Hope for a Nuclear War Dims

NIE report on Iran puts Cheney's quest for a pre-emptive strike on hold.

The Bush-Cheney regime's war drums have fallen silent — at least temporarily — in the wake of the U.S. intelligence analysts' new "estimate" that Iran's nuclear-bomb program really doesn't exist.

The problem is that the intelligence on which this conclusion is based also doesn't exist. This was a political decision by the CIA, not an intelligent analysis based on intelligence.

You won't find that analysis in the major U.S. newspapers. Nor will you find any mention of either Pakistan or Israel, both of which have nuclear weapons. That context is important, because Pakistan is dangerously unstable right now, and any attack on its neighbor Iran could destroy the global oil economy and destabilize the entire planet.

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Too far-fetched? Not really. The World Economic Forum analysts' worst-case scenario for the Persian Gulf posits a pre-emptive attack on Iran in 2009, as I noted previously.

West of Tehran, Israeli pols are still pursuing a strike on Iran, and now, with this new NIE report, Israel could well be the Cheney regime's surrogate for such a strike.

Back to the National Intelligence Estimate itself: Even the left-leaning Haaretz recognizes that the report is somewhat ludicrous. Take a look at "Iran Laughing at U.S. Lack of Nuclear Intelligence," Amir Oren's analysis in the Israeli paper. Here's Oren's take this morning:

The noise that was heard last night in Tehran, according to credible reports, was a hearty Persian laugh after looking at the U.S. intelligence service's website. The unclassified document that Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Mike McConnell published, titled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," as a laundered version that faithfully represents the greatest secrets collected by the CIA and the other U.S. intelligence services, can appropriately be called "much evaluation on no intelligence."

The document's eight pages, which include embarrassing instructions on how to differentiate between different yet related terms ("it is possible," "it may be so," "one must not remove from the equation," and "it's reasonable to assume"), enable the ayatollahs' nuclear and operations officials and the heads of the Revolutionary Guards to reach this soothing conclusion — from their point of view: The Americans have no understanding of what is really happening in Iran's nuclear program. They have no solid information, they have no high-level agents and they have nothing more than a mix of guesswork and chatter. The dissemblance and concealment have succeeded, and the real dispute is not between Washington and Tehran, but within the U.S. administration itself.

Burned by the White House (and CIA director George Tenet) in the run-up to the unjustified invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence analysts are covering their asses this time by admitting that they have no evidence that Iran is currently building bombs.

There's still hope for Dick Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Israel) and other war hawks pushing for a pre-emptive strike. As Oren says:

The CIA is so angry with Bush, it seems, that it is ready to go to great lengths in order to help another president. Not Ahmadinejad, God forbid, but the next president in Washington. The result is likely to be the opposite: Higher Iranian militancy along with Bush and Cheney's determination to act — regardless of what the intelligence agencies say.

If you doubt Cheney's determination, go back and read Seymour Hersh's January 2005 New Yorker article, "The Coming Wars."

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