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December 05, 2007

Re: In Iran We Trust?

Re: In Iran We Trust?

The Bomb-Iran crowd has regrouped using the usual right-wing misleading rhetorical devices to respond to the National Intelligence Report consensus report that determined that Iran has not had an active weapons program for years -- strawmen to bat down and fear-mongering.  But even so, they can't help revealing themselves.

The strawman starts off with the headline, “In Iran We Trust?”  Obviously this is not a conclusion drawn by the NIE or any other observer.  Right off the bat, they've put up a strawman that doesn't exist, in order to bat it down and make their opposition look like idiots and them smarter.  During the entire Cold War, we never adopted a “In Russia We Trust” position, why would any observer do so now?  They build this absurd position up to imply those who disagree with them believe that.

While making their case, they ask, “And why, by the way, does Iran even want a nuclear energy program, when it is sitting on an enormous pool of oil that is now skyrocketing in value?”  Well, if your mind wasn't clouded by single-minded fog of fear and war, it would be obvious: oil is their only significant export and they would be stupid to burn it up instead of maximizing its long-term value.  Their interest in nuclear energy is not just cover, but makes sense -- not itself an indication of threat as implied by the authors.

Now, to be clear, Iran continues to have elements that are a concern.  The point is that they are not an imminent threat.

Furthermore, it is significant that the NIE reported that the government of Iran is in fact subject to the same impulses as any sovereign nation: they wish to continue.  They are not nihilists nor outside-the-system types like al Queda.  They have a stake in continued existence.

However, the authors furthermore reveal their contempt for non-political intelligence work -- they want the intelligence to fit their fears and objectives, not meld the methods to the reality.  For example,

This situation is made all the more absurd by the report’s suggestion that international pressure offers the only hope of containing Iran. The report has now made such pressure nearly impossible to obtain. It is hardly surprising that China, which last week seemed ready to approve the next round of economic sanctions against Tehran, has now had a change of heart: its ambassador to the United Nations said yesterday that “we all start from the presumption that now things have changed.”

Gee, sorry the facts are inconvenient for us, but we need to work from the facts forward to policy.  Admittedly, the Bush administration unwillingness to use diplomacy or to do so effectively has set us back years and years across the globe, but let's not blame the intelligence agencies as a scapegoat.

It made the immediacy less urgent, but the other activities (centrifuging that can make weapon-grade materials, etc.) are still issues to be managed and pressure applied.  We have to work from those, real, threats, not manufacture threats that aren't there.

It may make it “harder” to operate in the reality-based world, but that's a consequence of the situation, not a failure of the intelligence estimate, but then again, the threat is lower.  In fact, if we'd taken the “easier” route to continued containment of Saddam, we would be in a better situation today -- we wouldn't have wasted a trillion dollars with almost 4,000 Americans killed and tens of thousands severely wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, distracted from doing the right thing in Afganistan, and on and one.

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