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December 07, 2007

That Wacky, Wacky Krauthammer Volume 4
Posted by Michael Cohen

In this week's edition of "That Wacky, Wacky Krauthammer" we discover that our good friend Charles has been in hibernation for the past 20 years and has just now discovered that Republicans are occasionally divisive during political campaigns. I know, I know, I'm as shocked as you are, but indeed the "Ever Wacky CK" has uncovered the truth.

Apparently, Krauthammer is outraged by the fact that Mike Huckabee is focusing on his Christian faith in Iowa as a way to remind voters that Mitt Romney is of course a Mormon. Chuck believes this is not only divisive, but "un-American."

I suspect that neither Jefferson's Providence nor Washington's Great Author nor Lincoln's Almighty would look kindly on the exploitation of religious differences for political gain. It is un-American. It is unfortunate that Romney has had to justify himself in response.

I don't disagree with the underlying notion here - but for any conservative and highly partisan Republican like Krauthammer to be upset by divisive political tactics . . . well talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Has Krauthammer ever heard of Willie Horton or Ronald Reagan's 1980 attacks on "welfare queens?" And what about gay marriage, the wedge issue of the 2004 campaign. Does Krauthammer think that was divisive? Hardly:

As for dividing Americans, who came up with the idea of radically altering the most ancient of all social institutions in the first place? Until the past few years, every civilization known to man has defined marriage as between people of opposite sex. To charge with "divisiveness" those who would do nothing more than resist a radical overturning of that norm is a sign of either gross partisanship or serious dimwittedness.

So not only is it not divisive to propose a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and make it a key campaign theme, but it's divisive of Democrats to even make the charge in the first place! So again, let's review - Republicans attack Democrats on highly divisive wedge issues: OK. Republicans do it to Republicans - not OK!

But, let's get to the matter at hand - Mitt Romney's speech on religious faith. Here's what Romney had to say yesterday:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

Maybe it's just me, but that is one of the most divisive statements I've heard come out of a politician's mouth, on the subject of religion, in a long time. What is the message this sends to non-believers and atheists, which constitutes approximately 30 million Americans, a number far larger then the total number of Mormons in the world. In many respects, Romney's words are as divisive, if not more, then Huckabee's extolling of his "Christian faith." Indeed, Huckabee has never directly attacked Romney's Mormonism.

Continue reading "That Wacky, Wacky Krauthammer Volume 4" »

The National Ilan Estimate
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

No, not Ilan Goldenberg.  Ilan Berman

In recent days conservative like Berman, Norman Podhoretz, Danielle Pletka and Jon Bolton, have been trying to cast doubt on the conclusions of the intelligence community.  Now the Washington Post is picking up on it and lending the arguments more credibility.  When reading these arguments it's worthwhile to remember a few basic facts that should absolutely discredit this entire crowd.

First, none of these people have access to the actual intelligence.  They are sitting at think tanks outside of the intelligence community and simply haven't seen the data. This was a report that shows the basic consensus of the nation's 16 intelligence and it was produced on the Bush Administration's watch and ultimately approved by the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, who is a Bush Administration appointee. 

Second, and this is even more important.  This conservative and neo-conservative crowd has a long history of disregarding and manipulating intelligence when it doesn't fall conveniently into their world view.  The Team B exercises in the late 1970s found that Soviet intentions and capabilities were much more dangerous than previously estimated by the intelligence community.  It became part of the justification for a major military buildup against the Soviets.  The Rumsfeld Commission in the 1990s was specifically set up to dispute the Intelligence Community's conclusions that the ballistic missile defense threat from developing countries to the American mainland was not an immediate danger.  It became the basis for greater investment in a National Missile Defense.  The Office of Special Plans that was set up in the Pentagon in the run up to the Iraq War, was specifically charged with trying to find connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq.  It was used to support arguments for War.

In all of these cases conservatives played with and disregarded intelligence to help make their cases for a particular policy.  And in all of these cases the conservatives were wrong.

December 06, 2007

Spending Money the Conservative Way
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I find it quite ironic that while conservatives are all about cutting spending at home, they now claim that one of the keys to good governance in Iraq is increased government spending.  (Even Mike O'Hanlon now thinks that this is an important benchmark).  I guess we shouldn't worry about things like this:

Jobless men pay $500 bribes to join the police. Families build houses illegally on government land, carwashes steal water from public pipes, and nearly everything the government buys or sells can now be found on the black market.

So basically.  Insuring poor and middle income children in the United States = government waste.  Stealing billions of dollars from the Iraqi government = progress in the "war on terror".

