Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Missing the Target on the NIE

This is funny, just noticed I got linked from a "senior blogger" at HuffPo, some guy I've never heard from (and I've been at the blogging and writing online for more than a decade) - and he called me a "junior blogger" who's wrapped up in consistency issues. To wit:
The main line of response against the news from the U.S. intelligence community that Iran's nuclear weapon program is not fearful boils down to one word: Iraq. We overestimated on Iraq, therefore, we're probably underestimating on Iran. Check out Gabriel Schoenfeld at Commentary:
...the latest NIE is not a rock-solid judgment, and as we have already seen in a number of other dramatic instances, even the intelligence community's rock-solid judgments might not be solid at all.
To further the idea that consistency is the hobgoblin of the little minds, another junior blogger (that would be me) echoes this principle:
From overestimating the threat, we're going in the polar opposite direction, and being wrong in underestimating the situation is just as dangerous - if not more so.
Roston doesn't get it. He thinks the solution to this is "Let's Make a Deal." Indeed, he closes the post with that exact statement.

Iran doesn't want just deals. It wants to go and get nuclear weapons, and the NIE doesn't even rule that out - it simply says that based on what limited intel the US intel agencies have at present, they think they've held off developing nukes until after 2009, and from that point it might be another two years before Iran is nuclear.

In the meantime, how is the US intel agencies spinning the fact that Iran's centrifuges continue spinning away? They don't address this, other than to say that they think that Iran has shelved the nuclear weapons approach for now, based on their current intel, the reliability of which may not be rock solid.

Let's also ignore the repeated statements by Iran's leadership calling for the destruction of Israel, the demise of the US, and numerous statements on the further implementation of enrichment cascades that refine uranium into an enriched state that can be used in nuclear weapons.

That's the hat on which the left thinks that Iran is no longer a threat? Color me unconvinced.

Roston may consider himself a senior blogger, but by no means is he a senior thinker. He's clearly out of his league in understanding the Islamist ideology behind the Iranian regime, which takes a long term view of its war against the West and its Sunni enemies within the Middle East. He also ignores the bureaucratic nature of CYA within the intel agencies.

Roston also ignores what the NIE itself states about Iran's nuclear infrastructure as I summarized
The NIE goes on to note that enrichment at Natanz is likely to continue, but the amount of weapons grade material isn't likely to be sufficient for a nuclear weapon until the first half of the next decade.

It would be nice to trust this, but US intel has been shaky on determining what is going on in the Iranian regime, and if there are covert facilities, Iran's technical capabilities would be far more difficult to gauge.
The NIE also states that Iran continues to work on its technical capabilities in related fields (including missile tech). How exactly is that not an ongoing threat that must be dealt with? If Roston wants to punt this down the road, that's one thing, but to consider that diplomacy in the face of a regime that has been recalcitrant and has refused to open up its entire nuclear program to inspections is going to gain results is to believe in the tooth fairy. Iran will continue in its nuclear work, regardless of whether the US intel agencies think that the work is going on or not.

As it is, the Israelis believe the Iranians are continuing their work on nuclear weapons, notwithstanding the US position. They have much more reason to fear a nuclear Iran - as it would take on a handful of weapons to obliterate the Jewish State of Israel (and radiate the rest of the region rendering it a wasteland). Israeli Defense Minister Barak is correct to note the Iranian threat even as the diplomats counsel talking with Iran. Iran's leaders see diplomacy as a sign of weakness in resolve, and will exploit this.

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