Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Iranian Scientists’ Goals Should Be No Secret

The Drudge Report is including a link to an Israel National News story quoting an Iranian press report in which the widow of an Iranian nuclear scientist acknowledged that her husband sought “Israel’s annihilation.” Even before Drudge amplified it into headline news, this was a story that the keen eye of Jonathan Tobin had earlier picked up. But, it’s hardly the first time that Iranian officials intimately involved in their covert nuclear and ballistic missile programs have made this admission. In November 2011, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Gen. Hassan Tehrani-Moghadam died in a mysterious explosion that flattened the missile facility in which he worked. The Iranian press subsequently published his last will and testament, a document in which he requested the epitaph, “This is the grave of someone who wanted to destroy Israel.”

There’s a school of foreign policy thought predominant in the United States which teaches officials to ignore rhetoric. This would be a mistake, one which should have been corrected after the George H.W. Bush administration and the State Department largely ignored Saddam Hussein’s threats against Kuwait, only to learn that the dictator actually meant what he said.

In government and intelligence circles, there is a persistent problem in which people cleared to read high level intelligence spend disproportionate time leafing through intercepts to the exclusion of the open-source material—newspapers and television transcripts—for which everyone is cleared. Intelligence is 90 percent open source, so to focus on the ten percent to the exclusion of the rest gives a skewed perspective. It is time the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency realize that when the Iranian regime says something in Persian, it might mean it, even if no one is around to translate it into English and even if it was only said in a national newspaper rather than a hurried cell phone call.

Ignoring rhetoric because they come through unclassified media is intelligence incompetence, but dismissing what the Iranians say becomes policy malpractice of the highest order.