Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?

Summary:  The LAT puts some high-grade disinformation into circulation; Tigerhawk gives this wagon a push.  The DNI fails to confirm, but this urban legend probably will continue to circulate (that how info ops gain traction, even when false).  This is the second in a series; at the end are links to the other chapters.

The drums are beating again, attempting to rouse Americans to fear Iran.  Why not?  It worked last time, arousing terror about Saddam using nothing but moonshine.  But will even the sheep (aka us, the American public) be so easily fooled a second time?   We might soon know the answer.

Let’s examine the evidence in chronological sequence.  It’s always interesting to watch professionals at work, even when their information operations are directed against us.

This post discusses information operations — directed against us.  We need better awareness of how we are being manipulated.  In this case by people who want a strike at Iran.  They do not speak of a war with Iran, but of course such aggressive actions often start wars. Are they correct?  That is a larger and more complex subject.  This post discusses how they make their case by exaggerating what we know about Iran — its capabilities and motives.  See the links at the end to other posts in this series.


  1. Has Iran Achieved a Nuclear Weapons Breakout Capability? Not Yet, But Soon“, by David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan, Institute for Science and International Security, 2 December 2008
  2. Testimony of Leon E. Panetta (Director of the CIA) on 5 February before the Senate Intelligence Committee
  3. CNN transcript of President Obama’s first press conference, 9 February 2009
  4. U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb“, Los Angeles Times, 12 February 2009
  5. Now they tell us: Iran is pursuing a bomb“, Tigerhawk, 13 February 2009
  6. Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence“, Dennis C. Blair (Director of National Intelligence), 12 February 2009
  7. About information operations
  8. Other posts in this series
  9. For more information:  other posts about Iran on the FM website

Note:  The last official words from the US government about Iran’s nukes was this National Intelligence Estimate (NIE):  Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, November 2007.

(1)  A report by the Institute for Science and International Security

Has Iran Achieved a Nuclear Weapons Breakout Capability? Not Yet, But Soon“, by David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan, 2 December 2008 — Conclusion (key text in red; mark its appearance later in this post):

Although some media reports in November 2008 concluded prematurely that Iran has reached a nuclear weapons capability, Iran is moving steadily toward this capability and is expected to reach that milestone during 2009 under a wide variety of scenarios. In the short term, the response should include increasing economic sanctions on Iran and accelerating the timetable for U.S.-led negotiations with Iran over the fate and transparency of its nuclear program.

Note that this is a careful statement by experts, who clearly state that their limited data allows no firm conclusions.  Nevertheless, in the hands of info artists this can be the foundation for big lies.

Per Wikipedia:  ISIS is a non-profit institution, founded in 1993, to inform the public about science and policy issues affecting international security, particularly relating to nuclear weapons. It is led by former United Nations IAEA nuclear inspector David Albright, and is based in Washington, D.C.. Its motto is “Employing Science in the Pursuit of Peace”.

(2)  Words of Leon E. Panetta, Director of the CIA (nothing new)

Testimony on 5 February before the Senate Intelligence Committee:

Senator Bayh:  We had an unfortunate case, I’m sure you’re aware of, with regard to Iran, where the way in which the National Intelligence Estimate was written highlighted the fact that apparently they suspended their weaponization, the weaponization aspect of their program. Then in a footnote, it noted that they continue to pace with their attempts to develop fissile material and delivery capabilities, and those kinds of things, and in fact, may have restarted their weaponization efforts. We just don’t know.

So, my comment, my question is, is it your belief that Iran is seeking a nuclear military capability? Or is their interest solely limited to the civilian sphere?

Panetta:   From all the information I’ve seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.

(3)  The 13 words that launched a thousand over-the-top blog posts, but also nothing new

An excerpt from the CNN transcript of President Obama’s first press conference, 9 February 2009 — (red emphasis added, otherwise a casual read might miss this trivia).

