Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 5, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

NEW INFORMATION....Greg Miller of the LA Times provides another account of the new information that surfaced this summer about Iran's nuclear bomb program:

According to current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter, the information that surfaced this summer included intercepted conversations of Iranian officials discussing the country's nuclear weapons program, as well as a journal from an Iranian source that documented decisions to shut it down.

....Officials declined to discuss the new intelligence publicly, citing the need to protect sources and methods. But current and former officials provided basic descriptions of it, saying that the intercepts were of a series of conversations involving an Iranian official "complaining in 2007 about the suspension of the military program in 2003."

Another was described as a journal or diary by an Iranian "involved in the management of the military program," a former official said. One source said the diary came from a defector, but other intelligence officials said that was not the case.

Just passing this along FYI.

Kevin Drum 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

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Comments

This account is plausible. Among other things it would explain why an NIE that had been reported held up because administration officials objected to some of its dissenting views on Iranian nuclear issues eventually presented consensus views that directly contradicted statements by the President and Vice President on a subject of great importance.

I cannot offhand recall a similar incident, certainly not in the recent past. Most Presidents would have adjusted their message in light of this kind of information, if only to avoid looking foolish; Bush didn't, and now he looks like he was repeating the mistake of hyping a non-existent threat.

Posted by: Zathras on December 5, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

The only result I'm looking for now is seeing Bush's and the Republican's core support of 23% shrink into the teen's now, if not into single digit numbers.
How anyone with a brain, much less half a brain would still say, "oh yeah, Bush is our man!" without their colon sprinting up through the torso to throttle the brain that would think it.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on December 5, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

How anyone with a brain, much less half a brain would still say, "oh yeah, Bush is our man!" without their colon sprinting up through the torso to throttle the brain that would think it.

Hmmm...I'll have to run that by my proctologist.

Posted by: JM on December 5, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

How anyone with a brain, much less half a brain would still say, "oh yeah, Bush is our man!"

Because the authors of the report are hyper-partisan! One of them was from the State Department -- you know, those weenies who think diplomacy is better than war. Another one was from that hotbed of Communism, the CIA! Don't you guys listen to Rush? Jeebus. I tremble.

Posted by: thersites on December 5, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

intercepted conversations of Iranian officials discussing the country's nuclear weapons program

Doesn't this kind of reporting jeopardize our intel gathering?

I'm glad the NIE summary came out.
Watching Bush move through half a dozen emotional states in his press conference yesterday was quite bizarre.

Posted by: editor on December 5, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Ahem thersites ........ watch out who you call weenie!

Posted by: optical weenie on December 5, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

That account is bogus.

...Similarly, Scott Horton blogs for Harpers that a "highly reliable intelligence community source" told him: "The NIE has been in substantially the form in which it was finally submitted for more than six months. The White House, and particularly Vice President Cheney, used every trick in the book to stop it from being finalized and issued. There was no last minute breakthrough that caused the issuance of the assessment."...

Check page 5 of Froomkin's column which also quotes Sy Hersh debunking the spin on "last minute new information."

Posted by: Mike on December 5, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Drat! I see above link http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2005/04/11/LI2005041100879.html not working.

I should add that this NIE throws the entire Republican 2008 election strategy into disarray. They were planning to hype this issue and claim that Democrats were soft on Iran thereby smearing the candidate and getting some war-making approval from the Democratic Congress. It would have been 2002 redux, only now it has been stymied.

Posted by: Mike on December 5, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush principle is to start with policy, then adjust intelligence and interpret law to achieve goals.

Posted by: Luther on December 5, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder why they stopped the program. If they did it as a result of sanctions from the west, why didn't they prove it in 2003 so the sanctions could be relieved? Didn't we liberate Iraq about the same time?

Posted by: TruthPolitik on December 5, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

As to why the Iranians decided to quit developing nuclear weapons in 2003; the U.S. invaded Iraq and the Iranians weren't certain that that invasion wasn't just a springboard to an attack on them. And that left them facing a dilemma: if the U.S. invasion was simply a preliminary to an attack on Iran, then there was no need to continue developing atomic weapons, they wouldn't be ready for a decade. On the other hand. all that money could be used for other military purposes: materiel, training, hardware, computers, and on and on.
I think I'm correct in remembering that it was only in the past 12-18 months that Iran has recommenced its nuclear research. That was about the time that it became quite obvious that the U.S. was bogged down in Iraq and would probably remain so for the next several years. So it was time to recommence nuclear research. Nuclear power would begin the process of moving Iran nearer to nuclear weapons if they decided to go that route again.
Of course, once one has a bomb, you still need some way to deliver it and that will add another 5-10 years.
So, even if Iran is beginning nuclear research with an aim of building a reactor, further research will be needed to add to that knowledge in order to fabricate nuclear arms. And then they still need to develop a method of delivery.
And all that explains why Cheyney did his best to gut the NIE; Iran is one to two decades away from developing nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them. Now how's he going to get his war?

Posted by: Doug on December 5, 2007 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq hasn't been liberated. It's still being occupied by a hostile foreign power.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on December 5, 2007 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

TruthPolitic: At the time Iran supposedly stopped work on their military nuclear program, The US had just completed successful invasions of the neighboring countries on either side of them in a matter of weeks. In the case of Iraq, it took Iran 8 years to repel Iraq's attempted invasion. Yet the US wiped out Iraq in 3 weeks. At that time, Iran sent a message of a willingness to negotiate "across the board" with the US through the French Embassy. But Cheney had other plans.

So, yes, they approached us & were turned down.

Actually, I'm not convinced Iran had a military program prior to 2003. But that is another story, & it makes no difference since they are learning how to process high grade uranium as we speak.

Posted by: bob in fla on December 5, 2007 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

TruthPolitik: Wonder why they stopped the program.

wingnut logic: either the n.i.e. is a lie...or bush should get credit for iran stopping their nuclear bomb program.

Posted by: mr. irony on December 6, 2007 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK
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