Our Intelligence, and Theirs

Iran, nukes, and geography

by , September 30, 2009

Ron Rosenbaum, journalist (the New York Observer, Slate.com), author, and one of the few liberals to sign on to the ill-fated Pajamas Media fiasco, is damned mad:

“Will all the pundits who relied on the discredited 2007 NIE on Iran now admit that they were wrong? That they bought into and kept citing, without any serious questioning, the now clearly politically skewed analysis in the so-called National Intelligence Estimate of that year? You remember: the considered consensus wisdom of the entire U.S. intelligence community, which misled the world into believing there was nothing to worry about Iran’s nuclear program, that it had virtually ceased.”

Bring in the “congressional intelligence committees”! Heads must roll! Someone call 911 – because those shifty-eyed spooks who gave us the NIE [.pdf] knew, knew about this “secret facility” and still they insisted the Iranians had given up their nuclear weapons program in 2003. Has Tehran infiltrated and taken over the CIA?

Well, uh, no. It’s just that, unlike Rosenbaum, the spooks operate in a world where logic rules and what’s required before reaching a conclusion is something we call “evidence.” This is a matter Rosenbaum and the “bomb-bomb-bomb Iran” crowd couldn’t care less about: Iran is evil, the Qom facility is (or was) secret, so what else do we need to know in order to start World War III? Surely not something so pedestrian and wimpy as solid evidence. After all, it’s only lives – many thousands of lives lost to murderous sanctions, as well as the inevitable war to follow – that are at stake.

The mere fact that the CIA issued their NIE – averring “with high confidence” that the Iranians had ceased their previously undisclosed nuclear weapons program “in the fall of 2003″ – with full knowledge of this sinister, secret facility should tell Rosenbaum something: not that our CIA is a front for the Iranian Republican Guard, but that he knows less than they do about what is really going on in Qom. After all, they’ve had years to conduct surveillance and analysis. Is it possible they know more about Qom than Rosenbaum does?

But of course not. According to Rosenbaum, the NIE was a “lie,” deliberate “disinformation” planted by those traitors in the CIA who ought to be brought up before a congressional committee and grilled until they’re as overdone as Rosenbaum’s histrionics. Yes, and all those pundits, too, who took the NIE as gospel and were “had” – when are they going to “fess up”?

Coming from someone who supported the Iraq war – a war based on completely made-up “intelligence” – Rosenbaum’s posturing takes the cake. But then again, as someone who sees Hitler under every bed, it wasn’t hard for Rosenbaum to be “had,” as he puts it: he and his pro-war confreres on what today passes for the Left – Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, and the rest of that Legion of Lost Souls – were ready, willing, and perfectly able to be let themselves be deceived, because they didn’t care one whit for the truth.

They still don’t. The accusation that Iran is going nuclear in order to make a bomb that it plans to drop on Israel is nonsense, and they know it. It is enough for them that Iran exists, and, for some, that it opposes Israel.

The one word these people don’t want to hear is “Dimona” – the site of Israel’s nuclear weapons research facility. As Juan Cole puts it:

“There is no good evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It has offered to allow regular International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of the newly announced facility near Qom, which would effectively prevent it from being used for weapons production.

“There is a secret nuclear facility in the Middle East, however, producing plutonium and not just enriched uranium, which has the capacity to make 10 nuclear warheads a year.”

The idea that Israel could indefinitely maintain a nuclear monopoly in the region – enforced by the U.S. military – was never a very practical one. Israel’s attorneys in this country who argue that Iranian success in joining the nuclear club would set off a regional arms race are a bit late: the race started the moment Israel stole the technology from the West and made its own nukes with French assistance and over U.S. opposition. Israel has been threatening to attack Iran for years, and who is to say they wouldn’t nuke Tehran? Indeed, one prominent Israeli writer, Benny Morris, made the case for just that, no doubt with the encouragement of his government. It could be a bluff – but why take the risk?

Instead, what we need is, yes, sanctions! Backed up with a UN resolution, of course; these things have to be done properly. And when we’ve degraded life in Iran to an almost unbearable degree, embargoing such military-related items as incubators, toilet paper, and toothbrushes – just as we did in Iraq – then we can move in for the kill. Just as we did in Iraq, and just as Rosenbaum and his war-crazed cohorts would like to do in Iran.

The propaganda blitz is starting right on schedule, with Obama in the Israelis’ pocket and sanctions a nearly foregone conclusion. The shooting war may be a bit down the road, but it’s coming. Be patient. There will be a lot of palaver about “intelligence,” with the Israelis and our European allies feeding us their own interpretations of what little real information they can glean about Iran’s capabilities – views skewed (indeed, determined) by simple geography.

Check out this New York Times piece, which has the Germans saying the Iranians never gave up their nuclear weapons program and the French saying the IAEA is covering for Tehran. The Israelis, naturally enough, are the most hysterical. The Americans, on the other hand, are sticking to their guns – in spite of Rosenbaum – and offering the most conservative estimate, which is that the Iranians gave up on nukes six years ago and haven’t restarted their program. Roughly speaking, the closer one is to Iran, physically, the more one tends to interpret the intelligence to reflect one’s deepest fears, editing out facts that don’t fit.

The facts are these: Iran has revealed the existence of the Qom facility and opened it up to international inspection. Which means it can’t be used to make a nuclear weapon. In a rational world, that would be the end of the story. In the world we live in, however – a world in which the Israel lobby wields inordinate power in Washington and every other Western capital – it is just the beginning.

Never mind the facts: they can be spun this way and that. Our own intelligence community, with America’s interests in mind, may hold out for quite a while, but, in the end – just like last time – they’ll be inundated by their rivals among our allies, principally (but not limited to) the Israelis, who are quite good at feeding disinformation into the intelligence pipeline without leaving too many fingerprints. That’s one of the disadvantages of being an empire: we are held hostage by our own satraps, who depend on us for their very survival – and are therefore passionately committed to shaping our decisions any way they can.

Iran is challenging both the U.S. and Israel in a region of the world that we and our allies have long dominated. If they are allowed to get away with it, other “rogue” nations will get ideas, and then there’s no stopping the unraveling of the “world order” we have worked so long and hard to maintain. We may bankrupt ourselves in the process, drive the price of oil up to $200 a barrel, and start World War III – but confront them we will, of that you can rest assured. It’s only a matter of time. The pro-war ads have already begun, and the “liberalmedia is lining up behind its commander in chief. All the actors are in their places, and now the drama – an all-too-familiar drama – begins. “Weapons of mass destruction," phony intelligence, a compliant media: all the ingredients are there. All that’s needed is a spark that sets off the conflagration…

Read more by Justin Raimondo