Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ambiguous House Intelligience Report on Iran

We have irrational people in the Bush Administration and irrational supporters outside the administration anxious to create conditions for war with Iran. Bush's position, as usual, remains unclear. It appears that once again we may be considering a war without enough intelligence to justify the decision. In the meantime, sanctions are being considered against Iran if it doesn't halt its nuclear program which may not produce a nuclear bomb for some five to ten years down the road. To add more confusion, Richard Cowan of The Washington Post has an article on the House Intelligence Committee whose staff has issued a report on Iran:
The U.S. intelligence community is ill-prepared to assess Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities and its intentions for developing weapons of mass destruction, a congressional report said on Wednesday.

Noting "significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the various areas of concern about Iran," the House Intelligence Committee staff report questioned whether the United States could even effectively engage in talks with Tehran on ways to diffuse tensions.

The Bush administration said it was handling the problem.

Handling the problem? Why am I not reassured when I hear a line like that from Bush and his crew? Handling the problem implies a level of competence we haven't seen for some years from the White House. Cowan's article frankly sounds like another slap at an intelligence community that got far more right on Iraq than Bush's gut feelings or Cheney selective cherry-picking but maybe he's simply reporting the Republican view from Congress which, on first glance, doesn't know if there's too little intelligence to justify attacking Iran or too little intelligence not to attack Iran. What a wonderfully vague characterization of the report if that's the intent!

Now let's go back to the paragraph before that where we read, "the ... report questioned whether the United States could even effectively engage in talks with Tehran on ways to diffuse tension." That is a staggering assertion. I can't even excuse it on the possibility that they're just talking about Iran's nuclear program. They're talking about knowing enough to diffuse tensions. If you're trying to get the Iranians to stop their enrichment program after four and a half years of calling them members of the axis of evil and surrounding them on three sides and talking openly about using nuclear weapons, maybe you're underestimating the possibility that negotiations can lower tensions.

The current crop of Republicans in Washington seem to quickly forget their history. How much did we know about China back in 1972 when we started talking to them? How much did FDR know about the Russians when he effectively turned them into allies in World War Two? Although not a great example of effective negotiation, how much did even Oliver North know when he arranged to talk to Iranians during the Reagan Administration? In case anyone hasn't noticed, we're not doing all that well in Iraq. It's not even clear what we're doing there anymore. We need negotiations with all of Iraq's neighbors so that our blunders don't lead to a wider conflict. One of those neighbors happens to be Iran. So yes, you stop kidding yourself and you negotiate with them as well.

Maybe we'll get a satisfactory explanation of this report in the next day or two. The reality is that in 2002 we had significant intelligence on Iraq. It's just too bad nobody in the Bush inner circle bothered to read it, though neoconservatives, for their own reasons, convinced themselves fifteen years ago what it ought to say. When it comes to Iran, we cannot afford another round of 'flawed intelligence' and ideological assumptions and oops, stuff happens.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Tom Oliphant discussed this report during his regular guest shot on Al Franken's Air America show this morning.

In Oliphant's estimation, the report is utterly meaningless and worthless. He said it's not worth the relatively short amount of time required to read it.

This comes as no surprise. I remain convinced that the U.S. House of Representatives has earned the distinction of being the sorriest excuse for a legislative body in the country.

It's so bad, in fact, that if neocons really, honestly and sincerely wanted to do something to advance the cause of democracy, they would make every effort to replace the House leadership and turn most of the their fellow neocon Republicans House members out of office.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

S.W., your suggestion sounds reasonable.

It looks like a Cheney hack was responsible for the latest 'report.' Our Republican Congress can't seem to manage to write its own reports these days.

5:55 PM  

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