October 20, 2017

Iran Watch – December 7, 2007

[spoiler title=”The flaws in the Iran report”] The Washington Post
By John R. Bolton
Thursday, December 6, 2007; Page A29
Rarely has a document from the supposedly hidden world of intelligence had such an impact as the National Intelligence Estimate released this week. Rarely has an administration been so unprepared for such an event. And rarely have vehement critics of the “intelligence community” on issues such as Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction reversed themselves so quickly.

All this shows that we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than “intelligence” analysis, and too many in Congress and the media are happy about it. President Bush may not be able to repair his Iran policy (which was not rigorous enough to begin with) in his last year, but he would leave a lasting legacy by returning the intelligence world to its proper function.

Consider these flaws in the NIE’s “key judgments,” which were made public even though approximately 140 pages of analysis, and reams of underlying intelligence, remain classified.

First, the headline finding — that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 — is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between “military” and “civilian” programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran’s “civilian” program that posed the main risk of a nuclear “breakout.”

The real differences between the NIEs are not in the hard data but in the psychological assessment of the mullahs’ motives and objectives. The current NIE freely admits to having only moderate confidence that the suspension continues and says that there are significant gaps in our intelligence and that our analysts dissent from their initial judgment on suspension. This alone should give us considerable pause.

Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux. As undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003, I know we were nowhere near exerting any significant diplomatic pressure on Iran. Nowhere does the NIE explain its logic on this critical point. Moreover, the risks and returns of pursuing a diplomatic strategy are policy calculations, not intelligence judgments. The very public rollout in the NIE of a diplomatic strategy exposes the biases at work behind the Potemkin village of “intelligence.”

Third, the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. We have lost many fruitful sources inside Iraq in recent years because of increased security and intelligence tradecraft by Iran. The sudden appearance of new sources should be taken with more than a little skepticism. In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was “possible” but not “likely” that the new information they were relying on was deception. These are hardly hard scientific conclusions. One contrary opinion came from — of all places — an unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency official, quoted in the New York Times, saying that “we are more skeptical. We don’t buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran.” When the IAEA is tougher than our analysts, you can bet the farm that someone is pursuing a policy agenda.

Fourth, the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the overvaluation of the most recent piece of data. In the bureaucracy, where access to information is a source of rank and prestige, ramming home policy changes with the latest hot tidbit is commonplace, and very deleterious. It is a rare piece of intelligence that is so important it can conclusively or even significantly alter the body of already known information. Yet the bias toward the new appears to have exerted a disproportionate effect on intelligence analysis.

Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran’s nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as “intelligence judgments.”

That such a flawed product could emerge after a drawn-out bureaucratic struggle is extremely troubling. While the president and others argue that we need to maintain pressure on Iran, this “intelligence” torpedo has all but sunk those efforts, inadequate as they were. Ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.

John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad.” He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Christopher Booker: Iranians freed from ban”] By Christopher Booker12:01AM GMT 02 Dec 2007

Iranian dissidents freed from Straw’s ‘perverse’ ban

In a street off London’s Chancery Lane on Friday 400 Iranians celebrated a court victory that has left the British Government in a deep double embarassment. Not only were ministers found to have acted illegally in outlawing the chief Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), as a terrorist organisation; they now face searching questions from their EU colleagues as to why they have twice incited the European Council to a unique act of defiance by ignoring a ruling from the European Court of Justice. At the heart of this shameful story lies one of the most baffling riddles of contemporary politics: why should our Government have repeatedly acted in breach of the law, to appease the murderous regime in Teheran, which has played a key part in arming the insurgents who are killing British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan?

This murky tale goes back to 2001 when Jack Straw, as home secretary, branded the PMOI, alongside al-Qa’eda, as a terrorist organisation. As Straw himself admitted in 2006, he did this “at the behest of the Teheran regime”. The PMOI is part of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), backed by millions of Iranians who want to see their country transformed into a democratic, secular state, freed from the tyranny of the mullahs and the murder squads of their Revolutionary Guards, who have shot, mutilated or hanged more than 100,000 supporters of the NCRI since 1979.
In 2002, at British instigation, the EU added the PMOI to its own list of terrorist groups, a decision that last December was finally ruled “unlawful” by the ECJ. Unprecedentedly, in January, again at British instigation, the Council of the European Union agreed to defy the ruling of its own court, a decision it confirmed last June – even though by then the Foreign Office admitted the Revolutionary Guards were actively aiding the insurgents fighting British forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In August, 35 MPs and peers, led by former ministers, including Lord Waddington, a former home secretary, asked the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Committee, a branch of the High Court, to rule that the proscription of the PMOI was unlawful. Their lawyers produced a mass of evidence to show that the PMOI was not a terrorist organisation. The Home Office could produce no evidence to show that it was anything other than a non-violent movement campaigning for democracy.

On Friday all three judges ruled in the PMOI’s favour, finding that the Home Office had ignored important facts, misunderstood the law and reached a “perverse” decision. It told the Home Secretary to lay an order before Parliament removing the PMOI from its list. Home Officer minister Tom McNulty weakly responded that the Government would seek leave to appeal.

The ruling deepens Britain’s embarrassment in Europe, where it has twice successfully incited the EU to defy the verdict of its own court. In June, when Britain persuaded the Council to uphold its earlier decision, this was against the wishes of more than 1,000 politicians of all parties across the EU, including 234 MEPs and the Italian and Danish parliaments.

