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Is Iran really not close to a nuke or are our intelligence agencies really that bad?
Posted by: McQ on Monday, December 03, 2007

For the life of me I'm not sure what to think anymore. We now have an National Intelligence Estimate which contradicts a former NIE and says that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold.

Is it? And why is this information suddenly available now but wasn't available or known previously? Leave it to Stephen Hadley to attempt to make lemonade out of those lemons:
The national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, quickly issued a statement describing the N.I.E. as containing positive news rather than reflecting intelligence mistakes. “It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons,” Mr. Hadley said. “It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen. But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”

“The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically — without the use of force — as the administration has been trying to do,” Mr. Hadley said.
If the program has been on a voluntary hold since 2003, how have we "made progress" trying to ensure "this" doesn't happen? Given the recent hype and the increased sanctions, it would appear, instead, we didn't know what was going on.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence analysis be a bit more representative of ground truth than, apparently, the past NIEs have been concerning Iran?

As for the latter claim, of course it offers grounds for hope, but not for the reason stated. The freeze of their program really, apparently, was decided years ago before any threats of force or diplomatic overtures were made. This seems to me to be some pretty transparent and serious CYA, and to this point I'm not buying. There may be more info that trickles out about all of this, but I'm not at all impressed with what I'm reading right now.

Then there's this:
Last month, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the international Atomic Energy Agency, had reported that Iran was operating 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges, capable of producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.

But his report said that I.A.E.A. inspectors in Iran had been unable to determine whether the Iranian program sought only to generate electricity or also to build weapons.
When that report was issued I said I didn't trust ElBaradei as far as I could throw him, but I've come to the conclusion that I trust our intelligence apparatus even less.

How in the world is the administration supposed to make informed foreign policy decisions when the intelligence they depend on to make such decisions is off this badly? That's obviously a rhetorical question, but this isn't the first time our intelligence has been this far off (assuming this NIE is actually somewhat accurate). Hadley may think this is all a great and "positive" thing, but it what it says to me is our intelligence gathering capabilities and analysis, even in the wake of 9/11, still suck for the most part.
In a separate statement accompanying the N.I.E., Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr said that given the new conclusions, it was important to release the report publicly “to ensure that an accurate presentation is available.”
Oh, I see. And given that representation, what, Mr. Kerr, have the past NIE's been?
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

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What about the foreign services that indicate the Iranians are working still on developing their weapons grade capabilities?

As for ’our guys’ and I use the term hesitantly -
Maybe they were hoping we’d have attacked Iran by now.

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
What about the foreign services that indicate the Iranians are working still on developing their weapons grade capabilities?
The easy answer to that is "what about the foreign services who said Saddam had WMDs?"

How much is our intel budget each year?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
How much is our intel budget each year?
If it’s anything over $5.99, then I’d say it’s too much.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
The report states that Iran is continuing to enrich for weapons grade but that their program to learn how to make a weapon stopped in 2003....
Ummm once you know how to build the bomb really not much reason to keep working on learning... I take this to mean that Iran figured out "How" to build the bomb in 2003 - now it’s just a matter of getting the materials together.... all in how you interpret the report. aka - we have Pakistan’s notes let’s get the materials so we can fire up one of these things.
Cow’s out of the barn - too late to shut that door.
 
Written By: BIllS
URL: http://bills-opinions.blogspot.com
If you read the actual NIE briefing, you can see that many of the judgments are fairly similar to what they were in 2005. There’s no obvious reason why it’s unexpected or unusual that new information could emerge, between two and four years after Iran halted its nuclear program, that let the US come to a firm conclusion about that fact.

Who knows, maybe the information was available back in 2005, but was ignored by George-Bush-installed political hacks (Porter Goss?) who the President appoints to run the intelligence agencies.

Some people have written that these conclusions have been available to the Bush White House for over a year. In any event, this is mostly a dispute over emphasis and spin. Iran continues to build the infrastructure for enriching uranium, but there’s more to a nuclear weapons program than enrichment of uranium.
The intelligence agencies made a best-guess that they were required to make about the program as a whole in the absence of evidence - since then, they’ve uncovered evidence. In the prior absense of evidence, the Administration made political and personal decision to hype the best-guess to the moon and beyond.

When "I don’t know" is not accepted as an answer and information is not available, you’re going to be wrong a lot, if your job is to guess about every unknown question in foreign policy. It doesn’t say anything about the performance of the IC specifically, compared to its own past performance, the performance of other agencies, or historical precedent.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
There’s no obvious reason why it’s unexpected or unusual that new information could emerge, between two and four years after Iran halted its nuclear program, that let the US come to a firm conclusion about that fact.
Ah, well with that sort of "figuring" there’s absolutely no obvious reason why it’s unexpected or unusual that new information could emerge, between two and four (or even ten) years after Iraq halted its WMD program that let the US come to a firm conclusion about that fact - right? And consequently, acting on the intel we had then is more than justified, isn’t it?

Oh, wait, that’s what all the argument is about, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, as at least some of us learned, we don’t have the luxury of formulating and executing today’s foreign policy in 2, 4 or 10 years from now, do we glasnost? That’s why we have intelligence agencies charged with gathering and analyzing intelligence that is useful now.

By the way, "actually having read" the NIE, I completely disagree with your assessment that it isn’t much different than previous ones.

