George W. Bush, December 4, 2007: “Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. The NIE says that Iran had a hidden--a covert nuclear weapons program. That’s what it said. What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?”
The New York Times, December 4, 2007:
Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here.Salon, December 4, 2007:
An administration that had cited Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as the rationale for an aggressive foreign policy--as an attempt to head off World War III, as President Bush himself put it only weeks ago--now has in its hands a classified document that undercuts much of the foundation for that approach.
The impact of the National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusion--that Iran had halted a military program in 2003, though it continues to enrich uranium, ostensibly for peaceful uses--will be felt in endless ways at home and abroad.
It will certainly weaken international support for tougher sanctions against Iran, as a senior administration official grudgingly acknowledged. And it will raise questions, again, about the integrity of America’s beleaguered intelligence agencies, including whether what are now acknowledged to have been overstatements about Iran’s intentions in a 2005 assessment reflected poor tradecraft or political pressure.
What you need to know about the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran: George W. Bush was first told in August or September that “fresh intelligence” suggested that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.When asked during his press conference yesterday whether he was “facing a credibility gap with the American people” over his saber-rattling statements about Iran--misstatements that echo his threats in the run-up to the war on Iraq--Bush said: “No, I’m feeling pretty spirited, pretty good about life, and have made the decision to come before you so I can explain the NIE. And I have said Iran is dangerous, and the NIE doesn’t do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world.”
Yes, that was before Bush said that he took “the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously,” and that the best way to prevent “World War III” would be to prevent the Iranians from obtaining the “knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”
It was before Condoleezza Rice said Iran is “pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material.”
It was before Dick Cheney said that the United States should “reach for any tool that’s available”--including the “possible use of military force”--to “discourage the Iranians from enriching uranium and producing nuclear weapons.”
Unfortunately, the prez isn’t man enough or mature enough to admit when he’s wrong, and to shift policy accordingly. Let’s hope that the Democrats in Congress and the American people in general know better this time than to “stay the course.”
FOLLOW-UP: “The latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program raises questions once again about the Bush administration’s veracity in describing a nuclear threat,” Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett write in Salon. “But President Bush’s worst misrepresentations about the Iranian nuclear issue do not focus on whether Tehran is currently pursuing a nuclear weapons program or when Bush knew the U.S. intelligence community was revising its previous assessments. Rather, the real lie is the president’s claim that his administration has made a serious offer to negotiate with the Islamic Republic, and that Iranian intransigence is the only thing preventing a diplomatic resolution.” You’ll find the whole article here.
READ MORE: “Bush Defends Iran Policy Amid Doubts on New U.N. Sanctions,” by Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers); “Bush Won’t Back Down on Iran,” by Ed Henry (CNN); “Former CIA Officials: Bush Iran Claims ‘Preposterous,’” by Thomas B. Edsall and Max Follmer (The Huffington Post); “Risking Credibility?” by Mark Murray (MSNBC).