Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Warmongering fabrications: White House spin and the truth about Iran

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The top story at Memeorandum right now -- and, indeed, one of the top stories anywhere and everywhere -- remains yesterday's stunning release of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that directly contradicts, and refutes, the claims made by Cheney and the warmongers with respect to the Iranian nuclear situation. (Creature commented on it briefly yesterday afternoon.) From the NYT:

A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

The conclusions of the new assessment are likely to reshape the final year of the Bush administration, which has made halting Iran's nuclear program a cornerstone of its foreign policy.

The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies "do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."

Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates.

But the new estimate declares with "high confidence" that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt "was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure."

This is clearly not what Cheney and the warmongers wanted. What they wanted was, at most, ambiguity -- and enough of it to justify pre-emptive military action.

Although the NIE cites "international scrutiny and pressure" -- and not specifically American scrutiny and pressure -- as the reason Iran backed away from its militarized nuclear program, Bush could take credit for Iran's move, or at least try to. It could be argued, after all, if not without stretching credibility to the point of self-annihilation, that it was precisely Bush's toughness that ultimately kept Tehran under control. In these terms, Iran could be presented as another Libya.

But, again, the warmongers -- and Bush may be sympathetic to their position, if not necessarily among them -- want war. They certainly do not want diplomacy, and they certainly do not want to be told that international diplomacy, which they loathe with venomous irrationality, worked.

So what to do? How to respond?

Evidently, walk a fine line between acknowledging the NIE's findings and continuing to play up the Iranian threat. This is exactly what Bush's national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, did. Again from the NYT -- this time verbatim:

Today's National Intelligence Estimate offers some positive news. It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. 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. And it suggests that the President has the right strategy: intensified international pressure along with a willingness to negotiate a solution that serves Iranian interests while ensuring that the world will never have to face a nuclear armed Iran.

The bottom line is this: for that strategy to succeed, the international community has to turn up the pressure on Iran — with diplomatic isolation, United Nations sanctions, and with other financial pressure — and Iran has to decide it wants to negotiate a solution.

In other words: Iran was developing nuclear weapons, we were right there, but we -- note the use of the first person here -- we have slowed them down. Note that Hadley does not say that Iran was but is not now seeding nuclear weapons. The implication is that Iran may still be seeking them. We "were right to be worried," and we still are. Furthermore, the threat remains. There is a "risk" that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, just as there was a risk that Saddam would. But the world is full of risks. Are they all meant to be met with a military response?

Hadley goes on to spin the White House line. Of course we're not out for war, of course we don't want to use force, of course it is diplomacy that is at the forefront, of course Bush is right.

But what is not said here? Read between the lines. There is an admission here that diplomacy worked, but it is hardly a ringing endorsement of concerted international action. For what if "the international community" does not "turn up the pressure," if the U.N. does not enforce sanctions, if Iran does not want to negotiate? More to the point, what if the pressure is not turned up to Bush's liking, or if the sanctions aren't strong enough in Bush's view, if Iran goes not negotiate in good faith according to Bush? Who will ultimately judge whether there is enough pressure, whether the sanctions are strong enough, whether Iran is negotiating in good faith? Bush will, of course. He and the warmongers, in and out of his White House bubble, in and out of his administration.

Yes, what seems to be an admission that diplomacy worked, and may continue to work, is actually, upon reflection, a carefully and indeed esoterically presented advocation of the warmongering position.


An mportant question pertaining to the NIE remains, however, and Kevin Drum (among others) asks it: Why was it released now?

  • "This NIE was apparently finished a year ago, and its basic parameters were almost certainly common knowledge in the White House well before that. This means that all the leaks, all the World War III stuff, all the blustering about the IAEA — all of it was approved for public consumption after Cheney/Bush/Rice/etc. knew perfectly well it was mostly baseless."
  • "Why were the key judgments finally released? Cheney didn't want them released, Bush surely didn't want them released, and DNI Mike McConnell told Congress a few weeks ago that he didn't want them released. So who did?"
It may have been "congressional pressure," Kevin speculates, and maybe he's right, we'll have to see. But what is certainly the case is that Bush and the top officials have essentially been lying about, or at the very least misrepresenting, the Iranian threat for at least the past year -- but probably much longer. They have been trying to build a case (to fabricate one, more correctly) against Iran -- developing a militarized nuclear weapons program, supplying arms to hostile Iraqi groups, supporting terrorism around the world, operating a terroristic military, threatening its neighbours and, indeed, the entire region -- as apparent preparation for war. In this respect, Iran is very much the new Iraq.

Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the rest of us, and regardless of the spin coming out of the White House, this NIE has effectively overcome their fabrications with the truth.

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