Meanwhile, the old blame Bush game continues apace:
Who knows, maybe the information was available back in 2005, but was ignored by George-Bush-installed political hacks (Porter Goss?) who the President appoints to run the intelligence agencies.
Get a new song and dance will you? The intel community, just like every other state bureaucracy, is an institution in and of itself. Their product was no better before the Bush appointees, and if you don’t believe me ask Bill Clinton what he believed about Iraq and WMDs before he turned the White House over to Bush.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
run the intelligence agencies
Indeed, and it’s quite clear that some people working for the intelligence agencies as employees might have agenda’s of their own.

They follow their agenda and the appointee & President get the, plame.




 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
The freeze of their program really, apparently, was decided years ago before any threats of force or diplomatic overtures were made.
That’s not exactly right, is it? It obviously predates the last few years of sabre-rattling but we put Iran on notice in Jan 2002 from ongoing bad blood of more than three decades.
 
Written By: abw
URL: http://abw.mee.nu
Is Iran really not close to a nuke or our intelligence agencies really that bad
It is disgusting that things have degenerated to a point where either answer may be just as plausable.

Of course, this has hardly happened on just Bush’s watch. This has been a long decline.

And any future President who doesn’t undertake a massive housecleaning upon taking office is making a massive mistake.

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
It obviously predates the last few years of sabre-rattling but we put Iran on notice in Jan 2002 ...
And you think that caused them to put their program on hold? If so, why didn’t we know until recently?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Bureaucratic politics. If you’ve been looking closely, this report isn’t really a huge difference from the past, given the caveats in the past. My hunch: some in the Administration have been trying to create the impression we have intelligence Iran is more dangerous than it is because they desire to strike Iran. I think this may be a revolt against that, and a sign that the hawks on Iran may be losing the bureaucratic fight.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
3000 centrifuges is more than they need for domestic energy production.
Remember?
So, if they’ve stopped, why are they working so hard to make us think they haven’t?

Sound familiar? And except for the dead guy and a new villain, most of the original cast is back for "American Intelligence - Oxymoron part deux".
My hunch: some in the Administration have been trying to create the impression we have intelligence Iraqn is more dangerous than it is because they desire to strike Iraqn. I think this may be a revolt against that, and a sign that the hawks on Iran may be losing the bureaucratic fight.
Yeah, also sounds familiar. The agency is not supposed to be establishing the policy, or did you miss that part?
but when you give bad intel, you cause bad policy.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
If you read the whole released NIE, you can find (like most NIEs) something for everybody.

The most benign scenario would sound like by the end of 2003, the Iranian nuclear engineers had done everything economically justified toward a nuclear weapon, short of having fissible material to actually fashion into a device. So like most engineers, they stopped.

Why the end of 2003 ?
With the international inspections of Iran’s nuclear operations and the October 2003 interception of a ship headed for Libya and carrying centrifuge parts, Pakistan began seriously investigating A.Q. Khan.
Why ? The store closed.

Beyond that, everything else in the NIE looks bad.

The Iranians are still working toward fissible material, and they are deemed capable of making a weapon eventually.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
3000 centrifuges is more than they need for domestic energy production.
But far less (I’ve seen estimates as high as 10 times that number) than are necessary for a full up nuclear weapons program.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I know how this ends - we dither around until the Israelis blow the damn thing up (for a third time).
for a full up nuclear weapons program
Is there an estimate for what a bargain basement program needs, or a patient program?
I thought 3000 put them 12-18 months from having a bomb.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
The intel community, just like every other state bureaucracy, is an institution in and of itself. Their product was no better before the Bush appointees

I have no doubt that the intel community made mistakes in every prior community, probably like most intel communities that have ever existed.

The intel analysis of Saddamn Hussein’s weapons program in 2002 was very heavy on hubris, and it wasn’t entirely George Bush’s fault. However, invading Iraq was a dumb idea regardless of whether WMD estimates were right or wrong. So, no, acting on the 2002 intel was still dumb, regardless of whether the intel was good or lousy, the policy prescription for what to do about it was dumb.

I’m pretty sure in the case of Iraq and the 2005 Iran estimates, that political pressure from the top made both intel estimates worse than they would otherwise have been. Even the Iraq estimate in 2002 had dissents from dissenting agencies - agencies whose appointed heads weren’t trying to suck up to the Man Upstairs. I have a reason why those dissenting arguments did not convince the CIA in 2002: you seem to not have such a reason.
You seem to really resist the idea that White House and DOD predestination made intel analyses less accurate than they otherwise would have been: I don’t know why. Leftists did not create the Office for Special Plans in 2002. Leftists are not feeding misleading leaks from Iranian exiles right now.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
However, invading Iraq was a dumb idea regardless of whether WMD estimates were right or wrong. So, no, acting on the 2002 intel was still dumb, regardless of whether the intel was good or lousy, the policy prescription for what to do about it was dumb.
Says it all - IOW even if he was building things to export destruction, it was okay, even considering the original coalition from the 1st Gulf War was still ’at war’ with Iraq and they were under embargo for precisely that sort of behavior and knew applied military force would be the result of non-compliance.

Do you put the rose colored glasses on before or after you do the good drugs?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
correction - after the learn to tune them to maximum capacity, and assuming of course they have all the other parts they’d need, then 12-18 months later they might be able to build one.

