Commentary Magazine


Intelligence Gamesmanship

Rich Lowry observes that the discovery of the secret Iranian nuclear facility puts a stake through the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which was vilified at the time by conservatives. (Thomas Joscelyn: “As many noted at the time, the language and logic of the NIE were nonsensical. There were transparent flaws in its analysis, including the arbitrary decision to set aside concerns over Iran’s overt uranium enrichment and ballistic missile development efforts — both of which continued apace.”) That would be the same NIE report that was heralded by Obama and his fellow liberals.

Lowry writes:

In November 2007, US intelligence agencies wrote a National Intelligence Estimate concluding, “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” . . .

The 2007 NIE had a very circumscribed definition of a weapons program, but it included “covert conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work.” Exactly what Qom is for. What do the Iranians have to do to convince US intelligence they have a weapons program?

Iran has been very lucky in its watchdogs. The 2007 NIE, which stands exposed as about as worthless as then-CIA Director George Tenet’s prewar talk of a “slam-dunk” on Iraq’s WMD, crushed any thought of the politically weakened Bush administration moving against Iran. And the punch-pulling International Atomic Energy Agency has been suppressing damaging material, concerned more with forestalling a conflict over Iran’s nuclear program than forestalling the program itself.

But apparently at some point not even the Obama team bought the NIE’s conclusions. Obama after all was quick to admit that Iran’s Qom facility wasn’t configured for peaceful uses. And the ever changing and highly suspect conclusions about Iran’s nuclear intentions keep dribbling out. The Iranians aren’t much interested in long-range missile development, we were told—a conclusion that fit (magically!) with the Obama team’s fervent desire to give something away (missile defense) to butter up Putin.

We are left with only one conclusion: the incessant reassurances that we have little to fear from Iran are the product of wishful thinking and a high degree of “self-delusion,” as Lowry puts it. Unfortunately, the intelligence bureaucracy that churns out the feel-good estimates has a willing consumer for its defective product in the president. He is only too eager to believe what is being peddled  — or ignore what’s unhelpful.

The public and our allies, however, are waking up to the gamesmanship here—and may begin to wonder why the president isn’t the least bit upset that the intelligence community got it exactly wrong in 2007. When that happened under Bush, we had a torrent of outrage and a mob of investigative committees. Yet hardly a peep here. Funny how that works.

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