December 11, 2007

NCRI: NIE Half Right

Unfortunately, it's the wrong half. Previous NIEs did not acknowledge a shutdown of the Iranian nuclear weapons program in 2003, but the new one fails to recognize its restart in 2004. The Iranian opposition group that exposed the program in the first place will publicly state that the ODNI's new estimate ignores evidence of the program's continuance at new facilities:

The Iranian opposition group that first exposed Iran's nuclear-fuel program said a U.S. intelligence analysis is correct that Tehran shut down its weaponization program in 2003, but claims that the program was relocated and restarted in 2004.

The claim, to be made public today by the National Council for Resistance in Iran, joins a broad pushback by conservative hawks who say the U.S. analysis has wrongly given the impression that Iran's nuclear-fuel program doesn't present an urgent threat.

In recent days, Republican lawmakers have called for a review of the process that created the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, a nonclassified version of which was released last week. Senior U.S. officials have been consulting with allies in Israel and Europe to explain why the estimate differed so drastically from previous assessments.

A former U.S. intelligence official who works closely with the White House on Iran said that all the intelligence related to the NIE was being reassessed and that information coming from sources such as the NCRI would be included. "You have to take seriously what they say, but you also have to realize that they have gotten things wrong," the official said.

The ODNI has had its problems with the NIE. The authors got the reaction they apparently desired at home, but have been blasted abroad for their reversal. The British and the Israelis have scolded the American intel community for its gullibility; both went so far as to go public with their disgust, a remarkable and pointed development.

Even the IAEA hasn't bought into the NIE. Today, they announced that they will seriously consider any information the NCRI brings to them in analyzing Iranian intentions. Too bad that the ODNI didn't do the same.

If the ODNI expected to raise American credibility with this estimate, they have failed miserably. Other nations may not want to go to war with Iran, but they don't buy for a moment that Iran stopped pushing for a nuclear weapon. Even Bush didn't want to go to war, but to keep pushing for economic and diplomatic sanctions to force Iran to negotiate. Now those efforts have been crippled by the NIE -- and Europe understands that it might bring war faster than ever.

This gambit by a few in high places within the intel community has backfired. It has exposed them as political players, attempting to twist intel in order to justify their view of foreign policy. They did it so baldly and so badly that the White House could leave it to our allies to point out the obvious, and even the administration's non-allies in the IAEA.

Somewhere, Dick Cheney's smiling today.


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