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How Will the NIE be Used?

About time I wrote about this. Iran nuclear weapons report finally released, and says Iran has suspended its nuclear weapons program, etc., here comes the analysis.

It is important to consider the use of this report by the Bush Administration. Far lefties *cough* DAILY KOS *cough* have been milking this for all it’s worth. It’s a big dent in the Administration’s policy towards Iran, and the far right isn’t going to get a war with Iran. It’s huge. But in fact, I’d say this helps Bush more than it hurts him. Are you skeptic? You should be. But I won’t need a National Intelligence Estimate to convince you.

Uses by the Administration

1. To discredit Hillary Clinton based on her vote to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorists - HIGHLY UNLIKELY
2. To pass the problem of a nuclear Iran on to the next administration - UNLIKELY BUT POSSIBLE
3. As an excuse for NOT going to war with Iran - LIKELY
4. To take away Iran’s biggest bargaining chip - HIGHLY LIKELY

Iran’s biggest bargaining chip
As you can probably tell, numbers three and four are the most important. Number one I’d reserve for hardcore Clinton supporter conspiracy theorists.

We’ll start with use number four. To understand this, we have to take Iraq into the equation. Iraq is the President’s biggest concern right now. He may not show it in public, but it’s his biggest worry. It’s his legacy. He’s not going to be remembered for denuclearizing North Korea, or an attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peace. He’s going to be remembered for the invasions of both Afghanistan and the disastrous invasion of Iraq. And with little more than a year left in his presidency, it’s more on his mind than ever.

Consequently, he’s been working hard in order to improve the image of how successful the coalition of the willing has been in Iraq. He’s hired General Petraeus, a counterinsurgency expert, and has willfully engaged in talks with Middle Eastern states over the situation in Iraq. One of those states has been Iran.

Iran is crucial to the stabilization of Iraq. They have influence over much of the Shiite population, their leaders, and their weapons. It will be impossible to have even semi-stable state in Iraq without the support of Iran. The good news, Iran would love to see a friendly, stable Iraq under Shiite control. To get a friendly, stable, Shiite Iraq, Iran needs the U.S.

It may sound like a win-win situation, but like everything geopolitical, it’s not that simple in any way. It’s complicated by bad U.S.-Iran relations and uncooperative presidents on both sides. Iran wants a more Shiite dominated, Iranian influenced Iraq than the U.S. would care to give them. But Iran has had one huge bargaining chip the U.S. hasn’t been able to ignore: its nuclear weapons program.

Up until a few months ago, when the current NIE was being finalized, it appeared Iran had a weapons program (the last NIE thought the same). Iran didn’t mind; it gave them a huge bargaining chip. So, behind back doors, it played along.

But now Iran has lost this influence, because of this report. The U.S. could have the upper hand in Iraq negotiations, and Bush could receive a more favorable view from historians than even appeared possible six months ago.

Use number three, “an excuse for not going to war with Iran,” has just as much to do with Bush’s legacy as use number three. A third war on the president’s report card would be given an ‘F’ by historians, and could possibly an expulsion (read: impeachment) by the school administrators even before that.

Of course, this is a very oversimplified version of the situation. There are many more players involved: Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Effects
Now that we’re done with all that, it’s probably a pretty good idea to see the consequences of the report. These, compared to the reasoning for the report, are simple.

1. Repercussions at U.S.-Iran discussions over Iraq (as discussed above)
2. Allies less likely to pursue sanctions at the U.N. (specifically Russia and China)
3. Virtually no chance of war with Iran
4. Cheney very disappointed (just kidding)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the months ahead.

On My NIE Analysis
The Significance of the NIE
Why The NIE Should Be Trusted
How Will the NIE be Used?

2 comments:

  Shane

December 8, 2007 at 9:19 AM

Let’s go through this...

1. To discredit Hillary Clinton based on her vote to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorists - HIGHLY UNLIKELY: The administration supports her vote, as does nearly every Republican. You haven’t heard the Republicans talking about her vote because in a political sense, it makes her look strong. Anyone who thinks the NIE will be used to discredit Hillary belongs at the KOS cave.

