Panetta vs. the Intelligence Community?

(Hat tip to Eric H) CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta, the self-described “creature of congress,” appears to have brushed aside the collective findings of the intelligence community regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. At his Senate confirmation hearings yesterday, fellow democrat, Senator Evan Bayh asked: “Is it your belief that Iran is seeking a nuclear military capability? Or are their interests solely limited to the civilian sphere?”
Panetta then replied, “From all the information that I’ve seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”
By contrast, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, issuing the collective view of 16 different US intelligence agencies, found that,

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program…. We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.”

For all of the problems of the intelligence community, a veteran insider wisely warned me 20 years ago that, “the worst thing that can happen to the intelligence process is if analysts tailor their reports to please perceived wishes of their political masters. Former DIA chief Pat Lang famously called it, “drinking the koolaid.”
If I were a Senator in follow-up hearings, I’d want to press Congressman Panetta to see what he really meant. Does he know something about Iran’s nuclear programs since 2007? Was he misunderstanding a leading question? Does he come into office disagreeing with the considered understanding not just of the CIA, but of the entire intelligence community? Does he intend to require those he would supervise to re-write their reports to match pre-formed conclusions?

38 thoughts on “Panetta vs. the Intelligence Community?

  1. John Francis Lee

    Whistling past the Afghan graveyard
    …What made this whole process so remarkable was that there was no other superpower to ambush them in Afghanistan, as the US had once done to the Soviet Union. George W Bush’s crew, it turned out, didn’t need another superpower, not when they were perfectly capable of driving themselves off that Afghan cliff and into the graveyard below with no more help than Osama bin Laden could muster…
    …For all their differences with Bush’s first-term neo-cons, here’s what the Obama team still has in common with them – and it’s no small thing: they still think the US won the Cold War. They still haven’t accepted that they can’t, even if in a subtler fashion than the Busheviks, control how this world spins; they still can’t imagine that the United States of America, as an imperial power, could possibly be heading for the exits…
    …Right now, Washington is whistling past the graveyard. In Afghanistan and Pakistan the question is no longer whether the US is in command, but whether it can get out in time. If not, when the moment for a bailout comes, don’t expect the other pressed powers of the planet to do for Washington what it has been willing to do for the John Thains of our world. The Europeans are already itching to get out of town. The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Indians … who exactly will ride to our rescue?
    The question is not how a “well informed, bright, and intellectually agile” song and dance man like Barak Obama could have surrounded himself with ill-informed, dim, intellectual paraplegics. That’s easy to answer: they paid for their seats at his table. $820 billion’s worth.
    The question now is how can a well-informed, bright, and intellectually agile song and dance man like Himself not see that if he’s gonna stay then they gotta go?
    And the most amazing theoretical question is not even ours. For all of ours and our well-informed, bright, and intellectually agile superstar performer’s energies are going to be consumed in calculating just how to repatriate our troops with no-o-o-o money and how then to disarm them once they are back home.
    But it is the Israelis’ : What are they gonna do when Uncle Sam has been transformed into a cold, stone giant lying prone on the ground, staring with unseeing eyes at the luminaries on the mountainside far away in South Dakota? Smile at their neighbors and say, “Sorry we got so rough. We were only kidding. No hard feelings, right?”

  2. Don Bacon

    Panetta’s testimony is faith-based, not truth-based. Faith in Obama, that is, who has created his own reality concerning Iran.
    Mar 2, 2007: Obama: The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons
    National Intelligence Estimate, Dec 4, 2007 . . .. We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program
    IAEA Report, May 26, 2008: “The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.”
    July 25, 2008 . .Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, nearing the end of a fast-paced international campaign trip, warned Iran today, “don’t wait for the next president” to take office before yielding to Western demands to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. . .Iran poses “an extraordinarily grave situation.” He said the world must send “a clear message to Iran to end its illicit nuclear program.”
    NPT: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.”
    Sep 6, 2008 …Iran is a “major threat” and it would be “unacceptable” for the rogue nation to develop a nuclear weapon, Barack Obama said
    IAEA Report, September 15, 2008: “The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accounting reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities.”
    Oct 2, 2008 . . .Obama: “The American people weren’t just failed by a President – they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. . .I will always tell the American people the truth.”
    Nov 7, 2008 … U.S. President-elect Barack Obama said in Chicago on Friday that Iran’s development of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.
    IAEA Report on Iran, Nov 19, 2008 — “The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accounting reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities.”
    Dec 7, 2008 . . .Obama: “We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran, making very clear to them that their development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable”
    Jan 11, 2009 . . .Obama: “[Iran is] pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race.”

