Tuesday, December 4, 2007

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

Hello, and welcome to Bizarro world politics

If I had told you a year month week ago, dear readers, that the United States was going to be adopting a more dovish position on Iran than the International Atomic Energy Agency, you'd have thought me a pretty foolish man.

I just bring this up because of this New York Times story by Elaine Sciolino:

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday publicly embraced the new American intelligence assessment stating that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons effort, but in truth the agency is taking a more cautious approach in drawing conclusions about Iran’s nuclear program.

“To be frank, we are more skeptical,” a senior official close to the agency said. “We don’t buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran.”

The official called the American assertion that Iran had “halted” its weapons program in 2003 “somewhat surprising.”

That the nuclear watchdog agency based in Vienna is sounding a somewhat tougher line than the Bush administration is surprising, given that the administration has long criticized it for not pressuring Iran hard enough to curb its nuclear program.

But the American finding has so unsettled governments, agencies and officials dealing with Iran that it has suddenly upended commonly held assumptions.

There is relief, as one senior French official put it, that “the war option is off the table.” There is also criticism and even anger in some quarters that the American intelligence assessment may be too soft on Iran.

Tomorrow in Bizarro world politics -- Dick Cheney buys Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a flower.

UPDATE: Some of the commenters seem to think I'm dissing the IAEA in this post, in which case I didn't blog clearly enough. What's startling is not the IAEA's position -- they've been pretty consistent in their take on Iran for the past few years. What's startling is the 180 pulled by U.S. intelligence officials between the 2005 NIE and the 2007 NIE, and the mismatch between this latest NIE and the Bush administration's rhetoric from the past few months.

Ironically, for all of the criticism the Bush administration has heaped on the IAEA and Mohammed ElBaradei, it's their consistency that enhances the likelihood of maintaining the necessary coalition that opposes large-scale Iranian enrichment -- which in turn makes it likely that Iran will continue to keep its weapns program in a deep freeze.

posted by Dan on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM


IAEA is sounding a tougher line than the NIE, not "the Bush administration," if the statements today of the Bush administration leader are any indication.

They may not be. President Bush has tossed off statements that later became inoperative in order to get through public appearances before. In any event, what should be noted is that IAEA's position has not changed. The agency still wants transparency in Iran's enrichment and other nuclear activities, as well as documentation of prior weapons-related activities. These are reasonable requests. Tehran could gain much goodwill and remove a major source of international tension by granting them.

posted by: Zathras on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM [permalink]

I am going to agree again with Zathras, but again take it a step further.

The IAEA is simply a ver conservative organization. And for whatever reason, American "intelligence" agencies seem to want to take sweeping positions from inconclusive information. At least this time they are doing th right thing and leaning on the side of the facts, but I don't know why they would be so confident in their analysis unless they have internal information. If you listened to Scott Ritter before the Iraq war, you would have a good understanding on how these decisions are made by the IAEA. Just by the fact that you can not prove a negative, the IAEA will probably never make a conclusive determination on what Iran is doing. As the last IAEA report said, they have no reason to disbelieve anything Iran has said, which is still true.

But more importantly, attacking Iran has nothing to do with nuclear weapons, just as Iraq had nothing to do with WMD. It simply has nothing to do with it and never did. Weapons are an excuse, plain and simple. There are two real reasons that the USA takes the posture it does against Iran (and Iraq before the war). Those two reasons are: 1) Eliminating opposition in the Middle East and creating hegemony in the region, 2) Israel.

Obviously, Iraq never did anything to the USA, and Hamas has never done anything to the USA, either has Syria or Iran or any of the other groups that the USA threatens and attacks in the region. The USA was attacked by a wild group of radicals on 9/11, and there was no relationship between those radicals and any major group or organization in the region. But the USA took the opportunity created by the fear and anger 9/11 created to go on the offensive against all it's regional competitors. The USA simply wants total domination of the region. It wants to eliminate any potential (political) threat to its power. The Americans are not so stupid to believe that they are loved by the people of the region. And they know the danger of an (political) opponent gaining popularity and threatening long-fought American colonial outposts in the region. The threat that Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and other opposition groups pose to the USA is obviously not military, but that they can upset the hegemony the USA has built up over the decades. there is no doubt about this. and i am not saying why the USA is so keep to be so dominant in the region. but it is simply obvious what is happening.

As for the second point, about Israel, well, this speaks for itself. Israel will not accept any party that supports Palestinian rights. For Israel, any party that supports the Palestinians is a mortal enemy, regardless of the military power they have. Israel can not allow the Palestinians anything, in their mind. The Israelis have worked so hard over the years to steal more land and to support their puppet leaders in Palestine, that any outside support could shift that balance away from them. and i think they have a legitimate reason to fear such an outcome, because their state is so criminal, so vile, so internationally illegitimate that the Palestinians pose a true threat to the dominance that they do not deserve. So, as we all know, the USA is pretty connected to Israel and the Israel lobby is pretty strong. I don't want to go into the details, but the American relationship with Israel is the other reason.

there are other smaller reasons, and things like oil play a role in the hegemony argument. but i think this is pretty cut and dry. and these are obvious when you hear that Bush says the American position has not changed even though he has been totally embarrassed by the NIE.

posted by: Joe M. on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM [permalink]


Apparently, people have been telling you that the IAEA is politically motivated and pushing an agenda. Somehow, you not only believed that, you thoroughly internalized it. So much so, that when you see evidence to the contrary, you feel a weird surge of cognitive dissonance --- enough that you actually feel like you're in "bizarro world."

Agencies behaving professionally isn't "bizarro." It's the norm. What is bizarro is that on some deep level, some part of you internalized the idea that the IAEA is an unprofessional, agenda-driven agency. And as this NIE demonstrates, you internalized that belief largely without evidence. You should worry about that. You should ask yourself how you got that idea.

posted by: Josh Yelon on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM [permalink]

The American volta-face is ominous as is leaves its allies, who have supported American inspired sanctions against Iran, in thin air and with the pants down. America has been, once more, unreliable. What politician will dare to follow American lead in the future, knowing that America can change its position 180 degrees without advance warning to his friends and allies.

posted by: jaim klein on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM [permalink]

Wild hypothesis unsupported by any evidence: the US releases the report to make Iran _think_ that “the war option is off the table.”

But it's not.

posted by: ricardo on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM [permalink]

I'm wondering if this is all part of the push to rewrite history.

This has lots of people are now suggesting that, in fact, the Iraq invasion _was_ successful because it stopped the Iranian nuclear program in 2003. And Rove is suggesting that we went to war too quickly because of the Democrats. Obviously it doesn't seem particularly coherent, but it would be to Rove and Bush's advantage to confuse as many people as possible.

posted by: Mike on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM [permalink]

Why did Iran stop their nuclear weapons program in 2003 (assuming they did)?

posted by: Thomas Esmond Knox on 12.04.07 at 10:51 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?