So, not tomorrow certainly.

A problem W probably isn’t going to have to worry about, and frankly, doesn’t have the political/international credit to pursue in a militarily aggressive capacity.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.
This is the key finding made public.

It’s a sort of "calling out Saddam" finding. Tell everyone that he has no clothes [WMD], but this time is the Iranians who have no clothes [nearly complete WMD program].
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
You seem to really resist the idea that White House and DOD predestination made intel analyses less accurate than they otherwise would have been: I don’t know why.
Which WH is that, glasnost? Seems I remember, in the case of Iraq, the very same analysis that was existent during the Clinton administration still existed when we went to war with Iraq.

And, I assume you remember an event called 9/11 then occurred which completely changed the foreign policy paradigm of the time. It was in all the papers.

Oh, and don’t forget how well they rooted out the Pakistani and Indian nuclear programs and let us know they were developing such weapons. Yup, right on top of stuff, huh?
Leftists did not create the Office for Special Plans in 2002. Leftists are not feeding misleading leaks from Iranian exiles right now.
No one is claiming they are, Mr. Defensive.

What’s being pointed out, and I’d think it would be something you’d agree with if you weren’t so intent on blaming everything on Bush, is that the intelligence being received by this administration (and, for that matter, any administration) is far below the standard of product necessary to fashion a coherent foreign policy.

In a word, it "sucks."
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"Never believe it until it’s officially denied."

I know "what to think". I’m tellin’ ya: go long on bomb shelters.

These people are bloody imbeciles.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Can we even point to a time in our history when we have been well served by our Intelligence Agencies? If I remember my history, 1950 Korea was something of a surprise. While the whole Suez fiasco of 1956 left a bad taste all around. Need I even mention the year of 1961 - that was a banner year for the Intell boys - both the Bay of Pigs and the Berlin Wall slapped us in our collective faces, followed closely by the Cuban Missile Crisis of ’62. What a way to start the 60s. Then we can look at the 6-day war in ’67 followed closely by thge Tet Offensive in ’68? And the 70s gave us lots of intell failures with banner years of 1973: The OPEC Oil Crisis and the Yom Kippur War followed closely by that banner year of 1975 that gave us the fall of Saigon and the Mayaguez incident off the coast of Cambodia? And all of this even before then end of the decade where we saw the fall of the Shah of Iran in ’78 followed closely by the 444 day Iranian Hostage crisis, which ended the day of Reagan’s inauguration. The 70s also saw India join the ranks of countries with Nukes and the decade ended in December 1979 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Have we gotten to modern times, yet? I won’t bore you with an equally long litany of Intell failures stretching throught the 80s up to the present day but I thought a quick look at the post 1950 history of Intell failures for major events around the world was worth the exercize. Take another look at the list of events from 1950-80. And trust me on this - it is not an exhaustive list by any means. I have done all this in order to emphasize a point made by McQ:
the intelligence being received by this administration (and, for that matter, any administration) is far below the standard of product necessary to fashion a coherent foreign policy.
AMEN!
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
If intelligence gathering was easy, we wouldn’t need agencies to do it.

Of course there are monumental failures - the Iranian establishment isn’t easy to infiltrate (any more than Hussein’s was, any more than that of the USSR was, any more than that of Nazi Germany..). They spend quite a bit of effort keeping foreign intelligence agents out and keeping their own people loyal (if only by screening them before assignment). And it is, I think, almost certainly a whole lot easier and cheaper to keep a secret in Iran than for the US government to extract said secret reliably.

This doesn’t mean that the CIA et al. don’t need a shakeup and rounds of firings or other drastic measures - but it does mean that simply throwing money at them or fingerpointing won’t suffice. And it also means that failures are inevitable in intelligence work.

The eternal truth of foreign policy is that, as SShiel points out, you never have enough intelligence to be sure you’re making the right choice based on it. I can’t think of a time when this was not true; perhaps the problem is not so much that the intel is worse as that we’re too confident in it no matter how it goes.

 
Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
Assuming that they did freeze their program in 2003, there are several possibilities:

1. With Saddam Hussein gone, they don’t need a WMD deterrent. Thus they freeze the program.

2. They are afraid of the US attacking them, so they freeze the program, perhaps temporarily while they wait and see.

3. The AQ Khan store closed.

I think those are all possible. The 2003 offer from low level Iranian diplomats for negotiations seems to give these arguments (1 & 2) some credence.

Okay, if this is true, why is Ahmadinejad going on and on? He’s risking war with his comments and they’re supposedly planning to defend their now frozen program with new Russian SAMs etc? Why aren’t the Iranians jumping at the EU-3 deal? Why did they fire their conservative yet reasonable negotiator?

1. Iranian Internal Politics: Maybe Ahmadinejad is stoking up nationalism for his own purposes or even to get the program re-started. In which case the recent article in Iran’s press about the right to criticize might be the other side (who knows the program is frozen) to STFU. (In fact, perhaps that faction may be in contact with the USA - notice there has also been fewer Iranian weapons going into Iraq and Al Sadr was reined in?)

2. Have cake and eat it too? Like Saddam, they think the uncertainty about their WMDs offers some protection. If the AQ Khan store is closed, or they are done with the design and just waiting on the uranium, saber rattling and delaying talks makes a lot of sense, to buy time.

