Saturday, December 8, 2007

Intelligence on Iran?

"On Monday the [US] intelligence community issued what everyone agrees was blockbuster news: a report stating that in the autumn of 2003, Iran halted its nuclear weapons program. ... During the past year, a period when Iran's weapons program was supposedly halted, the government has been busy installing some 3,000 gas centrifuges at its plant at Natanz. ... [T]hey have no plausible purpose in Iran's civilian nuclear effort. All of Iran's needs for enriched uranium for its energy programs are covered by a contract with Russia. ... This reactor [Arak] is ideal for producing plutonium for nuclear bombs. ...And why is Iran developing long-range Shahab missles, which make no military sense without nuclear warheads to put on them? To assert, as the report does, that these centrifuges are 'civilian,' and not part of Iran's weapons threat, is grossly misleading. ... We should be suspicious of any document that suddenly gives the Bush administration a pass on a big national security problem it won't solve during its remaining year in office. Is the adminstration just washing its hands of the intractable Iranian nuclear issue by saying, 'If we can't fix it, it ain't broke'?," Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin in the NYT, 6 December.

"But is [the CIA's] new report any more reliable than its original 2005 estimate, which declared that Iran was marching briskly towards attaining nuclear status? A look at the history of the CIA estimates suggests that caution is in order. ... On August 24, 1949, the office again declared that Stalin would most likely not be able to field an atomic bomb until mid-1953. Five days later, the Soviet Union conducted its first atomic test. ... After John F. Kennedy became president, satellite photography revealed not only that there wasn't a missile gap, but that the US was far ahead in the arms race. ... In addition, the CIA has rather amusingly concluded in the 1970s that East Germany was one of the top ten economies in the world. ... It took the CIA until 1960 to realize that Israel was building a bomb in Dimona. ... Then there was India. ... 'The CIA [stated] ... It is apparent that the Indians went to some lengths to conceal their activities and intentions'. The rapidity with which the CIA has reversed course on Iran should itself induce circumspection", Jacob Heilbrun (JH) at http://www.atimes,com/, 7 December.

"One revelation published in Saturday's Washington Post indicated that our intelligence community relied, in part, on the word of Iranian leader Hashemi Rafsanjami [HR]--long time power broker in Iran and a man marked by his extremism, corruption, intimate involvement with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards terror network and one of the men who has the most vested interest in furthering the Iranian nuclear program. He is also one of the wealthiest men in Iran with a compelling desire to avoid a santions regime that would directly harm his familiy's business empire. ... If former Iranian leader [HR] says it is so, it must be so? How is that intelligence? ... The Iranian regime has been caught lying (even the Iran-friendly [IAEA] has criticized the Iranians for lying) about their nuclear program. Furthermore, the Shite-created doctrines of 'taquiya' (deception) and kitman (dissembling) explicitly permit Muslims to lie to non-Muslims if such lying furthers Islamic interests", Ed Lasky at, 9 December.

Wow, the NYT printed Lincy and Milholin's price as an op-ed. Some circumspection indeed, JH. I guess I'm not everybody, I didn't see the report as a blockbuster, but as a non-starter. I remember the "missile gap" was an issue in 1960's election. I remember the CIA's reports on the East German econony, and India'a nuclear progress and the USSR's later strategic weapons position. My bottom line: I view anything coming out of the CIA with caution. I wonder if anyone at the CIA ever heard of takiwa?

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