The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report with regards to Iran’s Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities was released on Monday. It said that Iranians had halted their weapons program in 2003 and have not pursued it since then. That is about the same time that we now know Iran offered the great bargain to the Bush administration via Swiss Embassy in Tehran. According to Flynt Leverett, the senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council (2002-3) and Richard Armitage. the Deputy Secretary of State (2001-2005) that proposal was ignored and rejected under pressure from the vice president’s office.
The NIE report on Iran was held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear program. A NIE coordinates the judgments of the US's 16 intelligence agencies on a specific country or issue. The aim of delay was to make the document more supportive of Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts provided by participants in the NIE process to two former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers that Gareth Porter talked to for his report published in Asia Times on Nov. 10th of this year (“Spooks refuse to toe Cheney's line on Iran.”)
The report declassified partially today raises a serious question about honesty of the president and its administration on this issue. For example, President Bush said on October 17: "I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have(…ing) the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." A week or two before Tony Blair in a New York appearance talked about the threats of fascism and similarity of the situation with 1930s of Germany. President Sarkuzi also has been talking about the information they have received that proves the Iranian intentions of making bomb. These were all claimed after IAEA chairman ElBaradei came out strongly about his organization semi-positive reports on Iranian Nuclear program.
Around the February of 2007 an Iranian Brigadier General defected to the west and was interviewed in Germany. General Asghari is believed to have been working with western intelligence agencies since 2003 after he retired from his position as deputy secretary of defense in Iranian government. At the same time US removed Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, a major event that made Iranian reliance on nuclear weaponry irrelevant. Presumably Iranians knew that their attempt to make the bomb was just a deterrent strategy against the potential Iraqi aggressions, and would have not be sufficient against Israel and any other player due to their much larger arsenal. Any such attempt would indeed “wipe out Iran from the face of the time.”
As Porter suggests the conclusions of the NIE have been known for quite a long time but were not permitted to be released. The question then becomes what did the President know and when, and why he continued misleading the world. It is obvious that if the NIE was held up for a year it was readily available to the President. But if we had been keeping this information under the rug and from our Allies, what damage will this have done to the remaining shreds of trust in the United States as a strategic ally? What will the fall-out be for decades of intelligence cooperation?
Stephen Hadley the National Security Advisor to President Bush, yesterday came out spinning the report one more time by claiming that they only became aware of the facts last Tuesday and President was informed on Wednesday. The reality is that NIE report itself indicates that it is based on information received before and by the October 31st, 2007 cut off date. On the other hand the Bush administration likes to use the report as a proof that their failed policy toward Iran has worked and pressure and isolation needs to continue. Whereas the report indicates the halt of the weapon program happened in 2003, when there was no international sanction in place.
Knowing what we know today, thanks to the solid resistance of the Intelligence community, we have the right to question the integrity of the White House and especially the office of the Vice President, when it has shown once again the lack of sincerity.
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