Why it’s hard to give credence to this latest story about Iranian nukes

The Telegraph reports:

In a leaked report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that credible evidence existed that Iran had carried out activities solely related to the construction of a nuclear weapon.

Iran attacked the report but Western diplomats said that it amounted to a clear case that the country had continued its nuclear weapons programme after 2003 when US intelligence concluded it had dismantled its efforts.

This supposed information immediately creates a sense of unreality and discourages me from taking the story seriously. Who ever heard before that the U.S. had concluded in 2003 that Iran had dismantled its nuclear weapons program? The Iranian development of nuclear weapons has been an ongoing obsession for the last ten years , though, of course, nothing has been done to stop it except for meaningless negotiations and gestures at economic sanctions. I have written numerous entries at this site saying that the prospect of Iran possessing nuclear weapons is intolerable and that the only way it can be stopped is through the use of military force, for example, this. Articles have been leaked from time to time about the Israeli government’s plans and capabilities to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities, though these appear to have been of the nature of bluffs aimed at intimidating the Iranians rather than real plans. Netanyahu promised during the 2009 Israeli election contest that he would do whatever it took to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes, though, again, there is reason to doubt that he really meant it. Also, in the last couple of years we had the stories about “Stuxnet,” the presumably Israeli-created computer bug which stopped the Iranian uranium enrichment program for about two years, an event cheered by conservatives. Given this familiar background of the issue, it is Orwellian for the IAEA and the news media to tell us that the U.S. concluded in 2003 that the Iranians had given up developing nuclear weapons, and it makes one distrust everything else about this story.

- end of initial entry -

Daniel F. writes:

Mr. Auster: In your most recent post, you express confusion over the statement that Iran was found to have abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. What you may have forgotten is that the 2007 United States National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), to great fanfare at the time, reached the ludicrous conclusion that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Nobody knowledgeable took the 2007 NIE seriously when it came out; the report was a transparent effort by the feckless, worthless, Islamophiliac foreign policy establishment to prevent the (by then much weakened) Bush administration from doing anything effective (military or otherwise) to stop the Iranian nuke program in its remaining two years inoffice. It is almost never discussed now, since it has been years since anyone, even in the US foreign policy establishment, seriously argued that the report was accurate. I claim no expertise in foreign policy, but I am certain that the article you discuss is referring to the 2007 NIE, which you can easily find more discussion of on the web. Barry Rubin would probably be a good source.

LA replies:

Yes, now that you mention it I remember it. But, as you indicate, this doesn’t change the questionablness of this story. Since no one took seriously, in 2007 or any time since then, the notion that Iran had given up its nuclear program, how can one take seriously a report in 2011 saying that we are shocked, shocked, to learn that Iran is (still) developing nukes?

LA continues:

Here is a detailed discussion from VFR in December 2007 about the National Intelligence Estimate and why President Bush allowed it to be published and what alternative course he might have pursued. A key point is that while there was evidence that Iran stopped its nuclear program in 2003, there was other evidence that Iran resumed its nuclear program in 2005. Bush allowed the report with the incomplete information about 2003 to be published, thus dooming any chance of taking action to stop Iran. My discussion also deals with Norman Podhoretz’s effort to portray Bush’s incompetent and perhaps calamitous handling of the issue in the most favorable light possible.

VFR posted many other entries in December 2007 about the controversy surrounding the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. No serious person gave it any credence. It was a politically motivated document intended to hamstring any efforts to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Daniel F. replies:

I would suggest that the diplomats mentioned in the article who invoke the 2007 NIE finding do so in order to give themselves and the IAEA an alibi for failng to take any serious steps to avert Iran going nuclear. The IAEA has been consistently downplaying Iran’s nuclear activities for years until it recently came under new, and more honest, leadership. Notwithstanding the change in approach, the IAEA no doubt feels an institutional imperative to excuse its past dereliction of duty. That the reporter took what his sources told him at face value is a reflection on the gullibility of journalists when given a line that excuses the ineptitude of the leftwing governments and international organizations.

Daniel F. replies:
Thanks. You obviously considered the NIE in detail at the time. Given your constant posting on a wide range of issues, it’s understandable that you forgot about it after it disappeared from most discourse for last few years.

As to Norman Podhoretz, his obsessive hero-worship of George W. Bush (and of dubious military figures like Petraeus) is appalling. I recall that Podhoretz wrote a worshipful analysis of Bush’s ridiculous 2d Inaugural, parsing Bush’s incontinent adolescent idealism as if it were something written by Lincoln. The Commentary/Weekly Standard crowd, with whom I once identified, have really gone off the rails in their rigid, ideological approach to foreign policy. In that regard, the following may amuse you, after a fashion. In its 9/5/11 issue, the Weekly Standard published a brief article extolling the rabble fighting to overthrow Kaddafi. The accompanying illustration was a piece of anti-Kaddafi propaganda art depicting the soon-to-deposed dictator being kicked. Clearly visible on the Kaddafi caricature, but completely unmentioned in the article, was a six-pointed Star of David! The Weekly Standard people, supposedly great friends of Israel, completely ignored the fact that their own evidence showed that they were cheering on a pack of vicious Jew-haters who could think of no greater insult than to portray their antagonist as a Jew.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 09, 2011 02:25 PM | Send

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