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to shift gears to foreign policy. What is your strategy for engaging Iran? And when will you start to implement it? Will your timetable be affected at all by the Iranian elections? And are you getting any indications that Iran is interested in a dialogue with the United States?

Obama: I said during the campaign that Iran is a country that has extraordinary people, extraordinary history and traditions, but that its actions over many years now have been unhelpful when it comes to promoting peace and prosperity both in the region and around the world, that their attacks — or their — their financing of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, the bellicose language that they’ve used towards Israel, their development of a nuclear weapon or their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, that all those things create the possibility of destabilizing the region and are not only contrary to our interests, but I think are contrary to the interests of international peace.

(4)  An excellent information operation, but directed against us (as usual)

Note how the LAT assembles the tiny nuggets described above into a classic “prepare to hide under your bed” scary story.  Also note how a quote from a private study group becomes words of “US officials”, and that the key evidence comes (as usual) from unnamed “US officials”.  The LAT alerts us to watch DNI Blair’s testimony for confirmation (see #6 below; it did not do so).

U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb“, Los Angeles Times, 12 February 2009 — “In a reversal since a 2007 report, U.S. officials expect the Islamic Republic to reach development milestones this year.” — Excerpt:

Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

… U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year. Obama’s top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

(5)  Tigerhawk gives the info op a helping hand

Now they tell us: Iran is pursuing a bomb“, Tigerhawk, 13 February 2009 — Excerpt:

Most political blog readers will remember the storm of controversy that erupted in early December 2007, when a new American “National Intelligence Assessment” claimed that Iran had stopped development of a nuclear weapon in 2003. The New York Times wrote that “[rarely], if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here.” Blogs exploded.

Lefty blogs rejoiced. … So imagine my interest to see the Los Angeles Times report that the intelligence agencies have reversed themselves again …

Substantively, Iran hawks should rejoice. The Obama administration is clearly going to great lengths to educate Congressional liberals and the public at large on the danger posed by Iran. The point, presumably, is to dispose of the lefty canard that Iran is a fundamentally peaceful country caught in a security dilemma of American construct. It also commits Obama to an aggressive (even if non-military) posture toward Iran, which is comforting to those of us who believe that we need a hardball, if nuanced, strategy for containing, deterring, and, if necessary, interdicting the Islamic Republic.

… Snarkily, we are waiting for all those lefty blogs to deliberate thoughtfully about whether the December 2007 report, which the Bushies nefariously “suppressed” for a year after its development, might have itself been the “intelligence failure.” Perhaps it is important for a president to question the judgments of the bureaucracy.

Finally, we note that the LAT story appeared more than 36 hours ago with virtually no follow-up in the mainstream media or the blogosphere. It seems like a pretty big story, and a heckuva lot more important than, for example, the ins-and-outs of Judd Gregg’s withdrawal.

(6)  Words of Dennis C. Blair, The Director of National Intelligence

Do you see any confirmation of the LAT story in this?  I do not.  Do you expect a retraction of the LAT story?  Me, neither. Blair almost exactly repeats the conclusions of theNov 2007 NIE.

Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence“, 12 February 2009 (PDF, 46 pages) — Excerpt:

I want to be very clear in characterizing the Iranian nuclear program. First, there are three key parts to an effective nuclear weapons capability:

  • Production of fissile material,
  • Effective means for weapon delivery, and
  • Design, weaponization, and testing of the warhead itself.

We assessed in our 2007 NIE on this subject that Iran’s nuclear weapon design and weaponization work was halted in fall 2003, along with its covert uranium conversion and enrichment-related activities. Declared uranium enrichment efforts were suspended in 2003 but resumed in January 2006 and will enable Iran to produce weapons-usable fissile material if it chooses to do so. Development of medium-range ballistic missiles, inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons, has continued unabated.

We assess Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons until fall 2003. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision were made to do so.

  1. Iran continues its efforts to develop uranium enrichment technology, which can be used both to produce low-enriched uranium for power reactor fuel and to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
  2. As noted, Iran continues to deploy and improve ballistic missiles inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
  3. We assess Iran since fall 2003 has conducted research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications, some of which would be of limited use for nuclear weapons.

We judge in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons design and weaponization activities and that the halt lasted at least several years. We assess Tehran had not restarted these activities as of at least mid-2007. Although we do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons, we assess Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop them.

We judge the halt was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work. This indicates Iran may be more susceptible to influence on the issue than we had judged in the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate.

We do not have sufficient intelligence reporting to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain indefinitely the halt of its previously enumerated nuclear weapons-related activities while it weighs its options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt it to restart those activities.

We assess Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons.

In our judgment, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons—and such a decision is inherently reversible. I reiterate that two activities of the three relevant to a nuclear weapons capability continue: development of uranium enrichment technology that will enable production of fissile material, if Iran chooses to do so, and development of nuclear-capable ballistic missile systems.

… We continue to assess Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon. We continue to assess Iran probably has imported at least some weapons-usable fissile material but still judge it has not obtained enough for a nuclear weapon. We cannot rule out that Iran has acquired from abroad or will acquire in the future a nuclear weapon or enough fissile material for a weapon. Barring such acquisitions, if Iran wants to have nuclear weapons it would need to produce sufficient amounts of fissile material indigenously. We judge it has not yet done so.

Iran made significant progress in 2007 and 2008 installing and operating centrifuges at its main centrifuge enrichment plant, Natanz. We judge Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a weapon sometime during the 2010- 2015 time frame. INR judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.

(7)  A note about “information operations”

Somewhere in the mid 20th century, the power of information management was discovered — and its ability to shape public opinion and hence public policy. It’s a spectrum. At one end we have advertising, the other we have the Illuminati (and their orbital mind-control lasers). In between we have info ops:

  • organized programs
  • to manipulate public perception and public policy
  • run by state and non-state groups
  • working in loose alliances.

By now almost everybody does these. Pro-life, pro-abortion, the “education lobby”, the pro-Israel lobby, defense contractors, folks wanting war with Iraq (past) and Iran (now). The mainstream media are one of the major battlegrounds for these efforts, and the methods have grown increasingly sophisticated.

Tigerhawk, comment #17:   “Or is it just some aggressive reporter overreading the nuance in all the various administration statements?”

Very little in the newspapers just happens.  Esp not on these high profile issues. A large fraction of stories are fed to media, largely pre-packaged (as press releases or less formally). The cutbacks at the mainstream news media – now accelerating — increase the appeal of this business model.

For more about info ops see Wikipedia.

(8)  Other posts in this series

  1. Is the War on Terror over (because there are no longer two sides)?, 3 September 2008 — Rumors of covert ops by us against Iran, including aid to terrorists
  2. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 January 2009
  3. Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 2 January 2010 — Forecasts of an Iranian bomb really soon, going back to 1984
  4. About the escalating conflict with Iran (not *yet* open war), 4 January 2012
  5. Have Iran’s leaders vowed to destroy Israel?, 5 January 2012 — No, but it’s established as fact by repetition
  6. What do we know about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?, 6 January 2012 — US intelligence officials are clear:  not as much as the news media implies
  7. What does the IAEA know about Iran’s nuclear program?, 9 January 2012 — Their reports bear little resemblance to reports in the news media
  8. What happens when a nation gets nukes?  Sixty years of history suggests an answer., 10 January 2012
  9. What happens if Iran gets nukes? Not what we’ve been told., 11 January 2012
  10. Status report on the already-hot conflict with Iran – and the looming war, 12 January 2012
  11. Continuity and dysfunctionality in US foreign policy (lessons for our conflict with Iran), 13 January 2012 — Insights about today from Cold War strategist Colin Grey
  12. What the conflict with Iran teaches us about modern State-to-State war, 16 January 2012
  13. Has Iran won a round vs. the US-Israel?, 17 January 2012
  14. Is Killing Iranian Nuclear Scientists Terrorism?, 19 January 2012

