Bush himself had said that “Ive told people that if youre interested in avoiding World War III, it seems you ought to be interested in preventing them (the Iranians) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”
Nevertheless, towards the end of October neo-con gurus like Norman Podhoretz were urging shock and awe from the outside, while Vice President Dick Cheney echoed this re-commendation from within. Recipient of America’s highest honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, and the author of the book World War III: the Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, Podhoretz had met Bush in New York last October where he outlined his case for air strikes against Iran. Republican Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani also joined this chorus where the refrain was ‘bomb Iran using cruise missiles and bunker busters’.
Bush himself had said that “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems you ought to be interested in preventing them (the Iranians) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” It seems that there is cause enough for shock and awe if the Iranians have the knowledge to make a bomb, later redefined to even thinking about making one. This has led to a change of strategy. Iran remained the rogue because it was now abetting terrorism and smuggling IEDs into Iraq for use against US forces. This claim was designed to get approval from a sympathetic Congress for intervention in Iran. Apparently they were also pre-empting the uncomfortable findings in the yet to be released NIE report.
It was fairly clear by late summer 2007 that the strategy to deal with Iran would have to change as the nuclear story was no longer selling. At the same time it was not easy to give up the rhetoric – only the stress had to change. Condi Rice’s statements need to be viewed in this changed context, for she was no longer talking about mushroom clouds but about impediments to US policies in West Asia. US Congressional sources have said that the 16-agency National Intelligence Report of 2007, made public on December 3, 2007, was actually delayed thrice, and as Seymour Hersh says, Vice President Cheney was instrumental in this delay. The report essentially made the following observations couched in elliptical verbiage at times. It said that Iran had suspended its nuclear arms programme in 2003, that if it does resume this it will be based on uranium enriched after its had resumed its operation of enrichment in 2006, that Iran would have major technical problems in operating these reactors, most of which are in Natanz, that the earliest possible date by when Iran could have a bomb is 2009-but more realistically it would be 2015, and, finally, that the Iranians do not have the capability to take the plutonium route.
The reactions in Israel and the US were predictable; the former was livid with rage, and the latter mostly confused, except for the extreme right wing who denounced the report and the spin doctors in Washington became active. Some Iranians on the other side of the globe sounded smug after the report was published, feeling vindicated, while a section was not impressed by the NIE findings suspecting that there was a hidden agenda in this and that the report could still be used by the US to create an international consensus on the need to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran.
Mossad aims to prove that despite having discontinued their nuclear arms programme in 2003, the Iranians are still developing a third secret programme that has been kept hidden so far. They still adhere to their intelligence assessment that Iran could have the bomb”¦
Various lobbies got active, and there was consternation in the US that the NIE would be the reason to dampen efforts to isolate Iran, and the earlier attempts to say that Iran was on its way to make a bomb suddenly seemed to be going awry. True, the French tried to help by saying that war between Iran and Israel could break out. Speaking to Le Nouvel Observateur, President Sarkozy feared that “The problem for us is not so much the risk that the Americans launch a military intervention, but that the Israelis consider their security to be truly threatened… The only debate is about whether they will develop a military capacity in one or five years.”
Israeli strategists and most analysts have refused to accept the NIE as the final word on the subject. “Words do not stop missiles,” was what Defence Minister Ehud Barak said. While they would not go so far as to say that this was a political report meant to get the US off the hook, they do assert that the report is inaccurate. Mossad aims to prove that despite having discontinued their nuclear arms programme in 2003, the Iranians are still developing a third secret programme that has been kept hidden so far. They still adhere to their intelligence assessment that Iran could have the bomb by 2009 or 2010. While even the Iranians assert that there is still a threat of an attack, other analysts have pointed out that since the Israeli invasion of Sinai in 1956, without US approval, when President Eisenhower rapped Israel hard on the knuckles, it is doubtful if Israel would today launch a military offensive in the region without unequivocal backing from the US. It seems that so far not much heed has been paid to the suggestion made by Efraim Halevy, the former Mossad chief that Israel should enter in a dialogue with Iran.