3. Keep the oil price up?

All of the above assumes the report is correct. It may not be. The Iraqi intel was WRONG. So what if this intel is WRONG. It is a mistake to assume all intel will err on the war-monger side, so let’s be cautious about this intel.






 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
There is always some guesswork in intelligence estimates, sometimes more than anyone wishes to believe. Sometimes they guess right, sometimes not. And, as new information is obtained, conclusions also change. But, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, you make decisions with the intelligence you have, right or wrong. And, as SShiell points out, sometimes this leads to a monumental faux pas. That is why they get paid the big bucks.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
If intelligence gathering was easy, we wouldn’t need agencies to do it.

I would like to believe that, but based on what I have seen, you are definitely not getting your monies worth.

For years the CIA said that it was impossible to get some into Bin Ladens group. And yet a surfer dude (Walker Lind) from Orange county did it without any help to the point where he was sharing food with Bin Laden’s closest people.

I think the the agencies (most of them anyway) have lost their real purpose and have become nothing more than CYA money pits.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Considering the casualties we have been inflicting on Bin Laden’s group, I wouldn’t volunteer to try to infiltrate it. I would be willing to bet it is somewhat difficult to find reliable, qualified volunteers for that sort of operation. And, even if they succeed, they would probably deny it.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Considering the casualties we have been inflicting on Bin Laden’s group,
Not many except for those who joined because we invaded Iraq. Iraq has been a net winner for them. They recruit a lot in Jordan and Saudi Arabia for people to go fight the Americans, let those people have basically their own organization. Tie the US down for years, costing over a trillion, stretching America’s military, dividing the US. And if after four years the Iraqi Sunnis turn on them, well, no loss, they’ve accomplished their goal.

Iraq has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in recent American history, even worse than that pointless debacle in Vietnam. I don’t think you quite understand the costs. You seem to think if at some point the violence goes down that makes it all better. Well, Iraq is divided, riddled with corruption, Iranian armed Shi’ite militias are laying low because now the US is attacking their enemies, and the dream of a pro-American model Iraq is as dead as a door nail. The surge isn’t accomplishing the overall goals since those depend on Iraqi actions which have not been forthcoming, and by all accounts it looks like the Sunni-Shi’ite civil war is still in progress, even if the Shi’ites are holding back for now.

You guys predicting success have been wrong for years now. I don’t know when reality will strike you, it’s all spin, spin, spin, spin...trying to find a tidbit of good news while ignoring the bad. I think it warrants a study, actually — how alternate realities are created and maintained by a close net subculture where like views are reinforced and those who come in with effective and provocative counter arguments are personally attacked and ridiculed so as not to necessitate actually dealing with the arguments they bring. It’s pretty amazing to see.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
It’s pretty amazing to see.
What’s amazing is that you are still here, spouting your same old "The Sky is Falling, the Sky is Falling" rhetoric. And yes, you can count me among those "where like views are reinforced and those who come in with effective and provocative counter arguments are personally attacked and ridiculed so as not to necessitate actually dealing with the arguments they bring."

The difference is that you do not bring an argument. You bring a position, repeated continually, that "Iraq has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in recent American history." Do you understand the difference between the two? From you recent postings, I do not think so.

You must have just received the Dem’s talking points because you seem to mimic Reid’s outcry regarding the Civil War. So who’s spinning who here?

Oh, and by the way - Small steps, there Erb! Small Steps.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Oh, and I almost forgot. STILL WAITING!

PS - for those who have forgotten, Erb rebuked McQ for B*tch-slapping Sanchez recently. He thought McQ was neck deep in another Ad-hominem attack like those visited upon other luminaries like Carter and Murtha. I requested of Erb why he was defending Sanchez, for Erb to provide information on Sanchez’s accomplishments in his career that warranted such a spirited defense.

STILL WAITING!
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
After snoozing through the 1990s, oh wait, Monica come back, I wasn’t alseep. I worked harder than I ever worked in my life, it’s not easy trying to pawn off the reposnibilities of President on others. Like that Waco crisis, didn’t Hillary Matters do swell with that? How cool is that?

I should have said ’alseep at the wheel’ Clinton in the most disastrous Presidency in modern history — which resulted in the biggest attack on Ameiracan soil ... There are some awards you can’t give to alGore.

We are now supposed to take the word of these CIA NIE reports, because why exactly? Do they have some spies inside of Iran they didn’t have inside of Iraq? Oh yeah, and about Syria, and Libya, anyone want to bring that up? Right on top of that weren’t you CIA doffuses.

I think the CIA needs additional fumigation and emergency treatment for an acute case of BDS. Probably got the BDS from dingy. It would seem to me, that when the President of a country with a nuclear program, threatening to wipe out Israel and then the great satan America, that’s is all I need to hear, over and over again. "Death to America", and I guess they don’t mean it. Their ’peaceful nuclear program’ s all about electricity, just like North Korea, right HalfBright?.
 
Written By: bill-tb
URL: http://
how alternate realities are created and maintained by a close net subculture where like views are reinforced and those who come in with effective and provocative counter arguments are personally attacked and ridiculed so as not to necessitate actually dealing with the arguments they bring. It’s pretty amazing to see.
Are you talking about global warming consensus?
or
American academic self analysis?

