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Iran, Iraq, 'Speed Bumps' and NIE Dissent

Andy McCarthy asks, What’s Our Iran Policy?

For lo these six-plus years, the Bush administration’s Iran policy has been incoherent. Axis of evil ... but no regime change; incorrigible destabilizer supporting both Sunni and Shiite terror in Iraq ... yet Iraq's helpful neighbor who has no interest in destabilization; the terror master who cannot be negotiated with ... but a rational actor we believe will be brought around by negotiations.

Got that?

Now, the confusion is manifesting itself in spasms of gibberish over another self-imposed wound: To release or not release evidence that Iran is stoking the violence in Iraq.

Andy's certainly right when he says "We need something besides confusion."

Nick Grace of Global Crisis Watch alerted us to a report from B. Raman of the indispensable South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG), in which he concludes that Israeli strikes on Natanz and Isfahan are imminent. After bulleting a few recently reported events, he adds:

After a visit to the US in February last year, I had reported that there were three groups there---- one group was totally opposed to any intervention in Iran. A second group urged intervention by the US before it became too late. The third group favoured intervention by Israel with a US wink, without Washington getting directly involved. The third group seems to have won the debate.

Saul Singer says "The Gambians are asking: So long as other countries are allowed to have these weapons, and they are not illegal, why shouldn't Iran join the club?" While there are 'official answers,’ Saul's essentially echoes that which we have gone to lengths here at ThreatsWatch to illustrate: It's the terrorism, stupid.

Meanwhile, Iran now claims to have assembled 300 centrifuges in two enrichment units at its underground Natanz facility. Just in time for their big February 11 celebrations designed to rally national support around their weapons program. Still lagging behind their goal of 54,000 centrifuges. Have I mentioned that their terrorism is spot on, however? Perhaps I should write a commentary or an analysis on this sometime soon...

From the New York Sun, Eli Lake writes that acceptance of the recently released National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is far from universal or unanimous, with dissenting opinion filed by the Treasury Department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the military intelligence bureaus of the Army and Marines. The dissenters disagree with the majority opinion that Baathists and Sunni nationalists compose the majority of the Sunni insurgency, and instead "argue that the Baathist wing of the umbrella Sunni terrorist group has ceded authority to Abu Ayoub al-Masri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq." The Baathist wing they speak of includes fully six al-Anbar tribes now operating under al-Masri via the The Mujahideen Shura Council which, according to one quoted intelligence official, "is now for all intents and purposes an arm of Al Qaeda."

In Major Dissent, Major Issues, our Michael Tanji makes a rather common sense observation at his personal blog, Haft of the Spear.

It is important to note the size and make-up of the dissenters; Treasury is heavy into insurgent/terror funding issues so their say here is not insignificant, and it almost goes without saying that Army and Marine intel have a much more detailed view of things on the ground. The majority agencies have their people on the ground and other resources of course, but a desk-jockey arguing a position based on reports sent by a guy who rarely if ever leaves the Green Zone seems insufficient when stood up next to a guy who probably still hasn’t washed all the Iraqi sand out of his crevasses and has actually met a few terrorists.

There is a lot that can be said about the Dissent v. Conventional Wisdom in the case of the NIE, but that just about covers the view from 10,000 feet.

Also in Iraq, the enemies have adapted IEDs to strike at the undercarriages of military vehicles, the only spot on most vehicles not up-armored. "The weapon is formed by sandwiching plastic explosives between metal plates, such as baking trays, a Pentagon intelligence document shows." It's called the 'speed bump.' A creative and adaptive enemy intent on killing you will adapt and create in order to kill you.

Just a few things that caught my eye earlier that, with insufficient time today, I thought I’d share here.


In the game theory of adversarial relations, there is an advantage to having a foreign policy which is, at least publicly, vague and contradictory. This helps to keep the enemy off-balance. If a wiley adversary like Iran is unsure how the US will respond to their next gambit, they will tend to moderate or second guess their own moves. If the Iranians were absolutely clear on US policy, they would know exactly how far to push it & they would find it easier to manipulate and move the US position. Sometimes ambiguity is very useful.

You make some good points, Kenneth. Food for thought.

The problem though is that I think you give the administration too much credit. I have to agree with McCarthy, we've got confusion.

In other words, it's not that we've being vague as to how far we'll let Iran push us. I don't even see a strategy.