Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Personal Intelligence Agency Alert

The link to the explanation of the PIA Alert is here. The previous alert is here. "Wretchard" at The Belmont Club triggered the alert with this part of a longer post (my bolds):
Ironically this may encourage what no one really wants -- a regional war -- not only from despair over the Palestinian problem but by the seemingly unstoppable Iranian drive to acquire a nuclear weapon. An imminent Iranian nuclear weapon would come close to realizing Saddam Hussein's greatest fear: an Iranian-driven empowerment of Shi'ite communities throughout Middle East. So great was that fear it made Saddam launch a pre-emptive war on Teheran in 1980, calculating he could destroy Teheran before it's superior potential could be mobilized. Where Jimmy Carter hesitated to pursue a rescue of US hostages the Iraqi dictator had no compunctions in starting the Iran-Iraq war, which was fought to a draw. Now, with a Shi'ite majority government in Iraq, Syria being pushed out of Lebanon and the possibility of an Iranian bomb, Saddam's old fear is close to coming true.
And further down, this:
Saudi Arabia together with Turkey are nervously eyeing Iran as it reaches for nuclear weapons, one from a sense of religious rivalry and the other out of a sense of national danger. Neither wants to see Iran become the regional hegemon. Yet everyone fears the steps that may be taken to prevent it. There has been widespread speculation on the feasibility of Israeli air strikes on Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. But the really effective pressure on Iran will involve what nobody even wants to think about: as Saddam Hussein demonstrated in the Iraq-Iran war, coercing Teheran involves blockading its oil exporting facilities and igniting a naval war the Persian Gulf.
Admittedly, the tortured syntax makes this one a bit hard to decipher (I've visited this blog a few times in the past, and today's check-in reminded me why I never became a regular) but several readings make it clear a PIA Alert is warranted....after all, we're already talking blockade! We know the U.S. intelligence community's current estimate is that Iran is about a decade away from the ability to produce a nuclear weapon; read about that here. Thus, unless Wretchard's definition of "seemingly unstoppable drive" and "imminent" and "reaching for nuclear weapons" and "close to coming true" is a decade, he appears to have his own Personal Intelligence Agency, the information from which has caused him to reach a radically different conclusion than the vast and well-funded U.S. intelligence community that includes the CIA, DIA and NSA.

Look, I'm aware of the danger of paralysis and national self-doubt after the WMD debacle in Iraq. There are many reasons why Iran should never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. But unless we're ready to dismantle our entire intelligence community, we need to balance those reasons with what we know or can reasonably estimate. If the estimate was a year to Iranian nuclear capability instead of a decade, we'd be left with an entirely different set of options than we have right now. We mustn't dismiss this flexibility as academic. As someone who works in the global financial markets, I can state confidently that military action against Iran will have profound financial consequences for any American who relies on more than a log cabin, a bicycle, and barter. Balancing reward with risk and knowledge with uncertainty is how leaders once developed and implemented geopolitical strategy. Don't like it? Too rigorous? Then stop funding the intelligence community and send everyone home right now, and the kiddies can wing it and "roll around on the lawn" for the next few years like they have with Iraq, Katrina, Miers, Kerik, Plamegate, torture, NSA surveillance, and government spending.

Assuming there's still time to inject some sanity into the Iran debate---and admittedly that's a big assumption---it's important to confront and reject the fact-challenged enablers that the PIA Alert calls to account. The alternative is to sit by passively and watch as---just like the buildup to Iraq---repeated misstatements, sloppy speculation, deliberate distortions, and agenda-driven lies conspire to create a perceived "urgency" that eventually forces us all to sit through the second half of a horrible double-feature.

42 Comments:

Anonymous Small Axe said...

I like that image of the Administration as kids rolling around on the lawn. Just take the guns away from Dickie first.

Seriously, though, you have an excellent point and I hope that your PIA alerts will help remind people that we've been down this road before, many times, and the cost has been enormous.

Well done, CR.

2/14/2006 1:39 AM  
Blogger jj said...

If Cheney can pull of an Iran attack, I, I, I... I simply don't know what the hell to think anymore. If that happens, you can kiss the election of '08 g'bye.

2/14/2006 2:48 AM  
Anonymous cmg said...

Your "Personal Intelligence Agency" concept is priceless.

Nice work -- haven't missed a post since Josh Marshall's pointer months ago.

