Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of CIA's intelligence analysis directorate, points out what questions the upcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iran ought to answer. -- But will it? -- With quintessential politician Porter Goss as CIA director, and malleable functionary John Negroponte as national intelligence director, there is no guarantee that the estimate on Iran will be any less politicized than the one on Iraq's putative weapons of mass destruction six months before the war. ...
HONEST INTELLIGENCE NEEDED
By Ray McGovern
April 1, 2005
The latest commission looking into intelligence failures on Iraq reports a certain consistency in the performance of the intelligence community. We are informed that we also know disturbingly little about the weapons programs of other countries -- such as Iran. One might think this would counsel caution for a Pentagon planning to take out Iran's fledgling nuclear capability.
Think again. The recent reassertion of administration policy on preemptive war in the National Defense Strategy just promulgated by Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, together with his well-known insistence that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence suggest that Iran may well be the next target -- intelligence or no. The more so, since many of the malleable analysts who, according to the commission, were dead wrong about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are now putting the finishing touches to a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran.
I find myself wondering if it is also the case that Vice President Dick Cheney has resumed his frequent visits to CIA headquarters -- this time to help the analysts come to the right conclusions on Iran?
The new NIE on Iran will be of little value if it does not include an objective assessment of:
The likelihood that Iran would transfer nuclear materials to terrorists.
The degree to which recent history may be driving any Iranian plans to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq, after all, did not have them, and the United States invaded it; North Korea probably has a few, and the United States has done nothing.
What it would take in the way of security guarantees, as well as economic incentives, to get Iran to agree to drop any plans it has for developing nuclear weapons?
What is known about the strength of Iranian democratic forces?
The aftershocks to be expected in the wake of a U.S. or U.S./Israeli attack on Iran. How, for instance, do Pentagon planners expect the U.S. Navy to contend with Iran's formidable array of supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, which already pose a threat to U.S. ships providing logistical support to American forces in Iraq?
The wider international implications as Iran builds alliances on the energy front with key players like China, India, Russia and even Venezuela.
The long-awaited NIE may not address all these questions. And with quintessential politician Porter Goss as CIA director, and malleable functionary John Negroponte as national intelligence director, there is no guarantee that the estimate on Iran will be any less politicized than the one on Iraq's putative weapons of mass destruction six months before the war.
What seems clear is that an attack on Iran would make the debacle in Iraq seem like child's play. And yet chances appear good that the ever-narrowing circle of advisors around President Bush will persuade him to do just that, and for the same underlying reasons -- oil, Israel and a strategic presence in the region.
But, you say, such an attack would not conform to international norms of behavior. Neither, of course, did the attack on Iraq. A truly remarkable document, National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, just issued by the Pentagon asserts a U.S. right to go after regimes that do not exercise their sovereignty responsibly.
Much will depend on whether the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran deals forthrightly with these key issues or whether intelligence analysts are again persuaded to take the course of least resistance and tell the vice president and president what will please -- as they did in the NIE, Iraq's Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction of Oct. 1, 2002. That was the worst NIE on record -- so far.
--Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of CIA's intelligence analysis directorate, serves on the steering group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.