Very Serious Iranian People
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

In 2004, Nasser Hadian, a professor from Tehran University who was at the time teaching at Columia, outlined how Iranian elites viewed nuclear weapons.  After this week's NIE, looks like he was on the money.   Hadian argued that there were four schools (PDF) of thought:

  1. Iran doesn't need nuclear technology and the risks aren't worth it (Very unpopular.  Betrayal of Iran's basic rights.)
  2. Iran has a right to nuclear technology both because of the prestige factor and the economic benefits (Strong support)
  3. Iran should have the capability to quickly develop a nuclear capability to defend itself and act as a deterrent.  However, actually building the weapon would be too costly in terms of scaring its neighbors and alienating the world.  And anyway, just having the capability itself would be enough to act as a deterrent. So, it should continue to enrich uranium, leave the door open and stop there.  (Strong support)
  4. Iran should withdraw from the NPT and build a bomb (Very unpopular.  Too costly)

This was written four years ago.  So, it may no longer be true.  But it was written around the time that the intel community now believes the Iranians stopped work on their weapons program.  It would actually seem to make a lot of sense to me.  The overwhelming support amongst the elites was for a uranium enrichment program.  But the large majority was against actually pursuing a weapon, but still wanted to at least leave the option open in the future.   Seems like a very rational course for the Iranians to take and one that the NIE would seem to support.

Iraqi Security Force Training
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

There have in the past been a number of proposals out there to take Iraqi security forces out of Iraq and train them in a safer environment.  This does of course lead to one complication.  They don't really want to go back

Numerous Iraqi military and law-enforcement officials brought to the U.S. as part of special intelligence and training programs have run away and are seeking asylum in this country or disappeared altogether, The Washington Times has learned.

Intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say nearly a dozen Iraqis fled military training facilities in the U.S., including a brigadier general who went to Canada with his family earlier this year.

December 05, 2007

New Thinking for the US Role in Asia
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I wonder whether it's a coincidence that I found two interesting re-thinks of Asian geopolitics in my inbox the same day.  In the months between now and the Beijing Olympics, we're going to read a drumbeat of cheap, often inflammatory commentary about China threat this, and giant market that.  This is good stuff to inoculate yourself with first:

Jeff Laurenti and Matt Homer of the Century Foundation have a good brief analysis of how the Australian elections deal the final blow to VP Cheney's vision of an Indo-Austro-Japanese-US alliance to contain China.

David Shorr's Stanley Foundation colleague Michael Schiffer posits that the six-party talks might eventually serve as the nucleus of Northeast Asian regional security arrangements.  I disagree with his emphasis on institutionalization, and some of the specific "way forward" proposals seem off to me, but this is far, far above the usual "Asia should replicate the OSCE" or "all relevant democracies should join NATO" stuff you often get on this subject.

Why We Don't Have Enough Diplomats, Vol. XXX
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I've written before on this site that diplomat-bashing seems to have come back in fashion, starting with Rudy Giuliani, who seems to think that the problem with US diplomacy is that US ambassadors don't "understand the policy" well enough; extending to lots of conservative commentators who think everyone in Foggy Bottom should be falling over themselves to volunteer for duty in the Green Zone; and, frankly, even to some of our progressive friends who are under the mistaken impression that everyone who has worked for the US in the last seven years is a Bush Republican.

It broke my heart to read the reports of Ambassador Michael Guest's decision to resign over the lack of benefits for same-sex partners -- the Washington Post piece points out that pets are treated better on overseas assignments than same-sex partners -- for several reasons:

1) Colin Powell took personal responsibility for making Mike the first openly gay ambassador confirmed by the Senate; this is one more proof, on top of much weightier ones, that no one in this Administration, not even Condoleezza Rice, took what Powell did seriously, on policy or on strengthening the State Department. 

2)  Mike was a career guy who tried to make things better through career channels.  This is something free-spirit progressive bloggers, who love to trash career folks and politicals indiscriminately,  need to understand -- we need a backbone of smart, principled career people who really believe the US amounts to something more than a battle of parties and will keep our institutions alive.  Mike got an award for "constructive dissent" but at the end, Rice wouldn't respond to his communications and her senior management people couldn't come up with more than platitudes.

3)  Mike was my boss when I was a young intern lo these getting-to-be-many years ago, and although the experience turned me off of a career in the Foreign Service, I admired him greatly and still do.

