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

Update: Kenneth Timmerman thinks that the intell community may have been duped. This is a must-read: (h/t: Clarice Feldman)
The National Intelligence Council, which produced the NIE, is chaired by Thomas Fingar, “a State Department intelligence analyst with no known overseas experience who briefly headed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research,” I wrote in my book "Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender."

Fingar was a key partner of Senate Democrats in their successful effort to derail the confirmation of John Bolton in the spring of 2005 to become the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.

As the head of the NIC, Fingar has gone out of his way to fire analysts “who asked the wrong questions,” and who challenged the politically-correct views held by Fingar and his former State Department colleagues, as revealed in "Shadow Warriors." [....]

Christian Westermann, another favorite of Senate Democrats in the Bolton confirmation hearings, was among the career State Department analysts tapped by Fingar and Brill.

As a State Department intelligence analyst, Westermann had missed the signs of biological weapons development in Cuba, and played into the hands of Castro apologist Sen. Christopher Dodd, D, Conn., by continuing to use impeached intelligence reports on Cuba that had been written by self-avowed Cuban spy, Ana Belen Montes.

“After failing to recognize the signs of biological weapons development in Cuba and Cuba’s cooperation with Iran, Westermann was promoted to become national intelligence officer for biological weapons,” I wrote.

“Let’s hope a walk-in defector from Iranian intelligence doesn’t tell us that Iran has given biological weapons to terrorists to attack new York or Chicago,” I added, “because Westermann will certainly object that the source of that information was not reliable — at least, until Americans start dying.”

For more commentary on the NIE, see Richard Baehr's "Other things going on" and  this review of commentary.


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