  3. scott h

    Thanks Don for that chronicle. I’ve been keeping a running tab on the conflicting comments from Obama re. Iran (and from the other side) Will post more on this vital subject in the coming day or two.
    Back to Panetta, this AP wire is typical of the reports focusing on his comments about torture, rendition, and current CIA officials who committed abuses.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090205/ap_on_go_co/cia_panetta
    I’m hearing a bit too much wiggle room. In effect, it appears there’s a desire to give a free pass to intel officers who were complicit in torture…. because they were following orders.
    Does that sound familiar?
    And why was it that top intel officers were advised to buy insurance to pay for future lawsuits against them for their conduct during the Bush years? No doubt it is personally very difficult for them, as they faced enormous pressures to “prevent the next 9/11″….
    But I am not on board with the push to bury the past. More on that soon too.

  4. Don Bacon

    Based on Senator Bayh’s question about Panetta’s “beliefs” perhaps the CIA should become the CBA — the Central Belief Agency, primarily concerned with American human terrain analysis and the forming of correct American beliefs (Orwell’s “Doublethink”) in support of US military imperialism and American Exceptionalism. Facts be damned — it’s full belief ahead!
    Bayh is a stalking horse for Clinton, who position has been reported by a Jewish news service:
    WASHINGTON (JTA), Feb 4: — Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Iran of “consequences” unless it cooperates with United Nations nuclear inspectors. “If Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences,” the U.S. secretary of state said Tuesday after meeting with her German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Clinton was referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog; the agency has slammed Iran for frustrating its inspections.///
    This UNTRUE charge (against the IAEA) worked with Iraq, when Clinton bought it, so why not use it again?

  5. vadim

    Actually Scott, if you read the NIE report carefully you’ll notice that it’s agnostic on Iran’s intent:
    We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons
    program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop
    nuclear weapons.

    Any reason why you left this part out?
    Obviously nothing Panetta said conflicts with a more careful and complete reading.

  6. vadim

    “we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is
    keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”
    “We assess with moderate confidence that convincing the Iranian leadership to forgo the eventual development of nuclear weapons will be difficult given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear weapons development and Iran’s key national security and foreign policy objectives, and given Iran’s considerable effort from at least the late 1980s to 2003 to develop such weapons.”

  7. Don Bacon

    Vadim,
    Any reason that part was left out? Well, yeah. The conduct of the United States, and hopefully the world community, is based on law and actions, not someone’s politically-driven perceived judgment on “intent”.
    Intelligence assessments ought to be based on the law and on facts. Iran has the legal right to pursue nuclear power and has been determined to in full compliance with the NPT as reported by the IAEA, which is the legal world body charged with such determinations. Beliefs, keeping options open and groundless assessments are not even interesting — they are worthless. Iran has repeatedly stated that it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons.
    Contrast Iran’s behavior with ME neighbor Israel’s, a non-signatory of the NPT which has developed nuclear weapons in secret. The fact that Israel has secretly developed nuclear weapons, and not developed them openly as a deterrent, indicates to me that Israel has a clear intent to use them. Perhaps the CIA will come to a similar conclusion based on its moderate-to-high confidence assessment of Israel (a little gallows humor there).