Will an "Islamic Reformation" Ever Come?
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Yesterday, I contributed a guest post to Michael van der Galien's new group-blog, PoliGazette. Looks like a great site, so make sure to check it out. Here's my post on the question of whether an "Islamic Reformation" will ever come:

There's been an interesting discussion in the blogosphere recently on “moderate Muslims” and the broader issue of whether there is or will be a “Muslim reformation” (see here, here, here, as well as Matt Yglesias’s response here). Often, the conversation takes on a patronizing tone. What’s up with these Muslims, and why can’t they get their act together? It is a bit ironic that it’s those on the American Right (and far-right) - the very people who have so indulged Christian fundamentalism – who seem to think that Ataturk-style secularism should be the ultimate end-point for Muslim civilization.

So what is meant by this so-called “Islamic reformation”? If Western observers would like to see Muslims declare that they no longer believe the Quran is the exact word of God, then they are likely to be disappointed. To be a Muslim, theologically-speaking, you have to believe that every letter of the Quran is from God. This is Islam 101, and that part of it is non-negotiable. I kind of thought this was common knowledge, but apparently it’s not. What is negotiable, however, is the matter of how to interpret the Quran (ijtihad), of whether to emphasize the spirit of the law (maqasid al-shariah), or the strict letter of the law. Is the Quran to be contextualized and understand as a reflection of a particular set of historical circumstances, or is it to be seen as something that must be copied-and-pasted onto our present reality without any attention to how the modern period requires a different approach to religion than, say, the 7th or 8th century? These questions are already being vigorously debated by a whole host of scholars (among them Khaled abou el Fadl, Abdul Karim el-Soroush, Tariq el-Bishri, Abdel Wahab el-Messiri, Farid Esack, Amina Wadud, Heba Raouf Ezzat, Abdullah an-Naim).

This is why it’s quite frankly mind-boggling that people like AEI fellow and former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali are treated in some quarters as the second-comings of Martin Luther. This is pretty stupid when you think about it. Hirsi Ali isn’t even Muslim. She renounced her faith and, by her own admission, is an atheist. Not to mention the fact that she recently declared war on Islam. Anointing Hirsi Ali as the next great Islamic reformer is sort of like inviting Christopher Hitchens to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. She’s a bit of an outlier though. Even if you think the U.S. should be aiding “moderate” secularists in the Middle East, again, you’re likely to be disappointed. Secularism is more or less dead in the Middle East. If those are your “allies,” than you won’t have any. But, then again, some people are much more interested in making enemies than finding friends.

Continue reading "Will an "Islamic Reformation" Ever Come?" »

Running in Circles in Iraq
Posted by Max Bergmann

The New York Times this morning has an analysis of the "fragile, and possibly fleeting" situation in Iraq.

Officials attribute the relative calm to a huge increase in the number of Sunni Arab rebels who have turned their guns on jihadists instead of American troops; a six-month halt to military action by the militia of a top Shiite leader, Moktada al-Sadr; and the increased number of American troops on the streets here.

The Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister described it as "more a cease-fire than a peace." The point about a cease-fire is that they can easily cease. Here is the rub:


all of these changes can be reversed, and on relatively short notice. The Americans have already started to reduce troop levels and Mr. Sadr, who has only three months to go on his pledge, has issued increasingly bellicose pronouncements recently. The Sunni insurgents who turned against the jihadists are now expecting to be rewarded with government jobs. Yet, so far, barely 5 percent of the 77,000 Sunni volunteers have been given jobs in the Iraqi security forces, and the bureaucratic wheels have moved excruciatingly slowly despite government pledges to bring more Sunnis in.

One of the major problems with both the surge and "Sunni awakening" strategy has been their long term sustainability. For the surge, we never had enough troops to adequately implement a counter-insurgency strategy over the long term. The ground forces are simply stretched too thin to make the necessary long-term commitment. Additionally, the Sunni strategy may have serious unintended consequences, as we have organized an armed Sunni group that the Shia-led government is loathe to incorporate. We have armed both sides in the civil war. And...


it is likely that the old divisions will rapidly resurface as the United States reduces its troop levels. If that happens, extremist Sunnis will renew their assaults on Shiites and Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia will respond in kind.

What sense did it make to institute a strategy that was not sustainable from the get-go?

And This Guy Wants to Be President . . .
Posted by Michael Cohen

Courtesy of, Jonathan Martin reports that more than 24 hours after the release of the NIE on Iran, Mike Huckabee (who wants to be President) had not heard anything about it. You would think that if you were running President a) you might read the paper or watch the news and b) you'd have an aide or two who would think this is the kind of news they would want to share with the candidate.