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Boris Erb narrates an advanced "we will accept nothing less than the impossibility of victory" line:
Not many except for those who joined because we invaded Iraq. Iraq has been a net winner for them. They recruit a lot in Jordan and Saudi Arabia for people to go fight the Americans, let those people have basically their own organization. Tie the US down for years, costing over a trillion, stretching America’s military, dividing the US. And if after four years the Iraqi Sunnis turn on them, well, no loss, they’ve accomplished their goal.
We’ve skimmed off — i.e., killed — the most aggressive jihadist demographic in Iraq, Boris. And it is especially important to do that job on Jordanians and Saudis of that ilk because they’re right there in the hearland of the Arab Muslim world, which is the fever swamp of Islamist terrorism.

We have hardly been "tied down," except in your mind. The price tag in direct costs is not "over a trillion," and if it was that’s still a war fought on the cheap as a percentage of GDP. The military is "stretched," you impossible imbecile, because we’ve cut so many division since the end of the Cold War. It is good, not bad, that we’re seeing in practice the dimensional qualities of our military and the need to rebuild it.

"Dividing the US" is your goal, unless you can "unite the US" around anti-American and socialist principles. But the supposed "division" is nothing like it was during the final years in Vietnam, a war to which the war in Iraq can hardly be compared without laughter.

And we are accomplishing our goals, Boris. We are making jihadi terrorists dead and making death come early and stay late for them, before they pack the cars with explosives and blow up markets or mosques or discos.

Now, will the taxpayers of Maine please send this idiot back into the pizza business.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
About the NIE claim that the Iranian nuclear program was stopped in 2003:

Meaningless. They’re enriching uranium. They are specialists at outsourcing terrorism. They’re nuts. They’re liars.

But I’m sure that after we showed them, with our Iraq invasion, what we could do to them in a matter of weeks, that they might well have decided to turn the lights out on their nuclear weapons development program, decided to wait for the enriched uranium and spend time trying to kill Americans in Iraq, trying to get them to go away.

But let’s sidestep that and take out the uranium program, with big nasty bunker-busting conventional bombs, and then tell them that it never happened and they’re lying when they complain about it. This will confuse both them and their Russian advisers.

Also, none of what we’ve heard over the past 48 hours tells the real story. Who knows what the various parties are up to here. Bush claimed this morning that our intelligence services were reformed after the screw-up on Iraqi WMDs. Well, I don’t even think that we know what the nature of that screw-up was. I’ve looked at the Dulfer report and it is more speculative than the intelligence that concluded that there were WMDs in Iraq.

So, I’d rather depend on the Bismarkian proposition, as put by Forrest McDonald, that "a special Providence takes care of fools, drunks, and the United States of America" than depend on our intel people to get something like this right, and "reform" doesn’t mean anything to me.

The Iranian regime is what it is, and this NIE report changes nothing in that regard.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
"Iraq has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in...."

Can you say non sequitur? You really are becoming a joke. Boring, too. At least try to rephrase or add something new.


"I think it warrants a study, actually — how alternate realities are created and maintained by a close net subculture where..."

Yeah. And we could call it something catchy like ’groupthink’.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Having had a few seconds to reflect, change ’are becoming a joke’ to ’have become a joke’. The present perfect applies here, I think. Rejoice, this is as close to perfection as you will ever get.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
This doesn’t mean that the CIA et al. don’t need a shakeup and rounds of firings or other drastic measures - but it does mean that simply throwing money at them or fingerpointing won’t suffice. And it also means that failures are inevitable in intelligence work.

The eternal truth of foreign policy is that, as SShiel points out, you never have enough intelligence to be sure you’re making the right choice based on it. I can’t think of a time when this was not true; perhaps the problem is not so much that the intel is worse as that we’re too confident in it no matter how it goes.


Yes.

Precisely the point that I’m trying to make to Bruce. The quality of the intel being produced doesn’t meet his standards. It doesn’t meet my personal political interests either, for that matter - I mean, we went through two unneccesary years of about-to-bomb-Iran time, time where relatively minor crisis could have caused us to bomb Iran, and it’s because the CIA didn’t update faster.

But there’s no evidence that this is the result of a *decline* in intelligence production quality. The evidence is more like that it’s always been this bad. And it’s this bad for everyone else. We spend a whole lot more money and get... average results. There are problems that no one has figured out how to solve.

The other thing I don’t understand about Bruce’s analysis is why he’s so reluctant to blame the political appointees at the top of the agency. He seems to think that the agencies run themselves, but the political appointees have, if not complete control, control over most of what happens. They might not be able to get their agencies to make things up, because of the risk, but when it comes to the slant put on an ambiguity, like the status of Iran’s nuclear program in 2005.. the *first* person to blame are the senior leadership of the intel community - appointed by President Bush.

Porter Goss was a hack. He was a washed out of the agency, made a living taking potshots at it, got appointed and had a brief honeymoon ruining careers, publicly complained about the workload, allowed his cronies to make corrupt deals, and quit. He was the head man when the 2005 NIE was produced.

Just like most of President Bush’s leadership appointments, he was a drastic failure and he screwed up the performance of his agency. It’s not BDS, it’s a widely believed and well-supported conclusion.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
intelligence being received by this administration (and, for that matter, any administration)

I noted your parenthetical here. You’re right. It’s hard to fashion a coherent foreign policy when you don’t know what’s going on. On the other hand, Iran doesn’t know what’s going on either. I doubt they had any idea whether we were going to bomb them or not, until now. They may remain uncertain even after this NIE.

