Dec 8, 2007

Tomgram: Dilip Hiro, Bush's Losing Iranian Hand


posted December 06, 2007 10:56 am

Whatever else the release
of the 16-agency National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iranian
bomb may be, it is certainly a reasonable measure of inside-the-Beltway
Bush administration decline. Whether that release represented "a pre-emptive strike against the White House by intelligence agencies and military chiefs," an intelligence "mini-coup"
against the administration, part of a longer-term set of moves meant to
undermine plans for air strikes against Iran that involved a potential
resignation threat from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and a "near mutiny" by the Joint Chiefs, or an attempt by the administration itself
to "salvage negotiations with Iran" or shift its own Iran policy, or
none of -- or some combination of -- the above, one thing can be said:
Such an NIE would not have been written, no less released, at almost
any previous moment in the last seven years. (Witness the 2005 version
of the same that opted for an active Iranian program to produce nuclear

Imagine an NIE back in 2005 that, as Dilip Hiro wrote recently,
"contradicts the image of an inward-looking, irrational, theocratic
leadership ruling Iran oppressively that Washington has been projecting
for a long time. It says: 'Our assessment that Iran halted the program
in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates
Teheran's decisions are judged by a cost-benefit approach rather than a
rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military

The Iranians as rational, cost-benefit calculators? Only the near
collapse of presidential and vice-presidential polling figures, and the
endless policy failures that proceeded and accompanied those numbers;
only the arrival of Robert Gates as secretary of defense and a representative
of the "reality-based community," only the weakening of the neocons and
their purge inside the Pentagon, only the increasing isolation of the
Vice President's "office" -- only, that is, decline inside the Beltway
-- could account for such a conclusion or such a release.

Whatever the realities of the Iranian nuclear program, this NIE
certainly reflected the shifting realities of power in Washington in
the winter of 2007. In a zero-sum game in the capital's corridors in
which, for years, every other power center was the loser, the
hardliners suddenly find themselves with their backs to the wall when
it comes to the most compelling of their dreams of global domination.
(Never forget the pre-invasion neocon quip: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.")


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