The Washington Post today has this story about what’s going on with US policy and Iran.
Iran has vaulted to the front of the U.S. national security agenda amid Bush administration plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran.
Good plan. Essentially it talks about making sure all the preliminary steps have been taken before doing anything radical. Worries about intelligence are at the forefront.
But as the administration gears up, the struggle with Iran remains shadowed by Iraq. The botched intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s weapons has left a credibility challenge in convincing the public and the world that the administration is right this time about Iran.
Such a decision (attacking militarily) could prompt deep skepticism after the Iraq intelligence failure. “As far as Congress, they’re certainly going to do their homework more this time and demand more from the intelligence community before they go along with this,” said a Senate Republican leadership aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
All of which makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that in the meantime there are 3,000 hours of tapes from Sadaam along with millions of pages of documents from his regime that are not getting released even though President Bush has specifically requested their release.
For months, Negroponte has argued privately that while the documents may be of historical interest, they are not particularly valuable as intelligence product. A statement by his office in response to the recordings aired by ABC said, “Analysts from the CIA and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that, while fascinating from a historical perspective, the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their postwar analysis of Iraq’s weapons programs.”
Left unanswered was what the analysts made of the Iraqi official who reported to Saddam that components of the regime’s nuclear program had been “transported out of Iraq.” Who gave this report to Saddam and when did he give it? How were the materials “transported out of Iraq”? Where did they go? Where are they now? And what, if anything, does this tell us about Saddam’s nuclear program? It may be that the intelligence community has answers to these questions. If so, they have not shared them. If not, the tapes are far more than “fascinating from a historical perspective.”
Officials involved with DOCEX–as the U.S. government’s document exploitation project is known to insiders–tell The Weekly Standard that only some 3 percent of the 2 million captured documents have been fully translated and analyzed. No one familiar with the project argues that exploiting these documents has been a priority of the U.S. intelligence community.
Only 3% of these documents have been analyzed! I would think the intelligence community would want these documents out there to prove they were right all along concerning Sadaam’s weapons programs (assuming that’s what they would prove). By doing that, then the American people, Congress, and even the world would have more confidence in today’s intelligence concerning Iran.
If the intelligence in Iraq was not botched, credibility is increased and Iran can be dealt with with confidence vs second guessing. I am not suggesting that going slow and getting consensus isn’t the way to deal with Iran. I am suggesting that analyzing the information from Iraq could very well have meaning when dealing with Iran.