But as if that's not enough, check out his answer to a question about his "concerns" with Iran.

I’ve a serious concern if they were to be  able to weaponize nuclear material, and I think we all should, mainly because the statements of Ahmadinejad are certainly not conducive to a peaceful purpose for his having it and the fear that he would in fact weaponize it and use it. (He pauses and thinks) I don’t know where the intelligence is coming from that says they have suspended the program or how credible that is versus the view that they actually are expanding it. … And I’ve heard, the last two weeks, supposed reports that they are accelerating it and it could be having a reactor in a much shorter period of time than originally been thought.

I'm not even sure what any of this means. Is anyone warning that Iran is about to build a nuclear reactor? Does anyone know what reports he is referring to? And maybe I'm late to the Iran debate, but I wasn't aware that weaponizing nuclear material was our biggest concern with Iran?

But as if that wasn't enough, I went to Huckabee's website and I found this absolute gem. In his checklist of 13 ways President Huckabee (and I shudder to write these words) will ensure America's security in the war on terror, here is number 4:

During the Cold War, we had hawks and doves, but this new war requires us to be a phoenix, rising reborn to meet each new challenge and seize each new opportunity.

For the record, here is the link. I am not making this up. And I recommend that you read the entire page; it appears to have been written by a high school student.

Seriously, this guy wants to be President?

December 04, 2007

What Did the President Know, and When Did He Know It?
Posted by Michael Cohen

As Greg Sargent points out over at TPM there is a serious and pretty important contradiction in the White House spin about the NIE.

As the Washington Post reported yesterday:

The assessment, under preparation for more than 18 months, was completed on Tuesday and President Bush and Vice President Cheney were briefed on Wednesday, intelligence officials said. Hadley said Bush first learned in August or September about intelligence indicating Iran had halted its weapons program and was advised it would take time to evaluate.

And yet, here is what Bush said today in his press conference:

He denied that he knew about the new assessment before his Oct. 17 remarks, saying he was briefed on the latest NIE only last week. He said the director of national intelligence, John M. McConnell, informed him in August that the intelligence community had "some new information" about Iran's program. "He didn't tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze."

Now as Ilan points out, this is absurd - how could the director of NIE not mention to the President a piece of blockbuster intelligence like Iraq has stopped work on its nuclear program? Either the President is lying or McConnell should be fired. I'd be good with both conclusions.

But here's the other question; did Dick Cheney really not know about this alternative assessment on Iran's nuclear program? That seems unfathomable to me considering his reputation for intelligence accumulation. Indeed there is evidence that his office fought tooth and nail to keep this negative assessment out of the NIE. If he did know, then the VEEP, if not a liar, certainly is guilty of pretty openly misleading the American people. Maybe someone at the Post could follow up with the Veep's office about this.

A Little NIE Perspective
Posted by Michael Cohen

It really is amazing to think about the sheer momentousness of yesterday's NIE on Iran. It pretty much stops the call for war with Iran dead in its tracks. I'm having a hard time thinking of any similar recent event (not obviously including war or terrorist attack) that so completely changed the trajectory of American foreign policy. Heady times, indeed.

Many on the left are rightly crowing over the NIE, few more unabashedly then Glenn Greenwald who has used its release as yet another opportunity to indiscriminately bash the so-called Very Serious Foreign Policy Community. In Glenn's traditionally restrained, even-handed and non-accusatory manner, he declares:

Over the past year, the rhetoric from our Serious Foreign Policy establishment regarding the supposed threat posed by Iran's active pursuit of nuclear weapons has severely escalated both in terms of shrillness and threats. Opposition to this building hysteria has been led by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who -- exactly as he did prior to the invasion of Iraq -- has been relentlessly warning that there is no real evidence to support these war-fueling allegations. Because of that, he has been relentlessly attacked and smeared by our Serious Foreign Policy elite -- yet again. And yet again, ElBaradei has been completely vindicated, and our Serious Foreign Policy Experts exposed as serial fabricators, fear-mongerers and hysterics.

Hmm. Whoever does he highlight in this machine-gun attack; Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post editorial page, who last time I checked is no friend of the left, my good friend the ever-wacky Charles Krauthammer, UN-lover John Bolton, Darth Vader . .  er, Dick Cheney, the perpetually wrong Bill Kristol, the batshit crazy Norman Podhoretz, Bush sycophant Fred Barnes, and the former Democrat, Joe Lieberman.

