The US Government has decided the Iranian nuclear program is not what the politicians thought it might be – an excuse to try and thump Tehran. I can imagine the intelligence analysts who put that assessment together must have been in a number of minds about publishing their National Intelligence Estimate. Which you can find at the site of the Director of National Intelligence. On the one hand intelligence estimate track records on Iran are not real pretty – events in 1979 still haunt parts of the inner Beltway. Who wants to be the analyst making a call on Tehran only to get it wrong? Especially if fellow citizens are killed as a result of your very fine desk work? Then again making an erroneous call on Tehran only to discover that a program really does exist after Tel Aviv turns to glass as the sun comes up over the Med one clear and still morning is not a good career move either. Someone on the other side of the table would have been reminding his colleagues that a “call” on a WMD program (which, by the way, can be rapidly dissolved if the heat is turned up and UN inspectors start sniffing around) and asking General Powell to hang himself in that noose is not a healthy move up the ranks either. Analysts who wrote up any assessment that lit Dubya’s fuse and had him scrambling the jets could only later rue their work and start looking for jobs in New Mexico roadside diners if it all went pear shaped. All in all it must have been a very interesting thing to watch, from the initial desk note from some intrepid analyst, through to the hand-wringing of those who decided to back the argument. On the other hand one has to wonder if the whole assessment isn’t completely skewed from the bottom up, given recent experience in Iraq. Intelligence analysis is rarely an objective exercise at the best of times. Analysis in the current climate will be weighed down with all sorts of psychoses, of which Washington does a very fine job of cultivating.
While the “National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are the Intelligence Community’s (IC) most authoritative written judgments on national security issues and designed to help US civilian and military leaders develop policies to protect US national security interests” you should take heed of the key word in the title – Estimate. Which is always a bob each way and nothing concrete in my experience. And besides, any Washington policy analyst wonk who wants to turn “estimate” into “estimative” is still capable of recommending Dubya go try and beat up on Tehran. In my book now is not the time to be making any bets on what the warmongers inside the Beltway will attempt to do.
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