(9)  For more information on the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Some posts on the FM site about disinformation and propaganda:

  1. News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!, 2 September 2007
  2. 4GW at work in a community near you, 19 October 2007
  3. The media discover info ops, with outrage!, 22 April 2008
  4. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?, 1 May 2008
  5. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable”, 8 June 2008 – About Debkafile
  6. Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber?, 15 June 2008
  7. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us), 26 November 2008
  8. Concrete evidence of government info ops against us, but it’s OK because we are sheep, 2 December 2008
  9. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 February 2009

Posts about our relations with Iran:

  1. 4GW at work in a community near you , 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
  2. Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? , 17 March 2008
  3. More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran” , 18 March 2008
  4. A militant America, ready for war with Iran , 6 May 2008
  5. Another step towards war with Iran?, 7 May 2008 — About Andrew Cockburn’s article in  Counterpunch.
  6. “War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think”, 13 May 2008 — About Philip Giraldi’s 9 May story in The American Conservative (see below).
  7. The most expensive psy-war campaign – ever!, 13 July 2008
  8. ISIS: “Can Military Strikes Destroy Iran’s Gas Centrifuge Program? Probably Not.”, 8 August 2008
  9. Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!, 25 August 2008
  10. Will trade sanctions work against Iran, as they did against Japan in 1941?, 27 August 2008
  11. Is the War on Terror over (because there are no longer two sides)? Part 1, 3 September 2008 — Rumors of covert ops by us against Iran.
  12. Update on the prospects of war with Iran, from Stratfor, 6 September 2008


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).  For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

54 thoughts on “Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?”

  1. seneca: how does it help them (Israel)?

    Classic “Clean Break” (google it and look especially carefully at the names of the authors)) strategy, to the letter.

    Con the US into war with Iran and the last major regional competitor goes away (you’ve already taken out Iraq). Destroying the US is a bonus. Remember the Israeli agents caught (and arrested) for cheering after the Towers collapsed in New York?

    The “Clean Break”, the original neo-con plan, strategy was always anti US. After the US had done its bit (the useful idiot for a while), then the “Clean Break”, was a break from America! Freeing Israel to do what it wants in the region, with no competitors, without any US interference.

    Sad to say, they’ve taken you for bunch of mugs. Because in reality Iran is a much, much, more important regional partner for the West, though it looks like we have lost it to Russia and China.

  2. I should have added why Iran is so important, because it is embracing modernity. It wants to be a technological power. It wants to go into space. It want to make high tech stuff. It is full of educated people.

    It is anti-Sunni extremism, you know … Bin Ladin and the like (now we support people like these and give them money, as in Lebenon).

    It has stuck (more or less, more than many in the West) by the rules. IEAE, space agreements. Proposed nuclear free zones, etc, etc. It tends to play by the rules. Persians are conservative.

    Even when, with our help (including the only WMD ever found in Iraq after the invasion.. the US gas shells .. boy did that get so much media covererage … not), they were being gassed by Iraq, they never used poison gas against the Iraqis, even though they could have easily. And that says something very important.

  3. Why on earth would Iran nuke Palestine? That would contaminate the soil!

    The Palestinians are their Muslim brothers, whose portion is “from the River to the Sea”. Destroy the imposition of the artificial, foreign authority occupying part of Palestine and calling itself “Israel”, yes. Surely this is what they mean by the desruction of Israel.

  4. A missile in the direction of a Gulf state is just as off point as Iranian threats to the geopolitical situation to the topic of media manipulation. It’s a downplaying of the real threat. Iran has actually played these threat games regularly to gin up oil prices. Sometimes they work. Other times, not so much. Yes, you’ve written about 4GW threats elsewhere. This just means you know better. So why the top cover for the mullahs?

