By Dave Lindorff
President Bush got run off the track by the CIA analysts over at the Langley, who apparently, after being trampled by Vice President Dick Cheney and his Neo-Con and AIPAC-backed hordes into twisting intelligence into lies about Iraq’s non-existent nuclear and WMD programs in 2002, decided that they wouldn’t do the same thing this time on Iran for two lame-duck warmongers.
Instead of hyping Iran’s centrifuges, which are churning out low-level nuclear fuel-grade uranium, and warning darkly of Iran being in the midst of some clandestine campaign to build a nuclear weapons capability, the analysts this time told the truth: that the evidence, public and secret, openly available and clandestinely obtained, shows that Iran ceased any nuclear weapons R&D efforts in 2003, and has done nothing since to revive them.
They said that the available evidence shows that while Iran could always risk world opprobrium and sanctions and restart its nuclear weapons program, it is years and years away from making a working nuke, even if it started today—and there is little likelihood that the country will start such a project.
The consensus opinion not just of the CIA, but also of 15 other US intelligence agencies, is that even if Iran were to decide tomorrow to start up its nuclear weapons program, it would take until 2015 for the country to produce enough plutonium or enriched U235 to make even one bomb.
To make their assessment clear, the authors of the latest National Intelligence Assessment on Iran resorted to boldfaced print to state: "This NIE does not [italics in original] assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons."
This document, which was ordered up by Congress, has to be a serious blow to the plans of Bush and Cheney, who have been gunning for Iran for several years now, ever since Bush labeled the country part of his “Axis of Evil.”
Last fall, Bush and Cheney had appeared on the verge of launching an air assault on Iran’s nuclear research and development complex, ordering the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier battle fleet to sea early following its refueling and refitting at Newport News, in time for it to join other Naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Seas including the Enterprise carrier group and even a fleet of minesweepers on the eve of the 2006 elections. That criminal plan, which I wrote about in the Nation at the time, appears to have been blocked by Republican elders and perhaps senior military brass (who apparently prevailed on former Secretary of State James Baker, who with former Rep. Lee Hamilton was heading up the Iraq Study Group, charged with coming up with a way out of the Iraq quagmire) to pull Bush’s and Cheney’s leash. Baker and Hamilton had all along vowed not to issue any preliminary hints of their study group’s conclusions, saying that it would all be released in January 2007. But suddenly and seemingly inexplicably, they announced in October that they were going to conclude that the only way out of Iraq was for the US to begin negotiations with Syria and Iran to broker a peace in Iraq.
That early report release pulled the rug out of any plan for an Iran attack.
Since then, Bush and Cheney have labored mightily to ratchet up public fears of Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions, with Bush most recently warning of “World War III” if Iran so much as gained the “knowledge” of how to build nuclear weapons. Naval forces have again been built up, tankers full of bunker oil and aircraft fuel were dispatched to the region, and the talk has increasingly been of a US pre-emptive attack (with the corporate media for the most part playing willing cheerleader again. Newsweek magazine even reported word that Cheney had gone behind the State Department’s back to importune Israel to attack Iran, so as to provoke retaliation and thus drag the US into a war (talk about impeachable treasonout behavior, though Newsweek didn’t label it as such!).
Republican candidates for the presidential nomination, with the noted exception of fund-raising giant Rep. Ron Paul, have been trying to outdo each other in calling for an attack. And on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, ever the tough guy, voted in the Senate to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a “global terrorist organization”—a clear signal to Bush that it would be okay if he launched attacks on their bases.
Then came this NIE, like a knife in a hot-air balloon, deflating the whole project.
The embarrassment among the war-mongering would-be presidents of both parties is palpable.
But not so Bush.
While it is clear that he and Cheney have known for several months at least, and perhaps for years, that their intelligence agencies had concluded Iran had no nuclear program, and that there was no case for attacking Iran, Bush is pushing the big lie that he only just saw this NIE.
Bush is also trying to argue, incredibly, that the NIE is cause for alarm. A day after release of the report—which Cheney had tried desperately to alter for the past year, and which the administration tried unsuccessfully to block from public view—Bush insisted that Iran is “dangerous,” and claimed, against all logic, that the NIE should be seen as a “warning signal.” Under questioning from reporters, he refused to renounce the possible use of force against Iran.