Here is a my quick reflection on the top news story of the day: the intelligence community's assessment on Iran's nuclear program.
1. The intelligence community was unaware that Al Qaeda was about to strike on 9/11. So wrong on that one.
2. They did, however, think Iraq was in the process of completing a nuclear program. They appear to have been wrong on that one.
3. They thought Iran was on the verge of a nuclear weapons program in 2005. Now the intelligence community tells us they were wrong on that one too. But now they are right, presumably, when they tell us that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003. I don't buy it.
I think other things are going on, namely:
1. The intelligence community is bitter for being blamed for its failure to anticipate 9/11, and for being blamed for bad intelligence that led to the Iraq war.
2. So the safe route is to downplay the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. That surely diminishes the likelihood off an American military action against Iran. And the intelligence community can not then be blamed for another war, if the intelligence that led to the decision to go to war was wrong. And if they are wrong this time (and were right in 2005), and there is a nuclear weapons program? Well, it is Israel that most likely suffers, not the US directly (in the short run).
The CIA in particular, and the intelligence community in general, have never been very well inclined to Israel or to Jews (try to join their ranks if you are Jewish. If you think I am wrong about this -- there is huge suspicion of dual loyalty). Of course, this also means that if Israel, which is less well-equipped for a sustained military operation against Iran than the US, out of necessity elects to take action alone (since they are convinced the US assessment is wrong), they will be condemned around the world because of skepticism of the need for such an action. And it will be more difficult for the US to give them cover, or be seen in any way coordinating with Israel in what they do.
And one final problem: it will now be far more difficult for the US and Israel to put together a more effective sanctions regime, since this may seem unduly alarmist, commercially costly to some nations and companies, and therefore unnecessary and counter-productive. So no military action, no new economic pressure, and it is all in Israel's lap, which is busy releasing terrorist killers, and offering up the West Bank to the PA for now and in time, probably to Hamas.
Not a good day in any respect. Lost in all this is that nukes or no nukes, Iran is a bad actor. They have proven that in Argentina, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq to name a few. The will to confront them in any of these areas will also now likely fade as a result of this new assessment, suggesting that diplomacy is the appropriate way to influence behavior in Iran.
Many others weigh in:
New York Sun editorial
Update (hat tip: Bob Teter):
Westhawk thinks the NIE release makes war more likely with Iran