Published on IPSnews, by Charles Davis, March 10, 2008.
… Since the release of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear capabilities last December, the prevailing conventional wisdom has been that the report’s finding that Iran is not currently pursuing nuclear weapons had derailed the possibility of the George W. Bush administration launching a military strike before leaving office.
In the months preceding the report’s release, the anti-Iranian rhetoric coming out of Washington had been increasingly bellicose, with President Bush suggesting that allowing Iran to gain “the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon” could ultimately lead to “World War III”.
The release of the NIE – the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence services – and its conclusion that Iran halted efforts to pursue nuclear weapons “in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure” appeared to be a serious blow to proponents of military action.
Yet some believe the Bush administration could still choose to attack Iran, perhaps so as to ensure a Republican victory in the upcoming November presidential election.
“Their intention to use fear is very clear, and I think that you have to understand how they manipulate American fear to keep power,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, a Democrat from the state of Washington …
… “It would be a disaster for Israel if the United States took military action against Iran, because it would fundamentally weaken the United States and it would fundamentally weaken Israel’s position in the Middle East,” argued Nitze. “But nobody in the political horizon, including on the Democratic side of the aisle, has been willing to say this.”
Of the major party candidates, only Senator Obama has suggested that he would meet with the leader of Iran — a stance that was ridiculed by many in the Washington political establishment when he voiced it last summer. But even that position is now in question, as Obama told reporters recently that he supported Israel and the Bush administration’s refusal to talk to the leaders of the Palestinian group Hamas, saying, “You can’t negotiate with somebody who does not recognise the right of a country to exist.” Like Hamas, Iran also refuses to recognise Israel.
Still, speakers at the forum urged attendees to lobby their members of Congress to support legislation urging President Bush to engage Iran in direct and unconditional negotiations.
“I think if we passed that bill tomorrow, probably Bush would name [Vice President] Dick Cheney as his ambassador,” said Kinzer. “Nonetheless, I think it would be a great symbol, a great sign, that Congress doesn’t really want this military option.”
“It really is a question of whether we will learn the lessons of history or whether we will repeat them,” Rep. McDermott added. (full long text).
The NIE report on NIE;
NIE on SourceWatch;
NIE on CFR;
NIE on wikipedia;