    “The drums are beating again, attempting to rouse Americans to fear Iran.” This is not a first sentence of a post talking about not going for the easy, but (in your opinion) false line of Iranian nuclear ambitions and urging us all to be realistic about the true Iranian threat so that we aren’t consumed over rationales by the necessary work of fixing the quite real ills spilling from Tehran. This first sentence is pro-mullah happy talk or at least happy talk making excuses for that odious regime.

    It would have been a far better line to attack the media for undermining the case for war with Iran because false threats are simply not effective. Iran’s decommissioning of its CW capabilities shows that they know perfectly well how to handle international inspections in a way that gives the West warm fuzzies. Were we to threaten actual war (at great expense running the mobilization), Iran could cheaply counter this by simply letting the inspectors in and evaporate the concern.

    We should fear Iran for what it does. We should not fear Iran for what it is not doing. But in the real world where one does not always get a pony, I’d rather rightly fear over a mistaken reason than be asleep at the switch. It’s not particularly a good thing but better then the future you’re painting here.

    In the recent war with Hamas there were clear signals that Hamas would have folded and fairly quickly had it not been for Iranian threats to withhold future cash stiffening the spine of the Hamas leadership in Syria. For its part, Iranian support for Hezbollah strengthened its post war position. They would have been unable to buy influence and forgiveness with reconstruction without Iranian cash and would have paid a serious price for the ruin of Shia Lebanon. Iranian sponsorship of these groups makes them more dangerous, with cures less likely.

    Iran’s contribution to this growing problem is serious enough that they deserve ownership of it. They should also pay the price for it.
    Fabius Maximus replies; (1) US intelligence was clearly mis-represented by the LAT, as shown in this post. Perhaps you believe that it is commendable that the LAT did deceived us, in the grand tradition of “you supply the pictures, I’ll supply the war.” I do not.

    (2) Like most of these pro-war comments, you provide no factual basis for your fears. When you do, I might take them seriously.

    (3) As for Hamas, in the modern world major powers struggle through proxies — since direct war is too dangerous. You imply that this will stop if we stage a strike at Iran; I consider that unlikely. (Note, again you cite no basis for your “clear signals”.)

  5. Update: “Iran slows atom plant growth but fuel stockpile jumps“, Reuters, 19 February 2009 — Excerpt:

    Iran has slowed the expansion of its uranium enrichment plant but markedly built up a stockpile of low-enriched nuclear fuel, an International Atomic Energy Agency report showed on Thursday.

    The U.N. watchdog said Iran had increased the number of centrifuges refining uranium — a process that can produce fuel for civilian energy or potentially for atom bombs — by only 136 from 3,800 in November. “We see the pace of installing and bringing centrifuges into operation has slowed quite considerably since August,” a senior U.N. official versed in the IAEA’s findings said.

    But Iran’s reported stockpile of low-enriched uranium had risen to 1,010 kg from 630 kg in November and 480 kg in August. The heightened output rate suggested existing centrifuges were operating at higher capacity and more glitch-free than before.

    Western non-proliferation analysts estimate from 1,000 to 1,700 kg would be needed as a basis for conversion into high-enriched uranium suitable for one bomb and Tehran could reach that threshold within a few months.

    But it would take Iran another 2-5 years before it was technically capable of producing nuclear weaponry, if it so chose, IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said this week.

    … The IAEA report also said Iran had refused to let IAEA inspectors conduct a design check at its Arak heavy water reactor project in January and had built a dome over it, preventing satellites from taking images of the facility. More broadly, the report said Iran was still boycotting IAEA investigators looking into intelligence allegations of past covert atom bomb work by Tehran, with the silent stalemate now more than six months old.

    As long as Iran continued to withhold documentation, permission to interview relevant Iranian officials and visits to sites in question, it said, the IAEA would be unable to verify whether Iranian nuclear activity was peaceful or not.