I don’t think you can mark the lack of knowledge about Iran up to incompetence, is all. I don’t think it’s any worse than it’s ever been. And it’s an inherently challenging problem. I don’t know, maybe they’re financially timid and our bribes are too small. Failing that, I think that mostly our expectations have risen.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
SShiel said "Can we even point to a time in our history when we have been well served by our Intelligence Agencies?"
Ditto what he said... We’ve been ill served most of the time by our intelligence agencies. And there is no reason to fall to heavily in love with an NIE that plays towards ones current biases.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
But there’s no evidence that this is the result of a *decline* in intelligence production quality.
Nonsense glasnost. Had we bombed Iran and then found this out you’d be singing a completely different tune. Of course your first shot would have been to blame Bush, but as SShiel points out, this sort of intelligence product has seemingly been the product of our intelligence apparatus for decades. It isn’t acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable before and it isn’t acceptable now.

Why? Because the purpose of intelligence is to provide us a basis for a coherent and informed foreign policy. The product that they’ve been providing all administrations for quite some time has been substandard. Both in quality and analysis.

That isn’t the fault of any particular administration, but instead it is the fault of the agencies involved in gathering and analyzing intelligence. That needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed now if you want us to stay out of any more wars you’d label as "needless".
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Iraq has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in recent American history, even worse than that pointless debacle in Vietnam.
You’ve written quite a bit of nonsense, but this is just ridiculous. The ultimate outcome of the whole Iraq project is unknown and will be for years. You have no basis for making such a comparison at the present time.

"how alternate realities are created and maintained by a close net subculture where like views are reinforced"

This from the person who thinks they can see into the future, and apparently can’t believe that things could possibly differ from his own preconceived notions of reality.
 
Written By: David C.
URL: http://
"The product that they’ve been providing all administrations for quite some time has been substandard"

What is the standard? When and by whom has this stndard ever been consistently met?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
All hands brace for "personal attack and ridicule so as not to necessitate actually dealing with the arguments they bring accusations" maneuver.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I note Tom Joscelyn asking:

Note that the IC argues that Iran supposedly gave up its covert uranium conversion and enrichment work. How does the IC know that? Are we to believe that the IC’s penetration of Iran’s intelligence services, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and other parties controlled by the mullahs is so iron-clad that it can know this with certainty? Furthermore, is it possible that Iran did not need to do said work covertly because it has been openly enriching uranium?
And, not just openly, but actually bragging about it. I suspect, that they were overstating the case, so as to benefit themselves in terms of fear created outside Iran. Still, this whole thing leaves us with the possibility that this assessment is based on what silo some intelligence wonk figuratively places those openly claimed centrifuges , doesn’t it? It didn’t show on the list of covert operations, because the operation was no longer covert. Therefore according to those studying covert operations, the operation no longer exists. Welcome to the mentality of any large organization. it cannot scratch its own butt without months of meetings to discuss the situation.

There’s a situation that does not give Bithead the warm fuzzies.

There are number of possibilities for why this is so vastly different are report, despite the fact that it’s based on the same information as the previous report. in every case, the evidence tends to lean toward the report being manipulated for political purposes.


1: The most obvious one that comes to mind, is that someone thought it would not do well to reinforce the stated position of the white house, so long as there was a republican in it. (On its face, this would seem to defeat the charge from the left that Mr. Bush had been sitting on this report for some time. Of course, that’s easily defeated by looking at the document itself, but I digress.

(1a: Point one plus intelligence agencies avoiding funding issues given Democrats are now running the purse strings.)

2:The other possibility is that the report is accurate. If so, it would seem that Iran backed off on its nuclear ambitions in direct response to the United States and its Allies being involved in Iraq. If that’s true, the democrats are faced with a political conundrum, and may have been involved with delaying the release of the report.

You will recall, that the democrats have been telling us that are invasion of Iraq would destabilize the region, see also Armageddon, body bags, mass hysteria, and dogs and cats living together. If the report is accurate, and it is because of our actions in Iraq, the democrats once again find themselves with egg on their faces. If that’s the case, what we have is a democratic party who is going to be forced to admit that our military action in Iraq is what put Iran off of its nuclear program in the first place. Apparently, the white house’s foreign policy was not quite so ineffective, after all. Certainly, deep in the midst of an election cycle has not exactly the time when Howard Dean would wish that kind of information released to the voting public.

3: It’s possible that our intelligence community such as it is, decided to reverse its position , still based on the same facts , because of the feedback that it got from those now holding its funding strings , as regards the accuracy of the report on Iraq. (Personally, I am still not convinced that report was inaccurate... and I have a feeling that most of the Intel community isn’t either, but they’re not the ones holding the purse strings. )

All that said, I’m sympathetic to Billy beck’s argument that Iran is still developing nuclear weapons, or trying to, frankly it’s the safest of the possible plays.

Let’s also remember that are "intelligence community" had nothing whatsoever on that that Syrian Nuke site that Israel bombed a month or so back. Anybody remember that one?









 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
"Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence or stupidity."

It could simply be a matter of a bureaucracy going into lame duck WH CYA mode. They want to put in enough caveats to say, see we told ya so, we just didn’t give the proper weight to that conclusion based on hind-sight.

