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December 10, 2007
Nuclear Iran? Not So
Sometimes one story can change everything. That’s what happened this
week, when the latest declassified National Intelligence Estimate
revealed the astonishing news that Iran had in fact suspended its
nuclear weapons program – four years ago.
The news, released
as part of an estimate that counts as the unanimous opinion of 16
separate U.S. intelligence agencies, probably came as the biggest
foreign news-related shock of the past five years, and seemingly threw
every assumption, from left or right, into question.
My first reaction?
Good. I’m glad that an evil, genocidal, theocratic regime with designs
on regional domination does not have a nuclear weapon. The world is a
better place if that’s the way things are. My second reaction? It sure
is good that we found out about the lack of WMDs before invading,
as opposed to after, like last time.
Is Iran still
dangerous? Sure – they were, after all, enriching uranium in the first
place, and continue their meddling in Iraq in a very unhelpful way.
Their president, of course, remains an invasion-threatening,
Holocaust-denying, braying jackass. And of course, there remains the
possibility that Iran could re-start its efforts, a situation that
certainly bears watching.
But with Iran now
nowhere close to a nuclear weapon, we can cool off a bit. World War III
is no longer imminent. Neither is World War IV – or, in the case of Iran
invasion advocate/Giuliani advisor Norman Podhoretz, I guess World War
V. And some cooling off is what we’ve needed for quite some time.
pundits, predictably, had two responses: Either (a) the invasion of
Iraq, also in 2003, scared Iran into abandoning its own nuclear weapons
program, or (b) the report itself is merely a fraud by a radical
left-wing intelligence community seeking to undermine the Bush
Administration any way they can, even if it means spreading false
intelligence that could hurt America and its allies.
Those making these
arguments seem not to be bothered that there’s no concrete proof for
either argument, or that the two stand in direct opposition to each
other and could not possibly both be true. It’s sort of like those on
the left who simultaneously bash George W. Bush as both a moron, and
also as unspeakably evil. How can he be both?
The other standard
argument is to say that the intelligence must be wrong, since America’s
intelligence agencies haven’t exactly been getting a whole lot right of
late. I find this argument a bit more sympathetic, but still not quite
convincing. The conclusion is, after all, the consensus of more than a
George Friedman of
the military research firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) shot
down all these arguments, writing this week that “the Iranians weren't
nuts. That is why they didn't build a nuclear program.”
An even bigger
surprise, according to Stratfor’s analysis? The group believes that the
announcement is a prelude to an actual peace deal between the U.S. and
Iran, which will help lay the groundwork for a kind of détente – and
eventually, some sort of grand bargain for stabilizing Iraq. I would
have expected such a thing to have to wait until the Barack Obama
Administration, but once again, events surprise me more and more every
How did the
presidential candidates react? Sort of predictably. The Democrats took
the opportunity to simultaneously bash both President Bush and each
other, as Barack Obama called the findings a reminder that Congress must
closely follow intelligence, while also ripping Hillary Clinton for
voting for the Iraq war.
On the Republican
side, it was much of the same, with Rudy Giuliani drawing fire for
continuing to run an ad, even after the NIE’s release, in which he vowed
to get tough on Iran. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee committed an even bigger
gaffe: More than 24 hours after its release, the surging former Arkansas
governor appeared not to have yet heard about it.
Where things go
between the U.S. and Iran remain to be seen; but two things we know so
far – that Iran will not have nukes anytime soon, and that we won’t be
invading them anytime soon either – are both indisputably good things.
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