Senior Bush officials and other top Republicans are apparently angry that U.S. intelligence agencies aren’t issuing more ominous threats about Iran. The GOP’ers, marred by (but unrepentant for) their Iraq debacle, are eager to use their lethal Tonka Toys once again—this time in Iran.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 ? Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.
Some policy makers have accused intelligence agencies of playing down Iran?s role in Hezbollah?s recent attacks against Israel and overestimating the time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.
The complaints, expressed privately in recent weeks, surfaced in a Congressional report about Iran released Wednesday. They echo the tensions that divided the administration and the Central Intelligence Agency during the prelude to the war in Iraq.
... Iran is simply not an imminent threat, nor is it a threat to vital U.S. interests in ways that would necessitate an aggressive response (supporting anti-U.S. terrorist action, for example). For intelligence analysts to state those facts isn’t being “gun shy,” as Rep. Holt (D-NJ) unfortunately put it, rather it’s a simple reflection of accurate assessments based on the facts available. The House intel committee is right to say that we don’t have enough information on Iran, but analysts have to work with what they have, not politicized conjecture. There’s a difference between connecting and explaining the dots and creating new ones to reach a preordained conclusion.
Further, despite some assumptions to the contrary, intelligence agencies have a natural (and wholly understandable) predisposition towards warning. Rarely do analysts downplay potential problems because there’s generally a much higher price to pay for underestimating a threat than overestimating it. Certainly intelligence agencies got Iraq’s WMDs wrong, but the march to war was led by political leadership, not by the agencies and certainly not by analysts.