Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How Does the Rest of the World Interpret the Iran NIE?

On the whole however, this puts the US behavior with regard to Iran in a thick cloud of uncertainty, let alone credibility gap, with the pendulum capable of swinging in wildly different directions almost at will. The bottom line, thanks to its vast cadre of intelligence "alchemists" is that the US and its even more gullible politicians, has now pre-positioned itself for yet another disastrous gambit in the volatile Middle East. [Asia Times]

The document's eight pages, which include embarrassing instructions on how to differentiate between different yet related terms ("it is possible," "it may be so," "one must not remove from the equation," and "it's reasonable to assume"), enable the Ayatollas' nuclear and operations officials and the heads of the Revolutionary Guards to reach this soothing conclusion - from their point of view: The Americans have no understanding of what is really happening in Iran's nuclear program. They have no solid information, they have no high-level agents and they have nothing more than a mix of guesswork and chatter. The dissemblance and concealment have succeeded, and the real dispute is not between Washington and Tehran, but within the U.S. administration itself. [Haaretz]

Mr. Hadley said the drastic reversal in the intelligence agencies' knowledge about Iran's weapons programs was based "on new intelligence, some of which has been received in the last few months." [...]

With some of the administration's most prominent hawks having departed and not taking part in the review of findings like these, it is possible that the zeal for another military conflict has diminished. After all, the first two wars on Mr. Bush's watch remain unresolved at best. [Der Spiegel]

THE latest US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program might just add a few dollars to your wallet this Christmas. Its more relaxed assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat all but rules out US military action against Iran in the coming year, which may take some of the edge off petrol prices. It could even signal a way out of the current nuclear impasse. [...]

The less charitable interpretation is that the release of the NIE's key findings reflects the muddled workings of an increasingly byzantine administration at war with its own military and intelligence communities. [The Australian]

Iran has welcomed the new NIE, repeating claims that its nuclear programme is not intended for weapons use. Israel, Britain and France have all called for continued pressure to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb. The NIE strongly suggests that there may be a political way out of confrontation with Iran, saying that the country's nuclear programme is guided by “a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.” Thus it may be amenable to a combination of threats, diplomatic pressure and “opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige and goals for regional influence...” The NIE admits that it is difficult to know what sort of grand bargain might work, but that is a matter for diplomats not intelligence agents to ponder. [The Economist]

In the contest for influence between U.S.-backed liberal democracy and champion of radical Islamism Iran, guess who just emerged as the strong horse and who the weak horse? The Saudis seem to have it pretty well figured out. Doubtless the Israelis have, too. After their lightning raid on Syria's North Korean-built nuclear facility in September no one can doubt the Israelis' determination or capability to defend its right to exist. In light of its own failure of will to do the same, perhaps that's what the U.S. is counting on.

Punt to Israel. [Middle East Times]

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