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December 4, 2007
Iran nukes 'plausible but unlikely' (updated)
Suppose you're a cop, and you have to stop a well-known Mafia hit man on a dark night, driving his Cadillac. You know he's recklessly dangerous - he's threatened you every day, in public, for the last 30 years. (What do you think "Death to America!" really means?) So you call the dispatcher and ask them to tell you as much as they know about the suspect. Specifically, does he carry a loaded gun? You tell them it's urgent. This is not a normal traffic stop.
This is a nerve-wracking business. You call for backup, to be able to hit the suspect with overwhelming force if you need it. But you know the lawyers will be after you if you overreact. It's damned if you do and damned if you don't.
Headquarters calls back. To the best of their intelligence, they tell you, the chances that the suspect has a loaded gun is "plausible but unlikely."
What do you do?
That's exactly what President Bush is facing today. Our Intelligence Community has labored mightily and brought forth a camel --- a Cover-Your-Ass committee judgment on the most dangerous rogue regime in the world today: The Khomeini cult and its mouthpiece Ahmadi-Nejad. A'jad has been completely clear about his murderous intentions. He means to kill and blackmail you and all your allies, not just Israel but the Arab states as well, notably Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, sitting on the oil faucet for half the world. Just for good measure, he has directly threatened Britain, France and Germany, as well as the good ole USA.
The UN agency, the IAEA, says that with 3,000 centrifuges running the Natanz plant can produce enough fissionable material for a nuclear Bomb in one year. The US intelligence community puts it at three to eight years.
But the Iranians have consistently lied about their nuke acvities, so the chances are near-perfect that they are lying and understating their programs today. Israel just bombed to smithereens a secret joint Syrian-Iranian-North Korean plant on the Euphrates river, which is believed by one of the foremost Israeli authorities to have imported plutonium from North Korea, ready to be molded into a Bomb.
What does the fresh National Intelligence Estimate tell us? A secret Iranian nuclear project, one that we don't know about, but which may already have produced a Bomb, is "plausible but unlikely."
As Michael Ledeen just wrote, this is exquisite CYA. If Iran already has a nuke, the spooks can't be faulted, because they said it was "plausible." If it doesn't have a nuke, they can't be criticized either, because they said it was "unlikely."
By God, it's good to have a 100 billion dollar intelligence bureaucracy that can really protect us. Isn't it, though?
Here's the kicker: If Iran already has fissionable material, they are invulnerable to attack. So the spooks have thrown their hot potato right back at the White House and the Pentagon. Our soldiers' lives are on the line, right next door in Iraq. "Plausible but unlikely." I bet the Pentagon is really grateful.
No wonder A'jad is laughing.
James Lewis blogs at dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/
Update: Kenneth Timmerman thinks that the intell community may have been duped. This is a must-read: (h/t: Clarice Feldman)
For more commentary on the NIE, see Richard Baehr's "Other things going on" and this review of commentary.