[The following is a guest post from “TigerHawk,” cross-posted here with permission from Richard, who is on the road. The story seems important, and has received scant attention in the media or blogosphere.]
Most political blog readers will remember the storm of controversy that erupted in early December 2007, when a new American “National Intelligence Assessment” claimed that Iran had stopped development of a nuclear weapon in 2003. The New York Times wrote that “[rarely], if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here.” Blogs exploded.
Lefty blogs rejoiced. At the Daily Kos diarists mocked Bush, Cheney, McCain, Romney, and Huckabee for having taken various hawkish positions on the subject. The Booman Tribune claimed vindication, having “spent a lot of electrons over the last year writing to you about a committed and sustained misinformation campaign to suggest that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.” Crooks and Liars wrote that “[i]f it’s possible to make Bush look any stupider—the new NIE report on certainly Iran does.” At the HuffPo, Jon Soltz declared “World War III plans stymied by National Intelligence Estimate.” And so forth. There are literally hundreds of similar posts.
So imagine my interest to see the Los Angeles Times report that the intelligence agencies have reversed themselves again; (bold emphasis added):
Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.
In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.
Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”
The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.
Substantively, Iran hawks should rejoice. The Obama administration is clearly going to great lengths to educate Congressional liberals and the public at large on the danger posed by Iran. The point, presumably, is to dispose of the lefty canard that Iran is a fundamentally peaceful country caught in a security dilemma of American construct. It also commits Obama to an aggressive (even if non-military) posture toward Iran, which is comforting to those of us who believe that we need a hardball, if nuanced, strategy for containing, deterring, and, if necessary, interdicting the Islamic Republic.
Procedurally, this episode is going to reinforce the view of conservatives that after Iraq, at least, the intelligence agencies undermined the Bush administration at each opportunity. If there was “politicization” of intelligence during the Bush years, it cut against Bush policies more than it facilitated them.
Snarkily, we are waiting for all those lefty blogs to deliberate thoughtfully about whether the December 2007 report, which the Bushies nefariously “suppressed” for a year after its development, might have itself been the “intelligence failure.” Perhaps it is important for a president to question the judgments of the bureaucracy.
Finally, we note that the LAT story appeared more than 36 hours ago with virtually no follow-up in the mainstream media or the blogosphere. It seems like a pretty big story, and a heckuva lot more important than, for example, the ins-and-outs of Judd Gregg’s withdrawal.