Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“People constantly speak of the government doing this or that, as they might speak of God doing it. But the government is really nothing but a group of men, and usually they are very inferior men. They may have some better man working for them, but they themselves are seldom worthy of any respect.”     H. L. Mencken

December 3, 2007

This Should Make The War-With-Iran Argument Much More Difficult

by Doug Mataconis

The latest National Intelligence Estimate finds that the Iranians stopped actively pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015, a U.S. intelligence report says.

A declassified summary of the latest National Intelligence Estimate found with “high confidence” that the Islamic republic stopped an effort to develop nuclear weapons in the fall of 2003.

The estimate is less severe than a 2005 report that judged the Iranian leadership was “determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure.”

But the latest report says Iran — which declared its ability to produced enriched uranium for a civilian energy program in 2006 — could reverse that decision and eventually produce a nuclear weapon if it wanted to do so.

Enriched uranium at low concentrations can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, but much higher concentrations are needed to yield a nuclear explosion.

“We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely,” the report says. A more likely time frame for that production is between 2010 and 2015, it concludes.

By which time there may not even be an Islamic Republic of Iran.

This should make the foreign policy debate during the upcoming elections more interesting. For Republicans at least, standing up to Iran was close to being a litmus test with every candidate with the exception of Ron Paul refusing to take the possibility military action off the table. Even the major Democratic candidates have been hedging their bets on Iran; and the unstated assumption underlying the debate as been that some kind of confrontation between the United States and/or Israel and Iran was coming.

The release of this report would seem to make the political argument for any military action much harder to make.

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13 Comments

  1. If the government can’t make up their mind on when or if Iran is developing a bomb, our intelligence capabilities is more broken than previously thought.

    Comment by Kevin — December 3, 2007 @ 11:47 am
  2. Nice article; thanks for the good news!

    Comment by Paul — December 3, 2007 @ 11:52 am
  3. Our intelligence on Iran hindered by the same limitations as our pre-war intelligence in Iraq. Few reliable human intelligence sources, too much guesswork, and a president who is incapable of making accurate analytical judgments because he’s too lazy to delve into the details, too stupid to understand source quality and too stubborn to listen to anything that challenges his preconceived notions of what’s going on, as evidenced by Stephen Hadley’s quote:

    “But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”

    No it didn’t Hadley…it said the exact opposite. Go tell your fucking idiot boss.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 3, 2007 @ 12:20 pm
  4. Looks to me like Ron Paul was right again on another foreign policy issue. He has not been wrong yet, maybe people should listen to him.

    Why don’t you people take him more serious for he seems to know a hell of a lot more about it than anyone else i have heard thus far.

    Ron Paul has my vote

    Comment by Steve — December 3, 2007 @ 12:49 pm
  5. I really wonder if Iran getting hold of a non-nuclear super bomb is not a greater threat. Russian, Iran’s friend, has developed what it terms, “The Father of all bombs.” There is no danger of radioactive fallout from this bomb. It is as powerful as a hydrogen bomb. Would not Iran be more prone to sue such a bomb rather than face the danger of radioactive fallout from bombs exploded in Israel? Might all this brouhaha over development of nuclear weapons be just a smoke screen to hide its development of a super bomb or purchase of such a bomb or its technology from the friendly Russians?
    I really do wonder.

    Comment by John Hanson — December 3, 2007 @ 12:50 pm
  6. John,

    Iran likely abandoned their program three years ago for the same reason that Libya and North Korea abandoned theirs…the prohibitive financial cost. The Russians have the resources to piss away designing, producing, and maintaining bombs like the FOAB. The Iranians, Libyans and North Koreans don’t. Nor will the Russians likely be willing to deal the nuclear technology out to the Iranians, considering the problems the Russians often have with Islamists of all ilks, and considering the political fallout that would result (Europe would be up in arms, as would the U.S.). Don’t confuse the short-term economic alliance of Russian and Iran over oil and natural gas exports with a long-term compatibility…ideologically they’re at odds and it’s extremely unlikely that Russia would be willing to proliferate their nuclear technology anyway, considering Putin’s obsession with security and secrecy.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 3, 2007 @ 1:59 pm
  7. Ah, sorry, you were referring to the non-nuclear FOAB. Yeah, that’s just a typical run of the mill bomb and it doesn’t have the capabilities of a nuke, despite the hype. Iran doesn’t possess a bomber fleet capable of striking Israel with enough of them to prevent a nuclear counterstrike (not that Iraq or the Sunni nations would allow Iran flyover privileges to do so). Besides which, the Israelis are more than capable of dealing with conventional air attacks on their own.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 3, 2007 @ 2:14 pm
  8. Is this the NIE report that Dick Cheney wanted to delay because it would weaken his case for war?

    It also states that the earliest possible date is 2009 with 2010 – 2015 as the probable time frame. That’s assuming that they are pouring resources into it, isn’t it? What about current intelligence? The longer they delay the further that gets pushed backwards, right?

    And nothing’s as powerful as a hydrogen bomb! How is that even possible for a conventional weapon?