  8. vadim

    I only mentioned it Don because Scott seemed to think that the NIE said something contradictory about Iran’s “intent” where in fact the report was explicitly inconclusive.
    Iran…has been determined to in full compliance with the NPT as reported by the IAEA
    Had you read any of the IAEA’s briefs you’d know this to be incorrect. eg:
    http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2008/gov2008-59.pdf
    Iran has not implemented the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements
    General Part, Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information. Nor has Iran implemented the Additional Protocol, which is essential for the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.

    re: intent, the IAEA says this:
    E. Possible Military Dimensions
    15. There remain a number of outstanding issues, identified in the Director General’s last report to the Board (GOV/2008/38, para. 14), which give rise to concerns and need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. As indicated in the Director General’s report, for the Agency to be able to address these concerns and make progress in its efforts to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, it is essential that Iran, inter alia, provide the information and access necessary to: resolve questions related to the alleged studies; provide more information on the circumstances of the acquisition of the uranium metal document; clarify procurement and R&D activities of military related institutes and companies that could be nuclear related; and clarify the production of nuclear equipment and components by companies belonging to defence industries.

    I take it you’re in favor of all these measures?

  9. Don Bacon

    Vadim,
    Iran is under no legal requirement to comply with an additional protocol. Iran was in fact voluntarily doing so until Bush threatened Iran with attack, and now thet are in compliance witht the NPT but not with any optional protocol.
    The other issue, as was the case with Iraq, requires Iran to prove a negative, i.e. that it has no military nuclear program. (Part of this involves information found on a laptop computer that mysteriously and conveniently appeared in the posssession of the US.) As a part of this, as with Iraq, the US acting through the subverted UN is ILLEGALLY demanding that Iran
    provide the information and access necessary to: resolve questions related to the alleged studies; provide more information on the circumstances of the acquisition of the uranium metal document; clarify procurement and R&D activities of military related institutes and companies that could be nuclear related etc.
    while knowing full well that these illegal and impossible demands will be correctly be rejected by Iran, and that this correct refusal will then be a basis (as with Iraq) for war.
    The facts remain that Iran is in full compliance with the NPT and that the US subversion of the UN in demanding a halt to its legal nuclear program is an illegal poorly-disguised re-run of Iraq, the obviousness of the disguise being out-weighed in this case by US obeisance to The Lobby.

  10. Shirin

    What’s wrong with this statement?
    We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program…. We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.
    Quite simply that there is no real evidence that Israel actually HAD a nuclear weapons program in 2003 to halt, or to resume as of mid-2007.

  11. vadim

    Don, either the IAEA is making “illegal demands” or as you claimed earlier “the legal world body charged with determinations” about NPT compliance. The subsidiary arrangements to the NPT (pertaining to reactor design information) were indeed ratified by Iran in 2003. And the “uranium metal” documents were unearthed on site by IAEA inspectors in 2005 not by any US agency. The legal world body charged with such determinations has expressed “serious concern” about these facts in every one of its regular reports on Iran. Why are you suddenly questioning its motives?
    The other issue, as was the case with Iraq, requires Iran to prove a negative
    “Proving a negative” is what every watchdog agency tries to do. Though I can never prove that I’ll never break securities law, I’m still bound to SEC oversight, and to comply w/whatever measures they believe provide “credible assurance” that I continue to abide by its rules. Whether or not I think it violates my privacy, or that the SEC is staffed by vendatta-wielding Zionists, or that proving a negative is a fool’s errand. It’s the cost of doing business in regulated markets, just as NPT compliance is the cost of sharing access to nuclear materials and technology without which Iran would have NO nuclear program, civilian or military.
    Quite simply that there is no real evidence that Israel actually HAD a nuclear weapons program in 2003 to halt, or to resume as of mid-2007.
    Shirin, you clearly have Israel on the brain. Israel isn’t mentioned once in that passage, or in this post. Israel was a nuclear power well before Iran signed the NPT, before the NPT even existed. And the collective view of 16 different US intelligence agencies is that Iran DID have a nuclear weapons program in 2003. Do you know something they don’t? Are you perhaps a high ranking member of the Iranian military, masquerading as a US blogger?
    Even if this were true, like Don said you couldn’t “prove a negative.” The best the international community can hope for is credible assurances by way of consensual verification schemes. Iran consented to these measures in 2003 and — according to Mohammed El Baradei, not some rightwing bogeyman — is now breaking its promise.