Most of these folks seem to have one thing in common - a neo-conservative sympathy. (In fairness, Greenwald also attacks favorite whipping boy Ken Pollack for stating that the circumstantial evidence of an Iranian nuke program was "quite strong.") One would be hard pressed to claim that these folks represent the mainstream of foreign policy thinking and yet Greenwald unabashedly declares:

Our political establishment is led by reckless war-lovers who will say anything, no matter how little basis there is, in order to beat their chests and threaten and start more wars (all the while accusing their latest desired bombing targets of being "rogue nations" and "threats to peace").

Really? Who are the Democratic members of the Very Serious Foreign Policy Community beating their chest for war in Iran? Granted some like Obama and Hillary Clinton have refused to take the force option off the table, but each has expressed a strong and undeniable preference for sanctions and diplomacy (a view shared by the members of the UN Security Council, and I'll get to that in a moment). While I'm sure Mr. Greenwald would like to include me in this list because I once stated that one could make a "argument" for the use of force against Iran (one of course that I completely reject) the fact is, the drumbeats of war have come almost universally from the right, and yet Greenwald has no qualms with tarring the entire Foreign Policy Community with the same shoot first, ask question's later brush.

But there is a larger point here that Greenwald is missing: there was until yesterday a strong basis for believing that Iran had something to hide about its nuclear program. Forget the 2005 NIE, which had a much more alarmist view of Iran's nuclear program; look at yesterday's news story from the Financial Times on Iran - only hours before the NIE was released.

"Beijing backs fresh sanctions against Iran." And why was China willing to go along with the other members of the Security Council in backing a sanctions regime against Iran:

At a meeting on Saturday of political directors of the P5 and Germany, China indicated that Iran's recent unwillingness to co-operate with the UN over its nuclear programme means it is now prepared to back a fresh range of sanctions.

Indeed, this about face is even more surprising when one considers:

Diplomats say China's opposition to a sanctions package has, if anything, been even more resolute than Russia, because of fears in Beijing that such moves would undermine its trading relationship with Tehran.

Continue reading "A Little NIE Perspective" »

Lies or Incompetence?
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Bush says today

I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was John — Mike McConnell came in and said, We have some new information. He didn’t tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.

As Think Progress points out, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that the President would not be briefed on this potentially huge development months in advance.  There are only two conclusions here.  Either:  A.  He is lying or at least not telling the full truth.  B.  He really didn't know. 

I'm actually much more  disturbed by option B.  It reflects a level of incompetence that would actually be quite stunning.  At the same time that Iran has been moved to the top of the Administration's  list of priorities, the intelligence community is sitting on a bombshell that the President doesn't know about?  McConnell comes in and tells the President that they are looking at some new and important information and the President doesn't even bother to ask what it is? 

Feinstein Vs. Rice
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Lee Feinstein, who runs the Clinton campaign's foreign policy shop,  writes on Huffington Post in support of his candidate

Susan Rice, a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, writes on behalf of her candidate.

Both worth reading.

Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

If you had asked me a week ago, do you think it is possible for the Bush Administration to further discredit the United States in the international community?  Is it possible to make our allies trust us even less on the issue of proliferation?  I would have had a hard time figuring out how the Administration could possibly do that.

Well, it turns out that it can.  While the NIE really is fantastic news, it just reinforces our lack of credibility on this issue.  And the issue is not some minor issue.  The issue is the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  THE SINGLE GREATEST THREAT to the security of the United States and the world.  And we have absolutely no credibility on it.  That is just not good, and I'm not sure it just changes the day we have a new administration.  I fear the damage to American credibility is more permanent than that.

Update:  In his press conference the President essentially said that they the intel community had new information in the summer and were in the process of verifying.  Should they perhaps have held off on a major major step like declaring the IRGC a terrorist organization, until after this information had been vetted and verified? 

He also seemed to say that he didn't know about this until last week.  To me that just seems like a huge stretch. 

December 03, 2007

Iraq and '08 Campaign
Posted by Michael Cohen

Today in the Washington Post, Peter Beinart makes the rather bold assertion that Iraq is quickly becoming a non-story in the Presidential election. Focusing on last month's Democratic debate in Las Vegas, he says:

The candidates mentioned the war, to be sure. But it never took center stage. And with the first primaries just weeks away, that's become the norm: Iraq wasn't a major focus at last week's Republican YouTube debate either. In the biggest surprise of the campaign so far, the election that almost everyone thought would be about Iraq is turning out not to be.