2. To pass the problem of a nuclear Iran on to the next administration - UNLIKELY BUT POSSIBLE: The Bush administration doesn’t think like that, especially with this particular case - the consequences of taking the next year off so that the next administration has to deal with it means putting America in real danger, a case Bush has been making for years now. If he were to ignore this issue and Iran did create nuclear weapons, the political fallout would be extensive and Bush’s legacy tarnished forever.

3. As an excuse for NOT going to war with Iran - LIKELY: This is the most incomprehensible of your points. As I pointed out on PG - the coalition this administration has been building to show a united front against a nuclear Iran falls apart due to this report - making unilateral war is more likely now, though reports tell us that the war talk from the administration up to this point was nothing more than a ploy to enlist cooperation for diplomatic pressure and the imposition of sanctions. Now Iran, which proudly boasts of its nuclear advancements, will continue to do so and use the NIE to shield itself from prying eyes. That report devastated the peaceful approach to dealing with an intransigent Iran.

4. To take away Iran’s biggest bargaining chip - HIGHLY LIKELY: Ugh. Let see if I can get this right, though it is convoluted enough that I may miss your point entirely. Iran has been using its nuclear program to extract cooperation from the US in Iraq. The NIE report takes from Iran that bargaining chip and thus puts America in a position of strength with Iran. If this is your position, you have many problems.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been nothing if not completely clear about Iran’s nuclear program - "We will commission some 3,000 centrifuges by this year end. We are determined to master fuel cycle, and commission some 60,000 centrifuges to meet our demands," the Iranian president said at a news conference closed to foreign reporters. "Today the Iranian nation possesses the full nuclear fuel cycle and time is completely running in our favor in terms of diplomacy." The NIE report does nothing to address this, other than to say they believe with “high confidence” that its not military - but who reasonably believes that Iran won’t use civilian nuclear technology for military purposes? Even if you trust Iran, all that matters is whether the countries of the Middle East trust him - and they don’t, with 13 countries over there announcing they feel the need to nuke up for defense against Iran. Whatever the NIE says, it doesn’t dilute Iran’s so called bargaining chip because no one in this administration believes Iran is no longer a threat based on the prognostications of a few ex-State Department partisans.

As for Iran using the US to secure a Shiite Iraq - it doesn’t need the US to do what it can do for itself. America has already shown a willingness to let Iraqis create their own government; witness the lack of political progress and you can see we are not going in there and imposing rule. If we had any real influence we would have created political progress by manhandling the characters over there. Iran knows America is not in control over there, and it flaunts that knowledge when it backs up the Shiite insurgency and covers the deserts with Iranian made IEDs.

Insofar as you interpret Iran’s nuclear program as its bargaining chip (like North Korea uses its program to extort aid and cash), it cannot be considered so because Iran is asking nothing in return for dismantling it - for they have announced time and again they won’t dismantle - ever - under any circumstances. It’s hard to gain any leverage with them if they tell you and the world they will never acquiesce to you no matter what you offer. Iran has had plenty of opportunities to extract concessions in return for shutting down its program - they haven’t used them.

I’ll stop here - but I think you underestimate the political chicanery of the CIA and the State Department, overestimate the administration’s crassness, are too forgiving of Iran’s intentions and generally fall prey to partisan reaction wholly unbecoming of a blessed moderate. The world is a dangerous place, and there’s more to it than Bush’s legacy...

  Simmons

December 8, 2007 at 9:40 AM

"Anyone who thinks the NIE will be used to discredit Hillary belongs at the KOS cave."
I meant discredited, not by Republicans, but by other Democrats. They will attack (and have been attacking) her even more now for her vote. I didn't go into that one too much for the precise reason that it completely unreasonable.

"the consequences of taking the next year off so that the next administration has to deal with it means putting America in real danger"
Number two is also highly unlikely, and that's why I didn't go into it too much either.

"making unilateral war is more likely now,"
I can see where you're coming from...Sort of.

"Iran has been using its nuclear program to extract cooperation from the US in Iraq. The NIE report takes from Iran that bargaining chip and thus puts America in a position of strength with Iran."
That sums it up well.

"for they have announced time and again they won’t dismantle - ever"
This seems to sum up you're argument.
Just because an Iranian politician has announced something publicly doesn't mean it's true. First of all, Ahmadinejad doesn't make the decisions - the Ayatollah does. Second, politicians talk crap all the time to get votes.