    Comment by TanGeng — December 3, 2007 @ 2:40 pm
  9. The FOAB is a thermobaric bomb…similar to the U.S. bomb that we use in Afghanistan periodically to kill off insurgents dug into mountain caves when a standard assault is impossible or casualty prohibitive. They basically suck the air out of the cave and whoever’s not killed in the blast is asphyxiated by the complete loss of oxygen. They’re impressive, but they’ve got nothing on a nuke because their effective range is still much more limited. Plus, there’s controversy over whether the Russians faked the test shots to make the bomb look worse than it is. It’s nothing to really be worried about at this point because it’s not the kind of weapon that could cause the sort of annihilation that John appeared to be concerned about.

    Current intelligence? What does the Bush administration care about intelligence? They’re happy to toss out whatever goddamn rumor fits their agenda regardless of whether there’s a lick of truth to it (see: Curveball, Ahmad Chalabi, Nigerian yellowcake). Hell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said back in February that we had no hard evidence of the Iran government arming insurgents ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17129144/ ), which is why Bush never trots that proof out in front of us (because he doesn’t have any). Bush doesn’t give a shit about intelligence…he’s a stupid fucking religious fanatic who thinks history will vindicate everything he does no matter how much he fucks things up. If he doesn’t have intel to support his preconceptions he’ll happily make it up because he figures we’ll find proof after we attack. He’s like a degenerate gambler who’s drowning in debt and convinced that his luck will turn on the next hand.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 3, 2007 @ 3:04 pm
  10. I don’t think Bush is a religious fanatic. I think he got religion after becoming born again, but he was just playing to the religious right’s preconception of a deeply religious man during the elections. The evangelicals didn’t really get anything from the Bush presidency. Nor did he take presidential action out of personal religious faith. The religious act was to secure a bloc of voters that could showed a high turnout.

    Today, Bush is more or less trying to spin his legacy. But I think I have a good historical comparison for Bush. Bush is basically McKinley. A guy that looks good but couldn’t resist the influence of his advisers, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Rove’s model is Mark Hanna, but in trying to emulate Hanna, he’s failed horribly.

    In Dick Cheney, we’ve pretty much got the same warmongering spirit as Teddy Roosevelt in his capacity as assistant secretary of Navy and later Vice President. Now all we have to do is have someone assassinate Bush, and the comparison would be complete.

    But their legacy will be completely different. With McKinley we have the first sign of American Global Imperialism. America was in solid financial ground in 1900. With Bush we may see the end of American Global Imperialism as the US government is crushed under the current mountain of debt. Whether or not, Ron Paul or any anti-war candidate wins next year, the financial situation in the United States provides a huge stumbling block to future imperial activity. But a president can run the country even further into the ground.

    Comment by TanGeng — December 3, 2007 @ 4:35 pm
  11. Bush filled the DOJ with lawyers from Pat Robertson’s law school who pushed an extremely religious agenda in their prosecutions. He used federal funding to favor faith-based initiatives with special emphasis given to evangelicals. He uses apocalyptic predictions when discussing the war in Iraq and the showdown with Iran and dismisses evidence that contradicts his viewpoints or actions while validating his worldview with comments about his “faith”. He has repeatedly stated that he believes that it is his destiny to bring freedom to the world, which can only be taken as a belief that he is taking the role of a messiah.

    Maybe he’s lying to some degree to the evangelicals, maybe not…but his actions and his words are those of a religious fanatic who has abandoned all pretense at reason and reality. It doesn’t matter whether he really believes God is guiding his hand, he acts as if he believes God is guiding his hand. Same difference.

    As for the line that he was led astray by his advisors, there’s nothing to support that. Everyone said his beliefs would change once Ashcroft left. They didn’t, he appointed Gonzales, who was worse. Everyone said his approach to Iraq would change once Rumsfeld left. It hasn’t, he’s given no indication that he’s diverged from his original strategy (whatever it was). Everyone said that his foreign policy would change once Powell left and Rice (a supposed moderate) took over. It hasn’t, if anything his rhetoric has become more apocalyptic.

    Bush has been the one constant throughout that administration. He’s the one making the decisions (which he’s been very very clear about), he’s the one making the plans, he’s the one giving the rationalizations. He’s the one who is responsible, not his advisors. Based on comments from many of them, I doubt people like Rove or Cheney really had that much influence at all except to reinforce the beliefs that Bush already had. He’s the one making the bad calls…nobody else.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 3, 2007 @ 5:03 pm
  12. To be clear, what I’m saying on the religious fanatic thing is that he may not see himself as one of the evangelical or religious special interest groups that support him, but he’s been very blunt about the fact that he believes God is driving his hand and will make things work out for him…that’s religious fanaticism.

    Comment by UCrawford — December 3, 2007 @ 5:10 pm
  13. I agree with Steve. Once again we see the wisdom of Ron Paul’s advice on waiting for the attack to actually materialize, which it probably isn’t, rather than launch premptively and find out there never was any real threat.

    Later.

    Comment by Kevin Houston — December 3, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

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