2/14/2006 2:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I draw your attention to another PIA in last week's Spectator magazine, from columnist Allister Heath, who writes: 'A nuclear Iran raises the horrifying spectre of nuclear-armed suicide terrorists at some point during the next decade.' Since the CIA says that Iran won't even have a nuclear capability for at least ten years, there is no chance of 'nuclear armed suicide terrorists' in the next decade, unless Mr Heath has his own PIA which knows something the CIA does not. Sadly, these sort of comments go unchallenged most of the time.

2/14/2006 5:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Republican friends have been running around for years telling everyone that 'Islamic Terrorists Have Nucleur Bombs Planted In This Country Ready to Go Off at Any Moment". Seems like they have gotten a good jump on the fearmongoring.

They don't!

They would have used them.

"They are waiting for the right time"

That time passed. The perfect time to have done that would have been on the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Think about it. You explode one on the first anniversary and then the silly frightened Americans run nilly-willy around killing each other waiting for the second one to go off.

They obviously didn't so they don't have them. My Republican friends also said that 'they didn't want world opinion to be against them' Pleeeeeeaaaaaaaassssssssseeeeee!

2/14/2006 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Historically, it is misleading. Presently, it is a spin.
Historically, Saddam didn't attack Iran due to fear of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and " an Iranian-driven empowerment of Shi'ite communities throughout Middle East."
Presently, the only thing Iran can do with a nuclear weapon is to use it as a deterrent. Do you think Iran will dare to attack Israel who has hundreds of nuclear weapons and who is fully supported by US which owns the biggest nuclear arsenal? Yes it will do one thing, and that is, that US and Israel will be unable to bully Iran in future. Why US didn't and will not attack North Korea? Why India didn't attack Pakistan in 2000? Why there was no war between US and USSR? Its all nuclear deterrence. But this will leave us without a real threat of war against Iran, at least in near future. Is that a bad thing? I don't know.

2/14/2006 10:08 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Not surprising, you are quoting from a moron. Saddam started that war to grab oil rich regions in Iran -- and he thought they'd be easy pickings.

2/14/2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger Chris F. said...

I figured you might be interested in this from the NYT, today. This administration's Middle East policy is absolutely atrocious and getting worse. Starving the Palestinians is just NOT the right way to further the cause of freedom and democracy. The New York Times

2/14/2006 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad they outted Plame. We could use "real" human intelligence as opposed to "agendas" permeating this issue.

2/14/2006 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your PIA pointers. However, aren't you basing your 10 year estimate from the same "intelligence" agencies that told Bush that Iraq's WMD was a "slam dunk"?

Does this mean that Iran will get them sooner? Not necessarily, it could take even longer than 10 years. The point is that the CIA, DIA, etc. don't really have a lot of credibility on this issue, do they?

2/14/2006 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read (or reread) The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill covering the end of WW I, the rise of Hitler & right-wing brownshirt thugs in Germany and the provocative acts leading to war.

His main points:
1. WW II could have been prevented by timely action (by/of the victors of WW I).
2. The punitive measures taken against Germany after WW I were a significant CAUSE of the rise of Hitler.
3. The COST in blood and economic life rises with delay. Do not postpone what needs to be done.

If a nutcase takes power in a country and builds the military and the weaponry and
If words or (more importantly) DEEDS indicate hostility toward peoples and neighbors then we need to be
On Guard
and
Act Appropriately.

Now of course which country or countries fit this description?

2/14/2006 1:19 PM  
Blogger David Studhalter said...

Brilliant, lucid analysis by TCR. If the Repubs had a few smart gents like him in their stable, we would not be in near the mess we are.

2/14/2006 1:32 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

These PIA alerts would be more credible if you had a credible source. It does make for entertaining reading though.

2/14/2006 2:03 PM  
Blogger Mark Jones said...

Bettencourt, what is a "more credible" source? Redstate.org?
You seem to think that that anything not approved by the RNC is a little dubious? Do us all a favor, and give us your top ten list of credible sources. Thanks.

2/14/2006 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Roy's sources include such infinitely credible entities as Faux News, Drudge, Newsmax, etc. etc.

2/14/2006 5:34 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

First off I am not a republican. Secondly, I am extrememly proud to be from big blue California.

That being said, a credible source would be actual proof.
I dont blindly follow any source but rather I look at the evidence. If you rely on a certain outlet or person then you will be consistently let down.

I have no idea when Iran will get a nuke the difference is that I am not running around pretending like I do. Maybe you missed the whole Iraq debate. There were plenty of "credible" sources that Saddam had WMD's, they turned out to be bullshit.