Yes, they’ve stopped what nuclear program they had, but they could start it back up at anytime. They have a lot more centrifuges then they need for civil energy purposes, but not enough for a full scale weapons program. But then, they only need a few weapons to prove they can build them.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
How in the world is the administration supposed to make informed foreign policy decisions when the intelligence they depend on to make such decisions is off this badly?
Well the administration could start by taking their fingers out of their ears and stopping that "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" chant long enough to actually accept what the agencies are telling them. This NIE was ready to go a year ago, but this administration didn’t like the conclusions. You will never get good intel if you start with your policy conclusions and work backward. Surely Doug Feith has taught us that.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
So, if the policy conclusion that is desired is to not engage militarily in Iran, how does that effect the NIE???

It is an estimate folks.

Fuzzy statements of OPINION not FACT.

It may be their best weighted estimates, and still be completely wrong.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
To me, the NIE tells me we are correct to keep hammering away at Iran to give up all vestiges of a nuclear weapons program, including the centrifuges, and to open itself up to complete inspections.

Does anyone believe that the only country that would benefit from a nuclear weaponed Iran, is Iran. And the region and the world would be somewhat less safe then.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Oh, and it wouldn’t surprise me AT ALL if Iran tested a nuclear weapon within the next 6-9 months.

That’s how much faith I have in our intel community. They don’t have a great track record with regards to what they’ve missed.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
It could simply be a matter of a bureaucracy going into lame duck WH CYA mode.
Which would seem to suggest that somebody believes the agency gives a damn about what happens to the White House. I suggest to you that the larger case of them would be what happens to their funding. Thereby, the larger loyalties, as well.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
I think conspiracies that this report was released to undercut Bush run aground on the data point that this report was declassified, not leaked. That assumes presidential approval.

There was a high-level Iranian defector in January 2007.... I’ve read about him but don’t feel like figuring out where... Occam’s Razor suggests that the reason for this is.. genuinely new info.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Retief believes:
the administration could start by taking their fingers out of their ears and stopping that "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" chant long enough to actually accept what the agencies are telling them.
Ah, pal, Iran has been outsourcing terrorism in the Middle East for close to three decades, thanks to the "Iranian revolution" under the Ayatollah Khomeni.

It should have been bombed serially beginning no later than the mid-1980s.

Because that didn’t happen, because the Cold War endgame was underway, we’re still having to deal with those lunatics today.

There’s no beef with the vast majority of the Iranian people, who are a particularly gorgeous people. The problem is with that rancid regime, which has a spot reserved for it on the ash heap of history.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
"bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran"

Is that what the administration is chanting with its ears closed? Funny, I thought Condi Rice was part of the administration, and she’s dropped hint after hint that if Iran cooperates with the EU-3 that the USA would agree to talks.

In fact, I wonder if this release of the NIE has something to do with that. And that attacks against US troops with Iranian made weapons appear to have fallen.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Glasnost,

Yes, there was that defector...interesting. There was also that recent story in an Iranian paper saying it was okay to criticize the bomb program. I think Iran’s internal politics complicate the situation. Ahamdinjehad (sp?) gets all the press, but he’s not really in charge - are his press stealing antics pissing people off? Maybe releasing this report even throws some egg on his face?

It also relieves me that maybe these long drawn out talks we have aren’t just giving them time to make bombs.

That said, I would still be damn cautious with Iran as they have previously hidden nuclear weapon programs from the UN.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Well the administration could start by taking their fingers out of their ears and stopping that "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" chant long enough to actually accept what the agencies are telling them.
The only one’s I’ve heard screaming about the imminent bombing of Iran are the lefties who’ve all but made a cottage industry of predicting it would happen in the next week, and then the next one, and then the next one ... for the last 6 to 8 months.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://qando.net
Bruce:
"That isn’t the fault of any particular administration,..."
Bush has bought himself a lot of his own trouble on this front, Bruce. For the rest of my life, I will never ever understand why he didn’t send Tenet out to play in traffic the very day he walked into the Oval Office. Do you remember how we laughed when The Lying Bastard appointed Les Aspin at Defense? I had the very same sensation with Goss.

Yes, the work has been rotten for a long time, and there is an enormous institutional will to be corralled. But Bush has never given me the remotest impression that he was even interested to start taking any of it seriously in hand.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
He played it that way, Billy, because for one thing, he wanted to be seen as a centrist. (Which I hasten to add, is of itself a questionable commodity) In the end, that was a political move, not a managerial one.


 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
For the rest of my life, I will never ever understand why he didn’t send Tenet out to play in traffic the very day he walked into the Oval Office.
Well, he asked Cheney to head up the one person committee to pick the next head of the CIA, but he could only come up with himself as the most qualified, and he thought that would be to much...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
It was a managerial decision, Eric, whether he realized that or not and no matter why he did it.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"Some people have written that these conclusions have been available to the Bush White House for over a year. In any event, this is mostly a dispute over emphasis and spin."

It was indeed known last year as well, but consequently ignored by the Whitehouse :

’No proof’ of Iran nuclear arms
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6167304.stm

But is it surprising that the Whitehouse just doesn’t listen to CIA analysts who disagree with the conclusions made by the Whitehouse ? After all, the CIA repeatedly stated before the Iraq invasion that the information about Iraq’s WMD, as presented by the Whitehouse, was inaccurated and biased.

Also, are you aware that the Bush administration again has set up an ’’intelligence’’ office which has to supply cherry-picked information on Iran, because the administration is not satisfied with the analysis of the regular intelligence agencies (office for special plans in the Iraq case, and the iranian directorate when it concerns Iran).

I just hope for the United States, and for the rest of the world, that after the Bush administration there will be a less biased and more trustworthy US government.
 
Written By: Nico
URL: http://
Nico: As I stated in another entry on this blog:
Well, it seems there has been some flip-flopping being done by one of the authors of the NIE Report as being reported over at The Captain’s Quarters’ Blog. On 11 July 2007, Dr. Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director for Analysis testified before the House Armed Service Committee. Just a slice:
Iran and North Korea are the states of most concern to us. The United States’ concerns about Iran are shared by many nations, including many of Iran’s neighbors. Iran is continuing to pursue uranium enrichment and has shown more interest in protracting negotiations and working to delay and diminish the impact of UNSC sanctions than in reaching an acceptable diplomatic solution. We assess that Tehran is determined to develop nuclear weapons—despite its international obligations and international pressure. This is a grave concern to the other countries in the region whose security would be threatened should Iran acquire nuclear weapons.
This guy Fingar was one of the main authors of the NIE report. So, it is no wonder the Administration is wondering what happened in the meantime.
And as for your comment:
I just hope for the United States, and for the rest of the world, that after the Bush administration there will be a less biased and more trustworthy US government.
How do you propose this administration to respond when their own security service maintains their contention of Iranian enrichment in testimony to congress just this last July.

As an aside - You be the policy maker: Are the Iranians actively pursuing nuclear weaponry? And on what do you base your opinion?
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
I requested of Erb why he was defending Sanchez, for Erb to provide information on Sanchez’s accomplishments in his career that warranted such a spirited defense.
Do you realize how silly that "request" is? Gee, let’s see, he had a military career where he rose high in the ranks. And why does one have to say someone has done a lot of great things in order to defend them from the usual smears that come to anyone who dares disagree with the particular line of thinking that McQ seems to desire. It’s as predictable as the sun rising — if someone speaks out on the war, global warming or some other issue which McQ is very emotionally engaged in, McQ (and others here) find reasons not just to disagree with the argument, but to attack personally the one making the argument. I find that kind of approach counter productive and irrational.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
So you cannot defend Sanchez. Of the seveal hundred general officers who have retired since the beginning of this decade, seven, now eight have spoken out against the Administration. And in virtually every single case there is an agaenda being serviced. And you do not think it is a worthy exercize to ask why Sanchez is saying the things he is saying. I did not "attack personally the one making the argument." I asked "Why is Sanchez attacking the very policies, strategies, and tactics he himself was instrumental in implementing?" And that translates in your mind to a personal attack?

People in this country have screamed bloody murder for what occurred at Abu Ghraib, for the de-Ba’athification of the country, for the mass release of all military units and police infrastructure, for leaving the borders wide open to any and all tresspassers regardless of intent. Sanchez had a hand in the impementation of each and every one of those policies and actions. It was on his watch!

The military does not work the way you and folks like yourself think it works. Officers in the military are not automatons, receiving orders and then carrying them out without thought to their effect or import. Don’t get me wrong - an order is an order. But there are ways to disagree, ways to present an opposing view, ways to open the dialogue that every officer above the rank of cadet knows how to employ. These avenues are also effective in "Covering Your *ss." I have a drawer full of Memorandums for Record (MFRs) covering actions and orders passed on to me that I disagreed with over the years. And I retired over 10 years ago. Also, it is a rare event when an order is passed down without so much as a minimum of discussion. Especially about something so contentious as the policies implemented by Sanchez.

Having said all that I remind you this was not some Lieutenant or Captain in the field but a Lieutenant General commanding an entire theatre of war. Where is the documentation of his dissent at the time for each of these policies? Policies he ordered, enacted and implemented. There were meetings and minutes taken at each or most of those meetings. If he disagreed or had reservations, there would be documentation to support that. And if that documentation does not exist, the only conclusion that can be drawn is the policy or action had his entire support, without reservation.

And when we ask the questions, "Why is Sanchez attacking the very policies, strategies, and tactics he himself was instrumental in implementing?" you call it attacking the person. I have to believe you are saying that because the question varies with your own perception. You want to believe him and so you do and attack all that do not.
I requested of Erb why he was defending Sanchez, for Erb to provide information on Sanchez’s accomplishments in his career that warranted such a spirited defense.
You still want to call that a "silly" request?
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
So you cannot defend Sanchez.
LOL! I don’t have to! I just point out how everyone who takes a critical view on the war, no matter how well decorated and how experienced, gets smeared by people like you who go after those personally who disagree. Sanchez and Murtha were heroes to the right when they were seen as pro-war, they disagree and suddenly they are attacked personally.

Then when one calls you on such slimey tactics, you make it seem like the debate has to be about the merits of the person — that one has to debate about Sanchez, not the claims he makes. That is not only irrational, it’s dishonest. It shows a lack of character on your part, an inability to have disagreement without having to personalize it, and an inability to confront opinions you disagree with — rather than deal with them head on, honestly, you simply attack the person. Now you go on a long tirade about how one can become a general and get command without having to necessarily be good at anything (eyes rolling). Hilarious!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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