The fact that our Government has been shown to have acted illegally all along, to appease a regime which glories in hanging its political opponents in public, should persuade the rest of the EU finally to recognise how grotesquely it has been misled by British ministers, and to reverse its shameful action in line with the robust ruling of a British court. A good day for British justice, but one that leaves Mr Straw and his colleagues with some very uncomfortable questions to answer.

Fantasy army leaves lingering delusions

Last week Lord Guthrie, one of the five former defence chiefs who recently berated Gordon Brown for underfunding Britain’s defences, incongruously chaired a meeting at which Bernard Jenkin MP, who was shadow defence secretary in 2001-03, tried to provide the Tory party with a proper defence policy. Mr Jenkin’s paper was eloquent about the political damage done to our defence effort by the now fast-waning infatuation with the proposed “European army”, but was hopelessly adrift on its most serious consquence – the way that the astronomic sums earmarked for “big toy” projects for those fantasy forces of the future left our troops hopelessly ill-equipped for the counter-insurgency wars they are actually involved in.

We were quite happy to chuck billions at such projects as FRES (latest cost, £16 billion), the electronically sophisticated vehicles intended to help us play our part in the European Rapid Reaction Force. And, at the time, no one was keener on such fantasies than Lord Guthrie and his chief of the general staff, Sir Mike Jackson. Even Mr Jenkin, however, still imagines we should pay £60 million each for more Apache helicopters (designed for tank-busting, not strafing the Taliban), when for £5 million apiece we could buy Tucano fixed-wing aircraft far more suited to insurgency warfare. Tory backbencher Ann Winterton, who knows more about defence than her entire front bench put together, last week established from the Ministry of Defence that the running cost of an Apache is £46,000 an hour (more than four times that of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet). That of a Tucano is £5,000 an hour. Rather than add £15 billion to the defence budget, as Mr Jenkin urges, we could save £16 billion by cancelling the useless FRES, then spend much less on infinitely more effective equipment designed for the type of war we are actually having to fight.

Prince falls for vanishing islands myth

I am sorry that in his recent speech on global warming, Prince Charles should have fallen for one of the most familiar of the “urban myths” used to promote panic over climate change, when he referred to rising sea levels engulfing the tiny Pacific islands of Tuvalu (formerly part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands and still loyal to his mother as their Queen). It is 15 years since we were first told that the Tuvaluans would be among the first “global warming refugees” as their homes sank beneath the waves. In 2001, however, a detailed study published in Science revealed that, far from rising, the sea levels around Tuvalu had in fact been sinking for decades, by as much as a foot. Even if the Pacific were to rise to the maximum degree predicted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the 12,000 Tuvaluans would not see their sea level back to where it was 50 years ago until 2050.
Galileo faces inquisition only from Spanish.

Two weeks ago a Commons committee under Gwyneth Dunwoody MP savaged the EU’s ill-starred Galileo satellite scheme, due to cost UK taxpayers £1.7 billion, suggesting that it might be better if it was scrapped altogether.

Even Britain has called for a proper cost-benefit analysis of this “vanity project” which so far has put not a single operational satellite in space and is running years late. Yet last Thursday our transport minister, Rosie Winterton, meekly trotted over to a meeting in Brussels to help nod Gaileo through to its next stage, by 26 votes to one. Only Spain opposed it. Such is the contempt in which ministers now hold the views of our MPs.

View Source Here [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Doves find fault with Iran report too”] Some experts fear the intelligence estimate will sap international pressure to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons.

By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 7, 2007

WASHINGTON – The new U.S. intelligence report that says Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 is suddenly raising concerns among the political center and left, as well as conservatives who have long called for a hard line against the Islamic Republic.

Moderate and liberal foreign policy experts said that U.S. intelligence agencies, possibly eager to demonstrate independence from White House political pressure, may have produced a National Intelligence Estimate that is more reassuring than it should be on the potential risks of the Iranian nuclear program.

The report, made public Monday, contradicted the Bush administration’s assertion that Iran has been secretly working to build nuclear weapons. It also found that Tehran, which says it is enriching uranium solely for civilian energy purposes, appears to have a pragmatic view and has responded to outside pressure and economic sanctions, in contrast to characterizations by administration hawks. [/spoiler] [spoiler title=”Iranian ‘terror’ groups”] By Dick Armey
December 4, 2007

As the debate rages over a realistic response to the critical threat that Iran poses to our national security – in Congress, in the Bush administration and between the candidates who hope to preside over the next administration – it’s time to finally unwind a major policy contradiction that has unnecessarily tied us in knots when it comes to facing down the threat from Tehran.

With a stroke of a pen, the secretary of state could, and should, remove the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

This simple but resolute step would turn the tables on the Iranian regime and, at the same time, send a strong signal to freedom-loving Iranians that we support a moderate, secular and democratic Iran.

Too often, our options regarding Iran are cast in terms of either trying to “engage” the mullahs of Tehran in fruitless diplomacy or embarking on another costly war. Overlooked in these tired arguments is the far more effective alternative of supporting Iran’s fledgling pro-democracy movement by removing the leading Iranian resistance organizations from the terrorist list, where they never belonged in the first place. [/spoiler]