Here are some key phrases from the article: according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The new ESTIMATE takes a broader approach to the question of Iran's political future.

"It's a full look at what we know, what we don't know and what ASSUMPTIONS we have," a U.S. source said.

The commission found earlier this year that U.S. intelligence knows "disturbingly little" about Iran, and about North Korea.


Excuse me if I dont take that as gospel. Maybe that is enough for you but not me. This was the same crap we heard before Iraq. Some people say 5 years others are saying 10, but it seems that all of them are guessing.

So it seems stupid to claim that this unnamed source is fact. So to answer I dont have a specific outlet or person but I know facts when I see them and I have not seen them with regards to Iran.

2/14/2006 5:52 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Wait I got it. This is the way you judge sources, Democrat good, republican bad. And that is why you believe everyone else does the same.

2/14/2006 6:01 PM  
Blogger Mark Jones said...

Not that it really matters, but I am a registered republican.
As for the original post of TCR, the "PIA alert"; the point is, if people really don't have solid "proof", why pretend that they do? And the only answer is, they don't really care if Iran really is 1 year away or 10 years away; they already have an agenda in place and they want to act on it. Just as Bush was ready to move on Iraq, whether they had WMD or not. Everything was put in motion to invade Iraq, regardless of any proof, or lack therof, of WMD. So, when you write "I know facts when I see them and I have not seen them with regards to Iran. ", I guess you agree with TCR about people with PIA's, i.e. if you are not sure, then stop advocating military action/economic sanctions, etc.

2/14/2006 6:41 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

And my point is that TCR is attempting to do the same thing he is accusing others of doing. To say that it is a fact that Iran is 10 years away is BS.

Should we wait for 9 1/2 years and then attempt to persuade them not to make a bomb. It seems that now is the tume to apply political pressure not 9 years from now.

2/14/2006 7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roy.

If this administration would actually be open and forthright with the American People about the information and Congress would do their job and not just rubberstamp anything the Bushies want to do. The Iraq blunder has tainted all future efforts by this administration. I, however, think the Iraq thing wasn't a blunder. It was a 'we do what we want and fuck them all' I'd love to see the administration put the cards on the table, open it to debate, and see what happens. Right now the people are seen as the problem. In an analogy....It's like going to the store, purchasing a book, and then not being aloud to read it (or book-on-tape for the liberals).

I've never seen such secrecy and evasiveness. That tells you they are screwing us.

2/14/2006 9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those interested in this subject (Iran and The Bomb) may be interested in this commentary:

http://fbc.binghamton.edu/commentr.htm

2/14/2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger Mark Jones said...

Apply "pressure" now, based on what? You own PIA? You must have some special sources, that know that now is the right time to apply "pressure".

2/15/2006 11:39 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

Based on the fact that the Iranian President is acting like a maniac. Surely you are not suggesting that you think this guy is not attempting to get nuclear capability. He has ordered the UN cameras out of his facilities, he has said he will begin enriching unranium. Based on the fact he makes beligerent statements regarding Israel and Europe. I am not trying to imply that he is close to reaching nuclear capability but he seems to be trying , does he not?

2/15/2006 1:42 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

I have to agree with anonymous that Bush has eroded trust and Iraq has tained anything he wants to do with Iran this is why we need the international community behind us. No talk about going it alone this time. Let diplomacy take its course, but definitely start now.

2/15/2006 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

The point is "applying pressure" and "taking action" in Iran has speculative benefits (maybe stopping Iran from getting a bomb that they are maybe close to developing and that they maybe would use on our allies despite the certainty of overwhelming nuclear response), but near-certain economic and political costs. Taken by itself, there was nothing wrong with deposing Hussein just on the off-chance he had WMD's and the even more off-chance that he intended to give them to terrorists. Better safe than sorry, right? Of course, you can't just look at that decision in a vacuum and ignore the thousands killed, many more thousands wounded, the billions upon billions spent, the damage to our prestige and standing, and the hollowing of our military. We got very dubious benefits for a god-awful cost. The costs of taking action in Iran would be even more ghastly, making the armchair intelligence agencies all the more irresponsible with their "imminent Iranian bomb" talk. Maybe they're right, but if they are it's purely accidental, and contrary to the opinion of our real intelligence agencies, whose tendencies (from Russia to Iraq) have been to overestimate threats rather than underestimate them. If the PIA's are going to throw that crap out there, they need some actual basis for the opinion before they are entitled to any credence at all. The burden of proof is on those who would spend more billions and more lives on a uneducated hunch.

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