OpinionIran in the World PressPolitics & Policies: Counter intelligence?

Politics & Policies: Counter intelligence?


Middle East Times: Who does one turn to for intelligent intelligence in the absence of comprehensive intelligence from the intelligence community? Middle East Times

By CLAUDE SALHANI (Editor, Middle East Times)

Who does one turn to for intelligent intelligence in the absence of comprehensive intelligence from the intelligence community?

For years the George W. Bush administration was shouting to the world the perils of a nuclear-armed Iran. As recently as last summer there were persistent rumors – in fact some sources believe it was more than rumors – that the United States was gearing up for a military strike on the Islamic republic’s nuclear building sites. The “proof” was there, we were told.

Suddenly, as of Monday, the latest release of a collective study by all 16 U.S. intelligence services – known as the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, reveals that Iran had turned its back on its nuclear ambitions as far back as 2003.

But as early as August 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran broke the story to the world that Iran was engaged in a secretive nuclear program, the intention of which was to turn the Islamic republic into a nuclear-armed power. The Iranian opposition group offered proof, backed-up by photographs and satellite images, that Iran had built facilities in a number of cities scattered across the country.

Iran had learned a lesson from Iraq’s mistakes when it concentrated its nuclear facilities under one roof at Osirak. Israel put an end to Iraq’s nuclear aspiration on June 7, 1981, when a squadron of Israeli F–16 fighters, escorted by F-15s bombed the Iraqi facility. Not wishing to offer its enemies the same opportunity, the Islamic republic scattered its nuclear building sites across the country, rendering a military strike by the United States or Israel all that more difficult.

There was a conversion plant at Isfahan, an enrichment facility at Natanz, a plutonium processing center at Arak; the list went on. The Iranian opposition group provided details of Iran’s nuclear program down to the names and home addresses of government officials allegedly involved in building Iran’s nuclear arsenal.

Also last summer, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was calling for concrete action against Iran’s nuclear sites before the Bush administration left office, saying he did not believe the next administration would have what it takes for a face-down with Iran.

Now if we are to believe the combined U.S. intelligence community, none of this is real. The hype, the pressure, the meetings between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Iranians would have been theatrics.

Granted, for those of us not in the intelligence community, much of this saga is pure guesswork based on facts made available to the public or the media. But not being part of the intelligence community doesn’t mean we are suffering from a total lack of intelligence, either. Something here is not right. Either the NIE is grossly mistaken, or all the information, intelligence, data, etc. provided by the Iranian opposition group, also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, was intended to railroad the Bush administration into a military confrontation with Iran’s ruling ayatollahs.

But what about the statements made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran would continue its nuclear program come what may? Are we to believe now that he never said that? Was it all part of our imagination? What about Ahmadinejad’s recent statement that Iran now possessed more than 3,000 centrifuges? Or did that not happen as well?

The answer to all the above questions is hardly. Something is fundamentally wrong in the latest NIE report. The fundamental question is why this sudden reversal of policy?

Is it, as asks Clare M. Lopez, a 20-year veteran operations officer of the CIA, in a column written for the Middle East Times, “accepting that the NIE is actually the collective genuine conclusion of the intelligence community and not some elaborate ruse of disinformation means accepting that the overwhelming evidence about Iran’s nuclear weapons program revealed during the last several years was nothing but a chimera.”

Indeed, for all this to be nothing but a figment of our imagination is questionable. Maybe what is needed for the public to accept this unexpected reversal of policy would require a gadget that erases one’s memory, such as the one used by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the science fiction movie, “Men in Black.”

Though closer to reality one may question the timing of the release of the NIE report, coming on the heels of the Annapolis meeting. As Lopez points out, “this NIE smacks strongly of the politicization of intelligence inside the intelligence community, a charge last leveled at Republicans before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”

If indeed there is truth to the NIE report, then a much closer look at the intelligence provided by the National Council of Resistance in Iranian is needed. The dilemma is how to gather enough intelligence on those who provided the intelligence?

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