The latest US National Intelligence Estimate on the Iranian Nuclear program claims that
The report claims with "high confidence" that
In 2005, the National Intelligence Estimate claimed with the same high confidence, that
As I wrote elsewhere, the worst aspect of the National Intelligence Estimate, however, is not the report itself, but the way in which the information was handled, and the more we consider it, the worse it gets.
As the Washington Post points out, President Bush was aware of the substance of the findings for quite some time, yet US policy statements on Iran continued to sound extreme and urgent danger signals on Iran, and to gather support for sanctions against Iran, knowing that this report was to be made public shortly. And when the report came out, President Bush minimized it and provided half-coherent spin, as though he was unaware of the actual implications or how it would be understood by others.
Some claim that the report represents an intentional administration change of direction, but that is not necessarily the case. It seems that it represents only noisy signals emitted by a chaotic governmental apparatus.
The implications for
· Anarchic government and policy -
· Poor administrative structure - Forcing, or allowing, the NIS to prepare an "official" unified intelligence report that reflects all the agencies hides real information from elected officials, and tends to produce "herd thinking" that increases errors such as those we saw in the past: "Everyone" thought that the USSR was not about to collapse, "Everyone" thought there would be no war in 1967, "Everyone" thought that Saddam had WMD. In reality, not everyone believed any of those things, but consensus psychology produced that impression. It has now been reinforced by the demand that
· Incompetent intelligence gathering - If indeed the Iranians halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003, how is it possible that there was no hint of this in 2005?
· Incompetent intelligence evaluation - When presented with such different findings in 2005 and 2007, the
· Political influence - The possibility that the content of the different National Intelligence Estimates reflects the vicissitudes of political currents in
· Incompetent leadership - President Bush should have assimilated the import of the National Intelligence Estimate and made a more realistic assessment of the effect that this information would have on allies and partners, as well as internal
· Contempt for allies and partners - The British, the Israelis, the participants in the Annapolis conference were all left in the dark about the NIE, a "bomb" that would be dropped as soon as the conference had broken up, which seems to have made the Middle East a "whole new ball game," regardless of its accuracy.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.