Thursday, August 24, 2006

House Report on Iran: Reading Between the Lines

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Second verse, same as the first, just with an "N" instead of a "Q"?

Both mini mum and abw have done diaries on the House report, titled Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States.

However, while their diaries (both of which I recommended and should be read) talk about the potentially dubious (and certainly lacking anything approaching certainty) claims regarding Iran's nuclear program, I want to talk about some of the other things that are buried within the report.

And that is, despite the fact that this is your typical Republican Congress "let's go git `em now" report, there are some glaring comment about the major shortfalls in US intelligence that, among other things, puts the US in a horrible bargaining position.

The purpose of my diary is not to assess whether Iran has nuclear weapon ambitions or whether it is an imminent threat, or whether we are going to bomb Iran - rather I think that this House report has some very important items that must not be overlooked.

Thankfully, both the UK Guardian and the Washington Post picked up on the very things that I immediately noticed when reading through the report.

Again, I'll leave the "evidence" of the Iran nuclear weapons program and the information on Fred Fleitz (former Chief of Staff for John Bolton) for the other diaries, as I want to focus on how bad of a position the US has put itself in with respect to actually knowing what is going on with Iran that it seems like 2002 all over again.

For starters, the report (as well as the 2 articles linked above) indicates how poor the US intelligence program is:

Accurate and comprehensive intelligence is critical for the development of good policy. There is a great deal about Iran that we do not know. It would be irresponsible to list the specific intelligence gaps in an unclassified paper, as identifying our specific shortcomings would provide critical insights to the Iranian government. Suffice it to say, however, that the United States lacks critical information needed for analysts to make many of their judgments with confidence about Iran and there are many significant information gaps. A special concern is major gaps in our knowledge of Iranian nuclear, biological, and chemical programs. US policymakers and intelligence officials believe, without exception, that the United States must collect more and better intelligence on a wide range of Iranian issues -its political dynamics, economic health, support for terrorism, the nature of its involvement in Iraq, the status of its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons efforts, and many more topics of interest. The national security community must dedicate the personnel and resources necessary to better assess Iran's plans, capabilities and intentions, and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) must identify, establish, and report on intelligence goals and performance metrics to measure progress on critical fronts.

Wow. Of course, this is buried after page and page of conjecture about what Iran "probably" or "likely" has. But, regardless of whether they do, which is dangerous enough, it is tough to not point the finger squarely back at the US for dropping the ball on so many occasions.

In talking about Iran's capacity to develop a nuclear weapon, the report has one sentence which is buried in pages of background and other scary-talk:

The U.S. Intelligence Community believes Iran could have a nuclear weapon sometime in the

beginning to the middle of the next decade.

While the report does go on to indicate that a number of factors could speed up this process, the factors which are cited include such definitive terms as "theoretically" and "could". Additionally, there is this money quote as well:

Although it is likely that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, there is the possibility that Iran could be engaged in a denial and deception campaign to exaggerate progress on its nuclear program such as Saddam Hussein apparently did concerning his WMD programs. U.S. leaders need more definitive intelligence to judge the status of the Iranian nuclear program and whether there have been any related deception efforts.

Can anyone say "slam dunk"?

Similarly, for biological and chemical weapons, we have the following statements:

Intelligence regarding potential Iranian chemical weapons (CW) and biological weapons (BW) programs is neither voluminous nor conclusive. Nevertheless, U.S. intelligence agencies have determined based on the evidence available that Iran likely is pursuing CW and BW weapons.


Although it does not have unequivocal evidence, the U.S. Intelligence Community believes Iran has an offensive chemical weapons research and development capability.


The U.S. Intelligence Community believes Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program but lacks clear intelligence proving that this is the case.

Can anyone say "stockpiles"?

According to the UK Guardian article, this has obviously left Iran in a better negotiating position, and has some other interesting information about the "War on terrorTM":

Analysis published yesterday by the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House said there was "little doubt that Iran has been the chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East".

The report said Iran had gained from the defeat of two of its most immediate regional rivals, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"The US-driven agenda for confronting Iran is severely compromised by the confident ease with which Iran sits in its region," it said. "Iran views Iraq as its own backyard and has now superseded the US as the most influential power there."

The month-long war between Hizbullah and Israel has strengthened Iran's regional influence further, because the Arab world perceived the US as uncritically backing Israel. Hizbullah, backed by Iran, saw its status soar in Arab public opinion for its ability to survive Israeli attacks.

Now, let's take a trip down memory lane. Back in June, I did a diary based on an article that I read in the American Prospect, titled Iran: It almost (and should have) turned out like this.

In that diary, I stated the following:

It was recently reported that Iran made a substantial offer to the US back in 2003 with respect to its nuclear program which was rebuffed by Bu$hCo. But that incredibly stupid move by Bush was only one of a large number of purposeful and calculated acts of stubbornness and arrogance taken by him (many at the urging of Cheney and Rumsfeld) with respect to Iran.

But, what if you knew that Iran made serious overtures to the US right after 9/11 with respect to its nuclear program, where to bomb in Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda members were likely to be hiding, and offering intelligence.

And what if you also knew that Iran offered, at least once, if not more, to (and had already) crack down on Al Qaeda members it knew were in Iran? Or that the proposals offered changes to Iran's official position with respect to Israel? Or that Iran would agree to far stricter nuclear inspections and monitoring? Or that they would not intervene in Iraq after the US invaded?

Well, it all could have turned out that way.

Not only that, but back in April, I did a diary titled, Let's not forget that Plame was tracking IRAN and nukes, which outlined the work that Valerie Plame was doing with respect to Iran's nuclear program and included the following blurb from the "counter intelligence assessment to agency operations":

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame's work. Their accounts suggest that Plame's outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran's burgeoning nuclear program.

While many have speculated that Plame was involved in monitoring the nuclear proliferation black market, specifically the proliferation activities of Pakistan's nuclear "father," A.Q. Khan, intelligence sources say that her team provided only minimal support in that area, focusing almost entirely on Iran.

So what does this all mean? Well, it doesn't really change what Iran is doing or what its ambitions may be. Or it may.

Either way, it is clear that due to this administration, the neocon war criminals, the rubber-stamp Republican Congress and flag waving `Murkins who were so eager to get their pound of flesh in Iraq that they never even considered the immense damage that was being done in our relations with and intelligence program with respect to Iran and its WMD ambitions.

And if there were those who did know (which I suspect but have just as much proof as the US did about Iraq or seems to about Iran), well, then those responsible should be reserved a special place in hell.

As for the rest of the American public, as well as the world, the situation in Iran is a potentially dangerous one. But we need facts, intelligence and the truth - none of which it appears that we currently have. And the fault lies squarely with those who lied their way into Iraq in the first place.

So, "fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."

No comments: