Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The amazing disappearing 2007 NIE on Iran

Power has a strange effect on people, turning what can otherwise appear to be decent human beings into murderers and liars. Take Barack Obama -- a man elected in no small part due to his charisma and compelling personal story -- who took just under 72 hours to kill his first innocent civilians. The day before heralding the need to respect habeas corpus with prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Obama strangely had no problem permitting the extrajudicial killings of alleged Islamic militants and innocent members of their family in Pakistan.

Though the White House proclaims that change has come to America, its increasingly evident change won't come to U.S. foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Bush administration approach of routinely violating Pakistani sovereignty -- a nuclear-armed, politically unstable (nominal) ally. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in a press conference on Tuesday, "where continuity is appropriate, we are committed to doing that."

Take Iran, and President Obama's repetition of the Bush administration's discredited talking point about that nation's nuclear program in his much ballyhooed interview with Al-Arabiya:
Q: Will the United States ever live with a nuclear Iran? And if not, how far are you going in the direction of preventing it?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I said during the campaign that it is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of U.S. power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran.

Now, the Iranian people are a great people, and Persian civilization is a great civilization. Iran has acted in ways that's not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past -- none of these things have been helpful.

But I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress. And we will over the next several months be laying out our general framework and approach. And as I said during my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.
Unfortunately for politicians committed to playing up the threat allegedly posed by Iran, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate declared that Iran had ended whatever nuclear weapons program it may have once had years ago. Indeed, the fact that the '07 NIE declared with "high confidence" that Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons was once noted by Obama himself (before he attained power), and it remains the official consensus opinion of the entire U.S. intelligence community, which has every reason to play up foreign threats. More importantly, the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no evidence Iran is developing nuclear weapons -- but that hasn't stopped Obama or his secretary of state from regularly and matter-of-factly referring to Iran's "pursuit of nuclear weapons".

Obama and Clinton's statements stand in direct opposition to the findings of their own intelligence agencies. Someone -- a reporter, perhaps? -- really ought to ask them to explain why.

As for Gaza: Those hoping against hope that Obama's conspicuous silence concerning Israel's assault on Gaza was anything other than a tacit endorsement, well . . . here's Secretary of State Clinton:
We have, as I said, some short-term objectives such as a durable ceasefire, which as you know has receded somewhat today because of the offensive action against the IDF along the border.

But of course, we're concerned about the humanitarian suffering. We're concerned any time innocent civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, are attacked. That's why we support Israel's right to self-defense. The rocket barrages, which are getting closer and closer to populated areas, cannot go unanswered. And it's, you know, regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza.

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