  6. Of course Iran’s nuclear program is military, according to “Proof of Iran’s military nuclear program“, Olivier Guitta (adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies), op-ed in the Middle East Times, 7 April 2008.

    What makes you tick? Is it that you love Iran, hate America, hate Israel so much that you don’t care what happens to America, or some combination of the above? Are you a follower of the mass-murderer and child-raper Mohammed?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps it is just poor reading skills on your part. None of the heavy-breathing comments on this thread have even attempted to find anything incorrect about this article. Rather they just don’t agree with US intelligence.

    This post showed that the LAT was was writing factually incorrect material. You appearently believe that is OK. I don’t.

    As for your last paragraph, it requires really distorted thinking to believe that disagreeing with US intelligence indicates “that you love Iran, hate America, hate Israel”.

    1. Leon Panetta and Obama speaking the LA Times do not contradict in any way the new NIE; the excerpt you choose focuses on whether the material in question will be usable for bomb-making, and the answer therein is “yes”.

      The LA Times piece is not disinformation; you paleos (Sam Francis, Pat Buchanan, and Srdja Trifkovic being prominent examples) just can’t live with Iran being a threat to America instead of merely to the global Illuminoid conspiracy that uses the Zionazis as its foil. (Some of my best friends are paleos.)
      Fabius Maximus replies: (1) What “new” NIE? Do you mean the Nov 2007 one?

      (2) “the excerpt you choose focuses on whether the material in question will …”

      I quoted both Panetta and Obama’s remarks about Iran in full (You can click to see the transcript of Obama remarks; see the Congressional Quarterly transcript for Panetta’s testimony.

      (3) As for the LAT article, here are two specifics:
      (1) There is no evidence of “there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.”
      (2) Dennis Blair (DNI) did “address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee” — but only by repeating almost verbatem the conclusions of the Nov 2007 NIE.

      Too many comments on this thread consist of mostly ad hominem attacks. I’ve let this go a few rounds, but enough. Please either provide actual content; these are not civil and hence in violation of the FM site’s Comment Policy (stated at the end of each post and here in more detail). Violations will be edited or deleted.

  7. FM Note: Comments must be no more than 250 words, as stated at the end of every post and in the Comment Policy. This was over twice that. Since it is a slow day, rather than truncating at 250 words, to bring it down to the limit I edited out the unsupported guessing.
    The most immediate consequence of an Iranian bomb will be a localized arms race in the Persian gulf. All too often in the West we tend to underestimate the Sunni Shia split.

    My expectation is that the Iranians are … Under the law of unintended consequences, the most likely result will be … I do not think that …

    I think the more interesting question is why is this leaking now, from several sources including Panetta and Blair, and published in the LA times which is a struggling Tribune company rag. Sam Zell, the publisher, is somewhat conservative with strong ties to Israel, and his fights with and firing of the Times editorial staff are legend. Both the Trib and the LA times endorsed Obama. Panetta is from California and still has connections there.

    So is this really news, or what is going on here? My feeling is that the Obama admininstration got their strategic threat assessment lectures and kind of went …

    So there was probably this epiphany, oops, we may need to backpedal on Iran. They are laying the groundwork for continued involvement in Iraq due to this new Iranian “threat”. In a more cynical moment I might even suggest that this is a calculated piece of disinformation designed to allow them to distance themselves from campaign promises. In any event, do not expect us to leave Iraq anytime soon under an Obama presidency.

  8. Update: for more on this see Foreign Policy magazines webiste: “Iran NIE debate redux“, 13 February 2009 — Excerpt:

    “With regard to Iranian intentions, the intelligence community, both in 2007 and earlier, essentially said that while Iran is putting itself closer to being able to build a bomb if it decides to, whether it actually will build one will depend on decisions not yet taken and cost-benefit calculations not yet made,” Pillar {former senior CIA official} continued. “To the extent that the current administration is careful to use language like ‘pursuing’ or ‘seeking’ a ‘capability,’ this is not inconsistent with the intelligence community’s judgments.”

  9. About comment #40: I thought that I was fairly clear that I thought the LAT piece substandard but only because it was intellectually lazy and went for the easy problem of Iran and nuclear weapons and didn’t bother with the more challenging problems that Iran actually is doing.

    A shorter version of our dispute is that I think that the LAT piece is the equivalent of a stopped clock and you think that the LAT piece has the time wrong. We agree that the LAT is committing journalistic malpractice. We just disagree how and how to properly react.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I did not understand. Thank you for the explanation!

  10. Gee TH, I didn’t know you were so important as to have your posts considered “Ops”. But then again, using Wikipedia as a reference.

    There are only really four reasons to have a nuclear bomb arsenal. 1) Prestige, 2) Deterant, 3) Threat, and 4) Use. The US started with Use in mind and rapidly switched to Deterant after the end of WWII. Israel has been a very quiet Deterant. The Pak/Indian conflict has been fairly well restrained to Prestige/Deterant, with occasional forays into Threat. The former Soviet Union ran the whole gauntlet from 1-3 several times with the knowledge that Use would result in their violent destruction.

    And Iran? They have made it abundently clear that Use is their whole reason for this expensive project. Use on Israel, and anybody who might support Israel (that’s us, by the way).

    To put it simply, Iran is working on an atomic bomb. Despite weird CIA reports to the contrary, they have been constantly working on an atomic bomb since the 80s, from trying to buy materials off the black market, to instructions (AQ Kahn and co.) to ingredients, to giant uderground bunkers filled with processing equipment. Their efforts have waxed and waned with the support of various mullahs and the finances of the poorly run government, with various parts of the project having lean years and fat years. At present they appear to have plans for a fairly simple and effective Pakastan type nuke, the raw materials (semi-refined Uranium) and the political nerve to manufacture at least one, probably more. Nobody really knows what they will do with the first one, other than probably drag it out into the desert and blow it up just to claim credit. It’s the second one we are worrying about.

    In police terms, here within a few years Iran will have Motive, Opportunity, and Means. We can not do much about the Motive, it is hard to suppress the Opportunity (without a reliable ABM system, and even then they could just load a bomb on a freighter and blow it upwind of the Israeli coast), so we are stuck trying to put a stop to their Means.

    Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP)
    Fabius Maximus replies: Why do we bother with a “weird CIA” when we have your unsupported guessing? Can you also tell us who will win the 2010 World Series, the truth about the climate in 2012, and the secret of love?

    By the way, who destroyed who in the Cold War — with people on both sides uttering dire threats during the 1950’s? Did we destroy the USSR — acting on Goldwater’s advice to lob a nuke into the Kremlin’s men’s room — or vice versa?

    And that bit about “Iran using it on the US”. Will the senior leaders of Iran committ suicide, since our Trident missiles will turn Iran into the world’s only glow-in-the-dark year-around desert ice-skating ring?

    Or might Iran be gaming us, using Nixon’s “madman theory”? As Nixon explained to Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman:

    “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ — and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.” (from Haldeman’s “The Ends of Power”, 1978)

    From “The Madman Nuclear Alert: Secrecy, Signaling, and Safety in October 1969“, Scott Sagan and Jeremi Suri, International Security, Spring 2003 — A must-read article for anyone interest in geopolitics. Opening:

    On the evening of October 10, 1969, Gen. Earle Wheeler, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), sent a top secret message to major U.S. military commanders around the world informing them that the JCS had been directed “by higher authority” to increase U.S. military readiness “to respond to possible confrontation by the Soviet Union.” The Strategic Air Command (SAC) was ordered to stand down all aircraft combat training missions and to increase the number of nucleararmed B-52 bombers on ground alert. These readiness measures were implemented on October 13.

