Monday, December 17, 2007

Moderate Confidence

The NIE report is classified. Virtually nobody has read it. What we know about is a two-page summary. Have the Iranians stopped their weapons program, the one that would have given them an islam bomb? ... I mean an islam nuke, since there are ever so many islam bombs. Heh heh. That's like saying they're trying to give flies to a camel. Git it? They have so many. See? Anyways, have they stopped that program? The sundry intel agencies would have us believe so. And their record is so good, don't you know. They are after all the source of our belief that Saddam had WMD. Of course he did, but not so as anyone would know it. Yeah, it's sort of confusing. As is the idea that Iran has stopped its quest for nukes. Allow me to ask a clarifying question. What is the difference between a stop and a pause?

We should be skeptical about this latest on Iran. Because the Iranians are again enriching uraniun, uh, iraniam ... uranium. They stopped it, then started it again. They ... paused. And they're working on a long-range missile program surpassing in native genius even that of the North Koreans. Long-range, for all those far off threats to Iran. So all they're missing is rocket fuel, right? And maybe an actual working warhead? As Charles Krauthammer points out, "We now believe weaponization was suspended in fall 2003, at the same time uranium enrichment was suspended. However, when uranium enrichment was resumed a few months after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's accession to power, the weaponization program (we are now told) was not. This does not make a lot of sense."

The enrichment is easier to discover, you see, and to sanction. Greater risk, with less potential reward. See? Something's fishy. Why "invest enormous resources on the centrifuges for enrichment and on the missiles for delivery if you're not going to eventually weaponize?" Installing gas centrifuges at Natanz and constructing a heavy water reactor at Arak would have, at best, a dual purpose, both civil and military. When faced with such ambiguity, are we to assume benevolence? Enriched uranium equals a nuclear capacity. Iran and the nuclear club. When we think of "club" in this context, we would prefer to give it the meaning of "group" rather than "bludgeon".

The Iraquagmire that Bush dragged us into did have some good initial results. Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program, came clean, and coughed up A.Q. Khan, Pakistan's nuke merchant. And Iran came clean to, for a few months, sort of. That bit of bother over to their western frontier focused the minds of the mullahs or imams or ayatollahs or whatever it is they call themselves. Not rabbis, I know. They discovered that they were against building a bomb, after they were for it. But the tender caress of the passing months calmed their fears no doubt, and they realized against whom they were and would be contending -- merely us. Nothing to fear, then, as long as they remember that they invented chess and we invented checkers, or at least the name checkers -- well, at least we invented standoff, a sort of checkers. Standoff. Is that droll?

We should be skeptical, because the Iranians are better at keeping secrets than, say, us. And where did the bulk of this new intel come from, most likely? Most likely from Iranian Brigadier General Ali Reza Asgari, former deputy minister of defense in Iran, whose job description focused on coordinating Hezbollah's antics in Lebanon. Asgari showed up somehow on our doorstep last February, abducted or defected. Does he sound like one of the good guys? Should he be trusted? If he tells us Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program, there may very well be corroborative evidence. If he fails to tell us it has been resumed -- say, at the same time Ahmadinejad started up the centrifuges again -- how would we know? I mean no active disrespect, but our analysts at the CIA don't really seem to be what some might term reliable. They might tend to, say, misjudge a curveball, with a swing and a miss. Yep. We should be skeptical. Cuz we may be the only ones who are.

Iran has the desire to go nuclear, it has the means, and motive, and it has tried and been caught lying about it. Why would Iran stop? Respect for international law? I refer you to your history books, and the latter part of the Carter error. Fear of sanctions? Oil is near $100 per barrel. As long as we're financing the current regime, any other investments are irrelevant. What then? Why would Iran not weaponize? The factors at work when they stopped are no longer operative. The US has far less international influence. China and Russia are complicitous with Iran. France is unreliable, for all its new tough talk. What would stay their hand? Israel? Israel cannot even defeat Hezbollah, a minor appendage of the Iranian monster.

When they have enriched enough uranium for their inscrutable purposes, they can indeed stop. No need any longer to pause. They will have enough. Are we to be encouraged by such a prospect? And should we reward Iran's presumed suspension of its weapons program -- suspended as a response to sanctions -- by removing those sanctions? For a regime that responds only to pressure, should we remove the pressure?

Ah well, no sense in being paranoid. The CIA is "moderately confident". We must all surely agree that being moderate is a good thing. The alternative is to be fanatical. Like the Iranians.


No comments: