A day after the release of the National Intelligence Estimate assessment on Iran’s purportedly halted nuclear weapons program, President Bush once again demonstrated his well-practiced ability to repurpose facts or opinions to better serve his administration’s aims. Remarkably, Bush was able to turn the NIE assessment, which indicated that there is substantial evidence that the Iranian government responded to international pressure and at least hit the pause button on developing nukes in 2003, into an affirmation that his own assessment of Iran’s intentions is still on target and military action against Iran is still a possibility.

Although the NIE report resulted from years of surveillance by several key agencies within the U.S. intelligence community, Bush assumed a skeptical stance during a press conference Tuesday, suddenly all too eager to dismiss data from the same kind of sources that he relied on so heavily in his push to invade Iraq in 2003. Insisting that Iran won’t develop the capacity to make nuclear bombs while he’s in office — invoking the familiar presidential refrain of “not on my watch” — Bush managed, in a particularly nimble display of rhetorical gymnastics, to deflect blame for the WMD debacle and implicate the intel community as the main culprit. “Right after the failure of intelligence in Iraq, we reformed the intelligence community,” he asserted.

The New York Times:

The world needed to view the report as “a warning signal,” not grounds for reassurance, he said, and the United States would not renounce the option of a military response.

“I have said Iran is dangerous,” Bush said a day after the release of the National Intelligence Estimate, representing the consensus of all 16 American spy agencies, “and the N.I.E. doesn’t do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world — quite the contrary.”

The report was welcomed by Iran today, which said it confirmed Tehran’s frequent protestations that its nuclear program has a purely civilian aim.

But it left some United States allies feeling uncertain about the way ahead. Key partners like France and Britain, in line with the administration response, said the report underscored that past concerns about Iran were well-founded.

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