    Even more dramatic, on October 27 SAC launched a series of B-52 bombers, armed with thermonuclear weapons, on a “show of force” airborne alert, code-named Giant Lance. During this alert operation, eighteen B-52s took off from bases in California and Washington State. The bombers crossed Alaska, were refueled in midair by KC-135 tanker aircraft, and then ºew in oval patterns toward the Soviet Union and back, on eighteenhour “vigils” over the northern polar ice cap. Why did the U.S. military go on a nuclear alert in October 1969? The alert was a loud but secret military signal ordered by President Richard Nixon. Nixon sought to convince Soviet and North Vietnamese leaders that he might do anything to end the war in Vietnam, in accordance with his “madman theory” of coercive diplomacy.

  11. The ISIS “List of Countries” – Iran, Korean Peninsula (sic), Pakistan, India, Syria – reads like a who-is-who of “terrorist” countries reviled by successive US Administrations !

    Allowing for such national bias, one wonders why Israel is not included in the scope of researched countries even on a speculative basis from a “non-profit organization” like ISIS !??

    One also wonders why such a respect-seeking organization like ISIS fails to mention Israeli nuclear research, weaponry and capability even after allowing for the mildest of imaginations of its researchers.

    A bizarre case of intentional negligence indeed ….

  12. Dear Ab Fab, I have now come to the conclusion that you are actually Cato the Censor.
    De gamla,de Fria,
    Du gamla, Du fria (“Thou ancient, Thou free”) is the de facto national anthem of Sweden.

    Marcus Porcius Cato: (234 BC – 149 BC) was a Roman statesman, surnamed the Censor (Censorius), the Wise (Sapiens), the Ancient (Priscus), or the Elder (Major), to distinguish him from Cato the Younger (his great-grandson). (Wikipedia)

  13. Update — important stories about Iran’s atomic program

    (1) Iran says has own raw uranium supply, no shortage“, Reuters, 20 February 2009

    (2) Iran cooperates after understating atom stocks-IAEA“, Reuters, 22 February 2009 — Excerpt:

    Iran is cooperating well with U.N. nuclear inspectors to help ensure it does not again understate the amount of uranium it has enriched, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Sunday. The IAEA statement seemed aimed at quashing any impressions raised by its watchdog report on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme on Thursday that the accounting shortfall might have been deliberate evasion.

    The issue is important due to suspicions, denied by Tehran, that it may put uranium enrichment to making atom bombs and concern about the ability of the IAEA’s restricted mission in Iran to keep track of nuclear advances there.

    The IAEA report showed a significant increase in Iran’s reported stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) since November to 1,010 kg — enough, some physicists say, for possible conversion into high-enriched uranium for one bomb.

    That figure was based on an amount registered by an IAEA inventory check in November that turned out to be greater by one-third than Iran’s own estimate provided to inspectors.

    “The (IAEA) has no reason at all to believe that the estimates of LEU produced in the (Natanz) facility were an intentional error by Iran. They are inherent in the early commissioning phases of such a facility when it is not known in advance how it will perform in practice,” said IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.

    (3) “Safeguards Report” Circulated to IAEA Board, 20 February 2009 — IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has circulated his latest report on nuclear safeguards in Iran to the Agency´s Board of Governors, the 35-member policymaking body. The report outlines developments since the Director General´s report of 19 November 2008.

    Here is the full report, PDF, 4 pages — The summary section says:

    18. The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accounting reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. However, Iran has not implemented the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information. Nor has Iran implemented the Additional Protocol, which is essential for the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.

    19. Regrettably, as a result of the lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the alleged studies and other associated key remaining issues of serious concern, the Agency has not been able to make substantive progress on these issues. … Unless Iran provides such transparency, and implements the Additional Protocol, the Agency will not be able to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.

    20. Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP and the installation of new cascades and the operation of new generation centrifuges for test purposes. Iran has not provided access to the IR-40, and, therefore, the Agency is not able to verify the current status of its construction.

    21. 21. The Director General continues to urge Iran to implement all measures required to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme at the earliest possible date.

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