Thursday, August 24, 2006

Intelligence ala Cheney: Still Cooking and Back on the Front Burner

Once again, American intelligence is "darn good" unless it doesn’t tell the darn Bush administration what it wants to hear, darn it.

Mark Mazetti of the New York Times reported yesterday that the executive branch and its echo chambermaids in Congress are unhappy with U.S. intelligence on Iran.
Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

The neo-pols say those darn old intelligence agencies are playing down darn old Iran's role in the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, and are overestimating the time it would take Iran to develop its darn old nuclear weapons--if, in fact, they're trying to develop any darn old nuclear weapons.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) has released a committee report that says in part: “Intelligence community managers and analysts must provide their best analytical judgments about Iranian W.M.D. programs and not shy away from provocative conclusions or bury disagreements in consensus assessments.”

There's no reason at all to think that America's intelligence professionals aren't providing their best analytical judgments about Iranian W.M.D., but that doesn't stop Hoekstra types from accusing them of being timid. Well, the argument goes, they're not telling us what we want to hear because they don't want to be wrong again like they were with Iraq.

That's both a silly and cynical argument--intelligence professionals don't want to be wrong period, and they don't want to be bullied into providing the politically expedient answers again. Unfortunately, what we're seeing in the struggle between the neoconservative ideologues and the intelligence communities looks very much like what happened in the run up to the Iraq invasion.

Remember the Office of Special Plans (OSP), the shadow right wing intelligence group set up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and run under the patronage of Dick Cheney to second guess the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency intelligence on Iraq? Well--they're baaaaack…

Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story reported last week that the OSP has been reincarnated as the Iranian Directorate (ID), and Dick Cheney is getting private briefings on Iran intelligence from former OSP director Abram Shulsky. Shulsky is a leading neoconservative and a member of the Project for the New American Century, the think tank that formulated the policy for regime change in Iraq. Other past and present PNAC members include Cheney, Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, Jeb Bush and Charles Krauthammer.

Alexandrovna wrote "Several foreign policy experts who wish to remain anonymous have expressed serious concern that much like the OSP, the ID is manipulating, cherry picking, and perhaps even--as some suspect--cooking intelligence to lead the U.S. into another conflict, this time with Iran."

Double Negative Proof

A "negative proof" argument is a type of logical fallacy that says something exists because there is no proof that it does not exist. Cheney, Rice, Bolton and others who constantly remind us about Iran's nuclear weapons program offer us nothing by way of tangible evidence that such a program actually exists, and consistently bat away any and all requests that they provide such proof.

In the Iranian W.M.D. question, we have something of a "double negative proof" situation. Iran says it has no nuclear weapons ambitions, but balks at opening its nuclear development program to full inspection. They're asking us to believe that something doesn't exist because we can't produce proof that it does. The neocons, conversely, point to the negative proof that an Iranian nuclear weapons program doesn't exist as positive proof that it does, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

So what are we to think? The two most likely conclusions are that a) Iran is developing nuclear weapons behind everybody's back, possibly with the tacit approval of Russian and China or b) they're playing a cat and mouse game designed to jerk Dick Cheney's chain. They could even be doing both.

But at the end of the day, the weapons issue is really secondary to Iran's ambition to establish a homegrown nuclear power program, especially one developed in conjunction with Russia and China. Cheney's plan to control Middle East oil from a military base of operations in Iraq isn't working out so well. If a Russia, China and Iran cabal were to gain control of a significant portion of the world energy market, Dick and Dubya's big oil buddies will be selling solar panels door to door. But Dick and Dubya can't do anything mean to Iran based on its energy ambitions alone--or at least, they can't let the public know that's what they're up to.

Hence all the double-negative neo-mantras about Iran's weapons program that either does or doesn't exist. The Cheney-bots can't deny the legitimacy of Iran's nuclear energy ambitions, because the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)--to which both the U.S. and Iran are signatories--guaranties that "Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes[.]"

Strictly speaking, Cheney can't even accuse Iran of having violated the NPT by hiding parts of its nuclear program from UN inspectors. The Additional Protocol to the treaty allows international inspectors unrestricted access to any nuclear site on short notice. But former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami never presented the Additional Protocol to his parliament for ratification, and in October 2005, top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani rejected the Additional Protocol outright.

So the only argument Cheney can make for getting down and dirty on Iran with soft or hard punitive measures is the "mushroom cloud" meme, but don't get fooled for a nanosecond into thinking he's worried about protecting America's physical security.

He's worried about protecting his petro-pals' profits.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous8:28 AM

    And as long as the clouds of war crowd the horizon, and traders trade oil's risk premium, everyone producting oil enjoys record profits.

    Who knows, perhaps when they realize they can sort their differences out, they'll realize that, for them, peace is more expensive than other peoples' war.

  2. John Shreffler8:50 AM


    Tis is a war which seems certain to come. The Russians export oil, have a veto on the Security Council, and would love to see $150 a barrel oil. Also they'd like to see us fall. It's not just Cheney.

  3. Yes, war is good for business.

    And yes, the Russians are having a field day with us.

  4. Your insightful posts are not for the fainthearted. It is totally mindboggling to me that 'they' are preparing for something (war) in which they themselves don't participate from. Just from the conveniences of their 'war rooms', strategizing, while real people die and real people suffer traumas unimaginable by most of us. I hope there is a hell even though I don't really believe in one..they certainly have their judgement waiting for them! This is pure evil, even though most people think evil comes in packages of men dressed in black and who are obvious to spot in a crowd. I will have to post something to do this to refer my few faithful readers over to this post. They read me for the varied posts and personal opinions, yours are material for great analysis..
    Bravo, as always,

  5. Ingrid,

    The biggest difference I see between the Iraq and Iran run ups is that this time Cheney and the Chain Gang aren't even pretending to have anything to back up their assertions.

    And I'm not really sure where they're leading with all this. I don't see an end game favorable to the US at all. We get embarrassed when sanctions get vetoed, then do nothing. Or sanctions get vetoed and we bomb Iran--even worse. A third possibility--sanctions get passed but they're so mild they're meaningless, another US embarrassment.