notes significant differences between what the IC believed in 2005 and what it is saying now. In 2005, the IC noted: "[We] assess with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure, but we do not assess that Iran is immovable." Now the IC says, "…we do not know whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear weapons." So, in 2005 the IC was sure that Iran was determined to build a nuclear weapon and now it is not sure at all. This is a profound change in opinion and, at a minimum, does not inspire confidence that the IC can get this story right. After all, if the IC’s judgments can change so drastically in two years time, why should we believe any of its pronouncements one way or the other?

What is the basis for this flip-flop? What has been learned in the meantime to warrant such an about-face?


Nothing at all.

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