Bomb Iran?

April 1, 2008

I find myself becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect a unilateral attack by the U.S. against Iran. Seymour Hersh has told us that we have been perched on the precipice of preemptive war with Iran for some time. On his last trip to Europe Bush told people there that he did not accept the conclusions of our National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded last fall that Iran had discontinued its development of nuclear weapons in 2003.

All American oversight agencies agreed in the N.I.E.’s statement that the conclusion that Iran had no nuclear weapons development program was accurate to a very high degree of probability. Since then, while officials in the administration (including Bush) have said that they did not accept this conclusion, to my knowledge no one has offered any reason for rejecting the clear conclusion of all the country’s intelligence agencies. Last week Cheney announced without any support whatsoever that Iran was heavily engaged in a nuclear weapons program.

(While I’m on the subject of the National Intelligence Estimate, I would also like someone in the administration to address the repeated statements in this annual report that Iraq is serving as a training ground for terrorists, resulting in a substantially increased threat of terrorism. I have yet to hear — and maybe I just missed it — a reasoned debate of this conclusion reached by the agencies that are supposed to know about terrorism.)

I was alarmed by the recent public statement of the director of the C.I.A., Michael V. Hayden. He now appears to take issue with his own National Intelligence Estimate. This of course would not be alarming if there was any data to warrant a different conclusion. One would presume that there might be a different conclusion if there were events subsequent to the report that were inconsistent with the events relied on in the report. He however asserts that proof of the existence of this program lies in Iran’s willingness to suffer penalties rather than open itself to inspections. This is after the U.S. agreed to the U.N. imposed sanctions and without any evidence whatsoever of Iran’s failure to comply with the edict to stop nuclear weapons development.

Hayden, however, publicly asserted that there was the threat of nuclear weapons development in Iran because there was no new information since the opposite conclusion was reached. This of course is not in keeping with conventional notions of logic. There are other explanations for not allowing inspections. The United States for example has historically resisted inspections itself based on its national sovereignty.