Bush unfazed by new Iran report


This New York Times article that appeared in the Grand Rapids Press is based on President Bush’s response to the finding of a new National Intelligence Estimate report on Iran’s nuclear program. Bush is sourced as saying that despite the report’s findings Iran is still a threat, but nothing that the President says in the story, nor anything the reporter writes provides an evidence that Iran is still a threat. The President says “Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous, if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” A reasonable question for reporters to ask at this point would be, “Iran is dangerous based on what evidence?”

The only other source cited in the Grand Rapids Press version of the New York Times story in Iranian President Ahmadinejad. In the original version of the Times story we read the comments by a Democratic Congresswoman, a Republican Senator, Secretary of State Rice, an unnamed European diplomat, Presidential candidate Joseph Biden, and a “Middle East expert” named Flynt Leverett, who is with the New America Foundation.


President Bush warned on Tuesday that Iran remained a threat despite an intelligence assessment that it had halted a covert program to develop nuclear weapons four years ago, as the administration struggled to save a diplomatic process now in disarray.

Once again facing criticism over the handling — and meaning — of intelligence reports, Mr. Bush said the new assessment underscored the need to intensify international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

He said Iran could not be entrusted with acquiring even the scientific knowledge to enrich uranium for peaceful civilian use, explicitly declaring for the first time what has been an underlying premise of the administration’s policy. He also appeared to rule out any new diplomatic initiative with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous, if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Bush said during a news conference dominated by questions about the fallout of the assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate. “What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?”

The assessment reversed one in 2005 that asserted that Iran was “determined to develop nuclear weapons,” with American intelligence agencies now saying that they do not know whether Iran intends to take that step.

Mr. Bush said the reversal was based on “a great discovery” by American intelligence agencies, but neither he nor other officials would elaborate. Current and former American and foreign officials said the new findings were based on intercepted communications and accounts provided by individuals with access to information about Iran’s nuclear program.

Ahmandinejad today called the report a “declaration of victory” for Iran’s nuclear program.

“This was a final shot to those who, in the past several years, spread a sense of threat and concern in the world through lies of nuclear weapons,” he told thousands of people during a visit to Ilam province in western Iran.

“Thanks to your resistance, a fatal shot was fired at the dreams of ill-wishers and the truthfulness of the Iranian nation was once again proved by the ill-wishers themselves,” he said, drawing celebratory whistles from the crowd.

Text from the original article ommitted from the Grand Rapids Press version:

Representative Jane Harman, a Democrat of California, said she read the classified version of the report on Tuesday and described the intelligence agencies’ work as “a sea change” from the 2005 assessment in the quality of its analysis and presentation of facts. Asked about the basis for the new findings, she said: “I think we have some better sourcing. That’s all I can say.”

Mr. Bush’s remarks did little to silence critics, who have accused him of hyping the case for confronting Iran. Nor did it ease concerns of some allies.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, said he was perplexed by the new assessment and suspicious of the new evidence. “We should all look under the hood of these intelligence reports,” he said.

Mr. Bush and his senior aides spent the day trying to hold together the already fragile coalition of world powers seeking to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Mr. Bush telephoned President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has voiced skepticism about an aggressive American effort to punish and isolate Iran.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also telephoned her counterparts from the five other countries that have been pursuing United Nations sanctions against Iran to urge that the coalition continue work on a new round of increasingly tighter sanctions.

“This report is not an ‘O.K., everybody needs to relax and quit’ report,” Mr. Bush said. “This is a report that says what has happened in the past could be repeated and that the policies used to cause the regime to halt are effective policies. And let’s keep them up. Let’s continue to work together.”

There were already signs that that effort had been complicated by the new report. R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, held a teleconference call Tuesday morning with his counterparts from France, Germany, China, Britain and Russia.

“We’re all flabbergasted,” one European diplomat said of the report generally. “You get such a surprise, and then you sit together and consider how to move forward. To be on safe ground, we decided to keep moving forward” with the effort to press for further sanctions.

A senior administration official said the intelligence assessment on Iran was a setback in the effort to persuade China to endorse a new round of sanctions at the United Nations Security Council. While there had been indications over the weekend that the Chinese might drop their opposition to such a move, it appeared on Tuesday that they were reconsidering again, the official said.

The new intelligence assessment, the official said, “gives the Chinese an opportunity to get off the hook.”

Mr. Bush opened himself to new criticism over his credibility when he said that the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, alerted him about new intelligence about Iran’s weapons program in August but did not explain what it was in detail.

As recently as October, Mr. Bush continued to warn darkly of Iran’s nuclear weapons threat, invoking World War III, despite the new information. He responded to a question about that on Tuesday by saying he had received the final assessment, with its drastically altered findings, only last week.

“That’s not believable,” said Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the Democrat who is chairman of the foreign relations committee and a candidate for president. “I refuse to believe that. If that’s true, he has the most incompetent staff in American, modern American history and he’s one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history.”

While many officials, lawmakers and diplomats focused on the halting of Iran’s weapons program, Mr. Bush emphasized the report’s finding that “a growing amount of intelligence indicates Iran was engaged in covert uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity” from the late 1980s until the freezing of that effort in 2003. Mr. Bush’s senior aides describe that as the first evidence of what many officials had only suspected.

“And so I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program,” Mr. Bush said. “They halted the program. And the reason why it’s a warning signal is that they could restart it.”

Critics, though, blamed the administration’s hard line and harsh language for compounding Iran’s determination and undermining diplomatic efforts. They called on the administration to make a more concerted diplomatic effort to persuade Iran’s government to abide by its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Their actions have been totally self-defeating,” Mr. Biden said of the Bush administration. “Every time they rattle the saber, what happens is the security premium for oil goes up. It raises the price of oil. It puts more money in the pocket of Ahmadinejad and the very people we think are the bad guys.”

Mr. Bush maintained that the administration had made offers to Iran as part of the European Union’s diplomatic efforts as long ago as 2003, including promising American support for membership in the World Trade Organization and an easing of sanctions to allow the sale of spare airplane parts.

“What changed was the change of leadership in Iran,” he said, referring to the elections in Iran in 2005. “We had a diplomatic track going, and Ahmadinejad came along and took a different tone. And the Iranian people must understand that the tone and actions of their government are that which is isolating them.”

Flynt Leverett, a Middle East expert at the New America Foundation who served on the National Security Council under Mr. Bush, said the president had consistently ruled out any real entreaty to Iran that could resolve the international deadlock over its nuclear ambitions.

“The really uncomfortable part for the administration, aside from the embarrassment, is the policy implication,” Mr. Leverett said of the assessment. “The dirty secret is the administration has never put on the table an offer to negotiate with Iran the issues that would really matter: their own security, the legitimacy of the Islamic republic and Iran’s place in the regional order.”

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org