John Bolton today has a great op-ed in the Washington Post. He basically makes the observation here that this NIE that was released on Monday, the key judgment, is essentially rolling out a diplomatic — oh! Oh! Wait, wait. Before, before that, folks, oh, there’s something even more important than that. Remember yesterday we had the report that the three primary authors of the NIE key judgment were State Department officials, and one of them disgruntled with apparently some kind of grudge specific to our Iran policy? I think the Wall Street Journal and the New York Sun both had editorials on this. Today in the Weekly Standard — actually yesterday afternoon right after the program ended, just the middle of the afternoon yesterday: ‘As many recognize, the latest NIE on Iran’s nuclear weapons program directly contradicts what the US Intelligence Community was saying just two years previously. And it appears that this about-face was very recent. How recent? Consider that on July 11, 2007, roughly four or so months prior to the most recent NIE’s publication, Deputy Director of Analysis Thomas Fingar,’ one of the three authors of the NIE, ‘gave the following testimony before the House Armed Services Committee: ‘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.”
Folks, this is back in July. Back in July, one of the lead authors of the NIE on Monday who said they suspended their nuclear program in 2003, told the House Armed Services Committee that they’re still procuring nuclear weapons. This paragraph appeared under the subheading: ‘Iran Assessed As Determined to Develop Nuclear Weapons.’ And the entirety of Fingar’s 22-page testimony was labeled ‘Information as of July 11, 2007.’ No part of it is consistent with the latest NIE, in which our spooks tell us Iran suspended its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003 ‘primarily in response to international pressure’ and they ‘do not know whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.’ The inconsistencies are more troubling when we realize that, according to the Wall Street Journal, Thomas Fingar is one of the three officials who were responsible for crafting the latest NIE. The Journal cites ‘an intelligence source’ as describing Fingar and his two colleagues as ‘hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials.” That’s in the New York Sun yesterday. ‘So, if it is true that Dr. Fingar played a leading role in crafting this latest NIE, then we are left with serious questions: Why did your opinion change so drastically in just four months time? Is the new intelligence or analysis really that good? Is it good enough to overturn your previous assessments [from July]? Or, has it never really been good enough to make a definitive assessment at all? Did your political or ideological leanings, or your policy preferences, or those of your colleagues, influence your opinion in any way?’
As you know, the Drive-Bys have been assessing this unquestioningly, without any doubt whatsoever, because when the intelligence fits their worldview, ‘Why, it’s right on the money.’ When the intelligence doesn’t fit their worldview, ‘Why, it’s flawed, it’s doctored, and it’s been cooked,’ or what have you. This is serious, serious stuff, as I attempted to make clear yesterday. Now, back to John Bolton. ‘The Flaws in the Iran Report… The NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein…’ There wasn’t any diplomatic pressure unless you consider shock and awe, or being labeled as one of the three members of the axis of evil. ‘As undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003, I [John Bolton] know we were nowhere near exerting any significant diplomatic pressure on Iran.
‘Nowhere does the NIE explain its logic on this critical point. Moreover, the risks and returns of pursuing a diplomatic strategy are policy calculations, not intelligence judgments. The very public rollout in the NIE of a diplomatic strategy exposes the biases at work behind the Potemkin village of ‘intelligence.” He is right on the money. We had this great caller, Jennifer, yesterday from California, and she was very clear. Look, they’ve gone way beyond the scope of what an intelligence report is. They’re philosophizing, and they’re advocating, and they’re suggesting certain things like diplomacy. Don’t forget, we had this poll, just discovered this poll, the Zogby poll yesterday from October 30th: 52% of the American people support an invasion of Iran. Don’t think these clowns didn’t know that, and don’t think they didn’t see it. There’s so much contradictory here, and there’s so much predictable, based on what we know, that common sense, responsibility, would require an open mind to be skeptical of this whole NIE. The Los Angeles Times today has a story that essentially says that the world is puzzled by the NIE reports, the substance, the timing and so forth.
Should we believe this report? ‘[M]any observers were still struggling to understand what the intelligence assessments portend. Particularly in Moscow and Beijing, analysts were incredulous that the intelligence agencies would take a stance undercutting the president, and theorized that the report might herald a shift in Bush administration strategy. ‘We wonder, not only China but the rest of the world: Should we believe this report, why now, what’s behind it, is this political maneuvering or some sort of power struggle inside the White House,’ said Chu Shulong, professor and director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at Beijing’s Qinghua University,’ and there are countless other stories here. In fact, the New York Times has a couple today that are just unbelievable. One, a story reported by David Sanger and Steven Lee Myers that essentially says, ‘Details in Military Notes Led to Shift on Iran, US Says.’ So what’s happening here the New York Times is being leaked to. There’s a little controversy over this now, so people behind this, the NIE, are now leaking to favored reporters in the New York Times to sort of explain this away. But in the process of doing so, the Times reports that some agencies of the 16 in the NIE report are not convinced that Iran stopped the nuclear program.
They have only moderate confidence. I asked the intelligence expert in the last hour of the program yesterday who called: ‘Is it possible when this thing comes out in full, when somebody sees it in full, that we’re going to find out that not all 16 agencies are on board?’ Yes, it’s entirely possible. It wasn’t Jennifer, it was the previous guy. I think it was the caller from Texas, to whom I asked that question. And then there is the op-ed in the New York Times today by Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin. You gotta wonder what got into the New York Times today. Two stories. This one is an op-ed: ‘In Iran We Trust.’ They basically say that if Iran has stopped its nuke program, what’s with 3,000 gas centrifuges or heavy water reactors that use plutonium? And, by the way, yesterday, folks, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the Islamic republic, the Iranians, ‘will seek at least 50,000 uranium enriching centrifuges in order to provide fuel for its nuclear power plants in the future.
‘He said, ‘We need at least 50,000 centrifuges in order to realize our aim of producing our own nuclear fuel.” He made this speech yesterday in public after the NIE has come out on Monday, and there’s, you know, hell freezing over in this country about it. So these people said Iran — the two authors in the New York Times — if they’ve stopped their nuke program, what’s with 3,000 gas centrifuges or heavy water reactors? They ‘note also that the NIE calls for more international pressure to contain Iran, but this report kills those chances.’ Listen to this. ‘This situation is made all the more absurd by the report’s suggestion that international pressure offers the only hope of containing Iran. The report is now made much and such pressure nearly impossible to obtain. It’s hardly surprising that China, which last week seemed ready to approve the next round of economic sanctions against Tehran has now had a change of heart. Its ambassador to the UN said yesterday that we all start from the presumption that now things have changed.’ No sanctions. No diplomatic tightening. Nothing! It’s been shut down by virtue of this report.