  12. vadim

    Don, either the IAEA is making “illegal demands” or as you claimed earlier “the legal world body charged with determinations” about NPT compliance. The subsidiary arrangements to the NPT (pertaining to reactor design information) were indeed ratified by Iran in 2003. And the “uranium metal” documents were unearthed on site by IAEA inspectors in 2005 not by any US agency. The legal world body charged with such determinations has expressed “serious concern” about these facts in every one of its regular reports on Iran. Why are you suddenly questioning its motives?
    The other issue, as was the case with Iraq, requires Iran to prove a negative
    “Proving a negative” is what every watchdog agency tries to do. Though I can never prove that I’ll never break securities law, I’m still bound to SEC oversight, and to comply w/whatever measures they believe provide “credible assurance” that I continue to abide by its rules. Whether or not I think it violates my privacy, or that the SEC is staffed by vendatta-wielding Zionists, or that proving a negative is a fool’s errand. It’s the cost of doing business in regulated markets, just as NPT compliance is the cost of sharing access to nuclear materials and technology without which Iran would have NO nuclear program, civilian or military.
    Quite simply that there is no real evidence that Israel actually HAD a nuclear weapons program in 2003 to halt, or to resume as of mid-2007.
    Shirin, you clearly have Israel on the brain. Israel isn’t mentioned once in that passage, or in this post. Israel was a nuclear power well before Iran signed the NPT, before the NPT even existed. And the collective view of 16 different US intelligence agencies is that Iran DID have a nuclear weapons program in 2003. Do you know something they don’t? Are you perhaps a high ranking member of the Iranian military, masquerading as a US blogger?
    Even if this were true, like Don said you couldn’t “prove a negative.” The best the international community can hope for is credible assurances by way of consensual verification schemes. Iran consented to these measures in 2003 and — according to Mohammed El Baradei, not some rightwing bogeyman — is now breaking its promise.

  13. Frank al Irlandi

    Shirin
    Quite simply that there is no real evidence that Israel actually HAD a nuclear weapons program in 2003 to halt, or to resume as of mid-2007.
    Would that this were true!!
    Keep chewing the crow!

  14. Frank al Irlandi

    Trojan Alert
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/1,7340,L-3663679,00.html
    Does Helena count as a problematic blog?
    While the Absorption Ministry is tasked with recruitment, the Foreign Ministry will be responsible for directing the volunteers online. Each time the ministry identifies an anti-Israel trend on a foreign-language blog, news site, or other website, it will immediately put out a message to the volunteers to flood the site with pro-Israel opinions
    That bug in the posting mechanism will drive them to distraction.
    They could do more for israeli PR if their crooked Prime Minister and bloodthirsty Foreign Minister didn’t promise to deliver a disproportionate response to a few rockets from Gaza. That probably counts as a war crime.

  15. Frank al Irlandi

    Trojan Alert
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/1,7340,L-3663679,00.html
    Does Helena count as a problematic blog?
    While the Absorption Ministry is tasked with recruitment, the Foreign Ministry will be responsible for directing the volunteers online. Each time the ministry identifies an anti-Israel trend on a foreign-language blog, news site, or other website, it will immediately put out a message to the volunteers to flood the site with pro-Israel opinions
    That bug in the posting mechanism will drive them to distraction.
    They could do more for Israeli PR if their crooked Prime Minister and bloodthirsty Foreign Minister didn’t promise to deliver a disproportionate response to a few rockets from Gaza. That probably counts as a war crime.

  16. vadim

    Frank, on how many more threads are you going to post your “trojan alert?” You already told us about this program last week (I made sure to sign up.)

  17. Don Bacon

    Vadim,
    Good morning from the Pacific Time Zone. I appreciate your comments because they represent a fair sampling of erroneous conventional wisdom on the Iran issue.
    The IAEA is in fact the world body charged with determinations about NPT compliance AND it is making illegal demands. The IAEA, like the UNSC, has been subverted to the US policy of laying the groundwork for war with Iran, as ordered by The Lobby. But the IAEA’s findings regarding Iran’s NPT compliance are still pertinent. Unlike Obama/Biden/Clinton it hasn’t lied (yet).
    The NPT has “safeguards” language to “[prevent] diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The duty of the IAEA, its sole legal duty, is to determine if Iran is meeting the safeguards requirements. The IAEA has consistently found that Iran is in compliance with the NPT safeguards requirements. Iran is entirely correct in their repeated statements that the IAEA, like the UNSC, is making demands that go beyond its legal charter.
    Again this whole scenario is very close to the Iraq one, except it’s even more ridiculous. Now it isn’t being claimed that Iran HAS nuclear weapons but rather that it INTENDS to have them, in spite of Iran’s repeated denials. And so what if it did have them. Israel has started the nuclear arms race in the ME. It’s been rumored for years that Saudi Arabia has a program. An Iran with nukes would put an end to this silly game of ME hegemony being promoted by Israel.
    Biden is now saying in Munich that Iran has an “illicit nuclear program.” Obama and Clinton has also said that Iran’s nuclear program is “illicit” (= unlawful). It’s a lie. There is nothing unlawful about Iran’s nuclear program, nothing. Obama, Biden and Clinton are liars.

  18. JamesL

    Say you have 50 million dollars in the bank, but in jeopardy. Would you spend $30M (say to Blackwater) to secure the remaining $20M. If so, that course may result in unethical, immorally, and/or illegal fallout. But it would be pragmatic. Pragmatism approximates survivability, whereas ethics, morality, and legality don’t. North Korea, Israel, India, Pakistan all prove (crudely perhaps) that having a nuclear weapon strengthens the political position of a nation (soon to be “entity”, when a non-state gets hold of a nuke). Iranian development of nuclear power generation is legal and to be expected, as is the relatively incremental jump to nuclear weapons.
    The niceties of ethical, moral, and legal discssions are enabled by effective diplomacy, and disabled by its absence. In the absence of diplomacy, one is left with only issues of survivability which, as the $30 shows, leads quickly to fallout which is repugnant to virtually all moral, ethical, and legal systems.
    As long as Israel has nukes, a nuclear armed Iran doesn’t bother me. It will have arrived at the MAD station of 1960 and then will patiently stand in line like the US and USSR did, unable to do anything with those big, expensive nukes. But standing next to it will be a quieter Israel, no longer barging around the region killing people with quite the same abandon.
    If you want a nuclear free Iran, then declare the region nuclear free—no exceptions.

  19. Shirin

    Would that this were true!!
    Oooooops!
    Quite simply that there is no real evidence that IRAN actually HAD a nuclear weapons program in 2003 to halt, or to resume as of mid-2007.

  20. Patrick Cummins

    The question that Panetta answered was whether he thought Iran was pursuing a nuclear military capability. Now pursuing a capability is not the same as actually being engaged in a program to build a nuclear weapon.
    My understanding is that there a widespread sentiment within the IAEA and US intelligence community that the course Iran is interested in a nuclear capability. They see Iran embarked on a program to (a) build a civilian nuclear power industry because they actually do need one, (b) refrain from building/testing a nuclear weapon, and (c) set itself up so that if its security is threatened, then it would be able to go ahead and produce nuclear weapons in short order. Hence the nuclear capability. Thomas Fingar, who until recently was the most senior US intelligence analyst, made it clear in a speech late last year that the one circumstance in which Iran would change its policy and decide to build a nuclear weapon would be if it was threatened, and that it sees the US as threat numero uno.
    Iran is able to pursue these objectives under the NPT. Once these are realized Iran would be in the same position as many other states (e.g., Japan, Canada, Germany) that have mastered uranium enrichment and could produce a weapon if they chose to.

  21. Don Bacon

    Patrick,
    (1) Your understanding of “widespread sentiment within the IAEA and US intelligence community” is based on what, exactly? Just the speech by Thomas Fingar? And why is that “understanding” relevant to Panetta’s testimony?
    (2) Considering the context of Bayh’s leading question (complete with with a mis-representation of the NIE) and Panetta’s answer, Panetta was clearly indicating that, w/o offering any facts, Iran is involved in a nuclear weapons program.
    (3) The larger problem is, as Scott indicated, that this “creature of Congress” will continue to kowtow dumbly to politicians as he did to Bayh.
    from NPR:
    SEN. BAYH: There was a — and this involves the National Intelligence Estimates. We had an unfortunate case — I’m sure you’re aware of — with regard to Iran, where the way in which the National Intelligence Estimate was written highlighted the fact that apparently they suspended the weaponization aspect of their program. Then, in the footnote, it noted that they continued apace with their attempts to develop fissile material and delivery capabilities and those kind of things, and in fact may have restarted their weaponization efforts. We just don’t know.[NOTE: There was no such footnote.]
    So I would encourage you — just a comment — to look very carefully how these things are written, because that really undermined our diplomatic efforts to gather our allies to put pressure on Iran to stop those kind of activities. So my comment, my question, is, is it your belief that Iran is seeking a nuclear military capability? Or are their interests solely limited to the civilian sphere?
    MR. PANETTA: From all the information that I’ve seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100301381

  22. Patrick Cummins

    Don,
    Sen. Bayh is interested in augmenting the confrontation with Iran, and he is choosing his words careful. He didn’t ask Pannetta if he thought that Iran had a program to build a nuclear weapon because Pannetta would have had trouble answering yes. (Fingar has recently stated that nothing has changed since the NEI was released.)
    As you suggest, Bayh and Pannetta are trying to obscure the distinction between merely being nuclear-capable (nuclear-ready) and having a weapons program. Bayh was unhappy with the blunt conclusions of the NEI because it cost the US diplomatic support in its confrontation with Iran. It’s harder to find support for a confrontation if its only to prevent a state from developing a capability.
    US policy, which doesn’t seem likely to change soon, is to prevent Iran from becoming even nuclear-ready. That means trying to confront Iran and coercing it into foregoing its rights under the NPT to enrich uranium. (Even the compromise plan proposed by Thomas Pickering to have Iran enrich uranium under strict international controls seems to be too much for the US.) But US intelligence is saying that confronting and threatening Iran are the actions most likely to see it reverse its decision of 2003.

  23. Patrick Cummins

    Don,
    Sen. Bayh is interested in augmenting the confrontation with Iran, and he is choosing his words careful. He didn’t ask Pannetta if he thought that Iran had a program to build a nuclear weapon because Pannetta would have had trouble answering yes. (Fingar has recently stated that nothing has changed since the NEI was released.)
    As you suggest, Bayh and Pannetta are trying to obscure the distinction between merely being nuclear-capable (nuclear-ready) and having a weapons program. Bayh was unhappy with the blunt conclusions of the NEI because it cost the US diplomatic support in its confrontation with Iran. It’s harder to find support for a confrontation if its only to prevent a state from developing a capability.
    US policy, which doesn’t seem likely to change soon, is to prevent Iran from becoming even nuclear-ready. That means trying to confront Iran and coercing it into foregoing its rights under the NPT to enrich uranium. (Even the compromise plan proposed by Thomas Pickering to have Iran enrich uranium under strict international controls seems to be too much for the US.) But US intelligence is saying that confronting and threatening Iran are the actions most likely to see it reverse its decision of 2003.

  24. Patrick Cummins

    Don,
    Sen. Bayh is interested in augmenting the confrontation with Iran, and he is choosing his words carefully. He didn’t ask Panetta if he thought that Iran had a program to build a nuclear weapon because Panetta would have had trouble answering yes. (Fingar has recently stated that nothing has changed since the NEI was released.)
    As you suggest, Bayh and Panetta are trying to obscure the distinction between merely being nuclear-capable (nuclear-ready) and having a weapons program. Bayh was unhappy with the blunt conclusions of the NEI because it cost the US diplomatic support in its confrontation with Iran. It’s harder to find support for a confrontation if its only to prevent a state from developing a capability.
    US policy, which doesn’t seem likely to change soon, is to prevent Iran from becoming even nuclear-ready. That means trying to confront Iran and coercing it into foregoing its rights under the NPT to enrich uranium. (Even the compromise plan proposed by Thomas Pickering to have Iran enrich uranium under strict international controls seems to be too much for the US.) But US intelligence is saying that confronting and threatening Iran are the actions most likely to see it reverse its decision of 2003.

  25. Don Bacon

    Patrick,
    I’m happy that you agree that Panetta was obscuring, or let’s call it by its proper name, lying. This is not a great attribute (although not a novelty) for a CIA Director. I’m sure you agree. That’s the point of this discussion about Panetta, a creature of congress. Like Obama.
    By the way, nuclear power plant fuel is typically 3 to 5 percent U-235, whereas weapons-grade highly enriched uranium is typically 90 percent U-235 or greater, which requires multiple cascading. Iran is enriching to the lower figure, as observed by the IAEA. But why talk facts — Leon probably wouldn’t get it. He’s already been told by Obama that Iran has a nuclear weapons program so if he wants his job he’d better suck it up and believe.
    “US intelligence is saying”? Surely you jest, Patrick. Perhaps you haven’t kept up with the performance of the Langley Laughabouts, the agency that hasn’t got anything right — ever?

  26. vadim

    Hi Don,
    Good morning from the central european time zone!
    As a card-carrying member of “The Lobby” I have to tell you that invading Iran isn’t high on anyone’s list of priorities nowadays. It’s time to stop peddling that paranoid fantasy once and for all: hyping the imminent threat of an Iran invasion is no different from hyping the “imminent threat” supposedly posed by Iraq, or for that matter Iran itself.
    Mohammed El Baradei — rather than taking orders from “The Lobby” — has instead lately been holding protests over Israel’s actions in Gaza. Needless to say, he isn’t welcome down at “Lobby HQ” and will not be attending the company picnic in Boca Raton.
    You clearly misunderstand the IAEA’s safeguards role: it isn’t confined to monitoring the diversion of nuclear energy, weapons or devices. Its oversight actually extends to “information under its supervision or control” including information about reactor design that Iran has been withholding for several years now. The IAEA statute gives it authority to approve reactor design, require operating records, call for progress reports, and send inspectors “who shall have access at all times to all places and data and to any person who by reason of his occupation deals with [nuclear] materials, equipment, or facilities.”
    Iran has for many years withheld cooperation with the IAEA about its heavy water research reactor at Arak, most recently blocking a visit by inspectors in October 2008. This is why the IAEA has never claimed that Iran is in “full compliance” with its NPT safeguards obligations, which is a completely different issue from any UNSC resolution.
    In your opinion, is there some legal reason why IAEA inspectors should be denied unfettered access to this reactor and its design data per their statutory duty? Should Iran be allowed to block inspections of this type? Should Iran be in possession of uranium metallurgy research that is only relevant to weapons manufacture, putting it in direct breach of the NPT?
    And so what if it did have them [nuclear weapons]
    So after all this you confess to not care whether Iran develops nuclear weapons? Very interesting Don.

  27. Frank al Irlandi

    Hi Vadim.
    Greetings from Irish Universal Time.
    Don raises a fine point here
    And so what if it did have them [nuclear weapons]
    The trouble with only having one or a few is that you can’t actually use the things, particularly on people who have enough warheads to zap you in return many times over.
    It is even more difficult to solve the targetting problem in Palestine. There is nowhere you can actually hit without making 40 or 50 km of the landscape downwind radioactive for many years. That makes everybody’s holy places unusable for years. I have friends who are working with people in Byelorus and who are seeing the continuing results of the Chernobyl explosion twenty years after it happened. It doesn’t make pleasant reading.
    So nobody who supports the Palestininas can actually contemplate a strike on Tel Aviv.
    Much like the crossbow of medieval times which was a weapon of mass destruction of armoured knights anyone can have simple nuclear weapons. The Church tried to ban vrossbows as sinful but they persisted.
    I actually applaud the recent satellite launch by the Iranians because as they say “It really is rocket science”
    I also applaud the initiative and ingenuity shown by the Iranians in enriching Uranium despite sanctions and disapproval and obstruction.
    It gives the lie to the concept that muslims are technolgically backward and incapable of organsing anything.
    If nuclear weapons become an an anachronism and Nuclear powers can actually consider unilateral disarmament (The ex chief of the defence staff wrote to the newspapers in UK a couple of weeks ago advocating getting rid of the submarine launched weapons to save money) then the subject of the Israeli nuclear weapons falls on the table.
    The Iranians are rational actors whose purpose is to spread their creed “for the greater glory of God” which anyone who went to a school run by Jesuits will recognise (ad majorem Dei gloriam). They have no incentive to have their country turned into a glass lined crater that glows because that doesn’t serve the cause.
    The recent pogrom in Gaza causes me to doubt the rationality of the Israelis and their fitness to own advanced weapons systems.
    Just for fun, lets move on from harrassing the Iranians to discussing how to implement a nuclear weapons free Middle East and allowing the construction of the many nuclear powered desalination plants and power generating units.
    This would be a realistic and constructive subject for discussion.

  28. Don Bacon

    Vadim,
    I don’t recall anybody saying that ElBaradei is taking orders from The Lobby. But he is taking illegal orders from the UNSC. He had to either buckle under to US-driven illegal mandates or resign, so he buckled. Too bad — he’s basically a good man abut who can’t stand up to raw power when it conflicts with the law.
    The matter is really quite simple. The NPT treaty is exclusively concerned with diversion and Iran has not diverted. All the other UN resolutions to the contrary are merely hyped-up excuses for war.
    Excerpt from the NPT:
    Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agencys safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
    excerpt from the Nov 2008 IAEA Report:
    The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran.

  29. Don Bacon

    This just in:
    The UK is apparently now the central front on terror because Brits are the most likely to strike the US.
    from the Telegraph:
    “American spy chiefs have told the President that the CIA has launched a vast spying operation in the UK to prevent a repeat of the 9/11 attacks being launched from Britain.
    They believe that a British-born Pakistani extremist entering the US under the visa waiver programme is the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on American soil.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/4550144/CIA-warns-Barack-Obama-that-British-terrorists-are-the-biggest-threat-to-the-US.html
    ‘Predators over Picadilly’ — it has a nice ring.

  30. Dominic

    I liked the first comment best, where JF Lee wrote: “The question now is how can a well-informed, bright, and intellectually agile song and dance man like Himself [Obama] not see that if he’s gonna stay then they [Clinton and the others] gotta go?”
    Surely Obama has worked this out. He starts the game with no chips but a seat at the table for at least four years and possibly eight. He must be hoping for a time when the others round that table have all faded and he is the longest-standing member. It’s not much, but it’s all the hope he has got, as far as I can see.
    Biden is maybe a worse incubus than Clinton. Biden looks like a thug to me, and as an elected person Biden has tenure which Clinton does not have. Obama will be waiting and hoping for the thieves to fall out, more than anything else.

  31. Shirin

    The recent pogrom in Gaza causes me to doubt the rationality of the Israelis and their fitness to own advanced weapons systems.
    Surely the rationality of the Israelis was in very serious doubt long before that!

  32. Salah

    They’ve sold us this rug before
    a veteran insider wisely warned me 20 years ago that, “the worst thing that can happen to the intelligence process is if analysts tailor their reports to please perceived wishes of their political masters
    With Agencies have budget equal or more than Iran’s GDP or many third countries collectively, doubtable there is any wisdom by stating above statement which far or out of reality regarding CIA and successive US administrations and their political/ strategies around the world.
    It’s hardly to find there are splits between CIA and their missions and US administrations that politically use CIA for their self necessities.
    The best of all Iraq invasion when CIA was played the tail of Bush administration that kept moving showing they are so CONFIDENT with Saddam’s WMD evenHans Blix and his team keep telling he did not found any evidences and his team monitoring all Iraqi sites then his frustrations when high to degree he asked Bush to give him 2 weeks to check further but Tony Blair come with his famous words “IT”S NOW OR NEVER” why “NEVER” you tell me?
    There are no angels or wisdom with CIA and here spies and behind the curtains works

  33. Frank al Irlandi

    Salah
    The van Creveld interview is the 2003 one. There were a few other topics on people’s minds at the time.
    The reference to Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister is a dead giveaway.
    Sharon is no longer a player.

  34. Salah

    The van Creveld interview is the 2003 one.
    Frank Khomeini in 1979 said Israeli should wipe of the Map.
    Also Jamal Abdul-Nasser before 1967 said he will throw Israeli in sea,
    Both above statement till now resonates all the discussions and talk when it’s come to Israeli and here position in ME conflicts.
    Neither Khomeini nor Jamal Abdul Nasser a live today but both ether words are heard and repeated from time to time in today Israelis hasbara….
    Btw, Dominic shut up; I didn’t talk to you ….

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