Beinart claims this is happening because "not as many people are dying" in Iraq. I'm sure there is some truth to this assertion, but it seems to me that the main reason candidates aren't talking about Iraq is because in the Democratic and Republican primaries it's pretty clear where the major candidates stand. Republicans want to keep troops in Iraq and Democrats want to bring them home. The divide between the two parties couldn't be clearer -- and at the same time the similar views in the parties is also pretty obvious. Now that Barack Obama has made the tactical decision to stop attacking Hillary Clinton for her vote authorizing the war I'm not sure what else there is for Democratic candidates to say about Iraq that isn't already known - they oppose the war, we get it! As for the Republicans, there is striking uniformity as well.

But the notion that the Iraq war will be a non-story once the two parties settle on a candidate seems pretty far-fetched. If the GOP candidate continues to support keeping troops in Iraq at present levels, does Beinart really think that the Democratic candidate will not remind voters of this fact? With more than 60% of the American people opposed to war that would be some pretty lousy politics. Indeed, I imagine it will be the centerpiece of his or her campaign. We may be getting a temporary respite from talk on the campaign trail about the war, but I, for one, would be pretty shocked if Beinart is right and Iraq is a "non-story" in the general election.


A Lie IS a Lie
Posted by Michael Cohen

Over the last week or so Karl Rove has been lying about the 2002 Congressional vote on the Iraq War. As the Washington Post reported yesterday Rove is claiming that it was Congress not President Bush that pushed for a vote on authorizing the Iraq War before the 2002 midterm elections. Why you may ask?

Because we didn't think it belonged within the confines of the election. There was an election coming up within a matter of weeks. We thought it made it too political.

As you stop laughing at the notion of Karl Rove saying "we thought it made it too political" consider the words of number one Bush sycophant Ari Fleischer when informed of this  Whopper.

Ari Fleischer: "It was definitely the Bush administration that set it in motion and determined the timing, not the Congress," he said. "I think Karl in this instance just has his facts wrong."

The article even featured quotes from President Bush calling for an early vote on authorization. So from all that information it seems pretty clear that Karl Rove is LYING . . . but you won't find those words in the Washington Post. Instead Peter Baker says Rove's "version of events" are "disputed," or he turns it into a partisan squabble by asserting that "Democrats accused him of rewriting history." The fact is, Democrats are accusing Rove of rewriting history . . . BECAUSE HE IS REWRITING HISTORY! Every piece of evidence mustered demonstrates that fact and yet Peter Baker and the Washington Post are reticent to say Rove is lying. Not surprisingly, Rove keeps repeating the same false assertion.

Now here's why this matters, today a New Intelligence Estimate was released indicating that Iran ended its nuclear program in 2003. What's more according to Gareth Porter's excellent reporting, this is not exactly news to the Bush Administration:

A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear programme, and thus make the document more supportive of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts of the process provided by participants to two former Central Intelligence Agency officers.

Continue reading "A Lie IS a Lie" »

The 800 pound gorilla has left the room.
Posted by Moira Whelan

We did a bit of work over here today looking at the Iran NIE findings that were just released. Rand Beers and Jon Wolfsthal weighed in with their thoughts, and I thought they both made a point that is timely and forward looking: We have a chance to approach things differently. The NIE finds that there is not, in fact, an 800 pound gorilla in the room in the form of a nuclear program...always good news.

Unfortunately, there is still a 5-ton elephant in the room (in the form of the Republicans) so it's unclear the Bushies will actually seize this opportunity. Afterall, they have been knowingly spewing rhetoric that was contrary to their intelligence for quite some time.

New Intel Estimate on Iran
Posted by Shawn Brimley

Unclassified portions of a new intelligence estimate on Iran's nuclear program have just been released. The bottom line? "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Also: "We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015."

Other conclusions from the NIE include:

  • We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were
    working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.
  • We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC
    assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)
  • We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons
    program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop
    nuclear weapons.
  • We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently
    have a nuclear weapon.
  • Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined
    to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment
    that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure
    suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged

It will take some time to digest this very significant release, and it will be interesting to see (among other things) how Republican presidential candidates will react to this. At a minimum, this reinforces the importance of direct diplomacy. If Iran is less committed to the idea of being a nuclear power than previously thought, the space for creative and useful negotiations seems to be much more expansive.

Of course, given that the estimate concludes that Iran halted its program in the fall of 2003, expect the wacky, wacky Krauthammer and Co. to suggest that the prospect of being "next" was the primary driver. Mike Cohen's mission in life continues - stay tuned.

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