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Newsweek: Off-Script on Iran

February 22, 2007

Last week, Perrspectives documented the controversy and contradictions surrounding the administration's case to provide Iranian meddling in Iraq ("Fool Me Once: Bush and Iran"). Today, Newsweek provides more of the backstory in "Straying from the Script."
While there is evidence of Iranian weapons and agents in Iraq, JCS Chairman Peter Pace and Centcomm commander William Fallon disagreed with military briefers claiming the "highest levels" of the Tehran regime had authorized the activities. The resulting confusion led to rhetorical gymnastics from President Bush and press secretary Tony Snow to establish the link. As Bush put it:

"What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did."

As Newsweek details, the entire episode reveals not just a military briefer gone off-script, but in the bigger picture the limits of American intelligence operations when it comes to Iran.

...At some point during the Baghdad presentation, however, one of the briefers apparently went beyond the text of the slide show. The briefer claimed that senior Iranian government officials had authorized the Quds Force to supply insurgents with weapons designed to kill Americans. If true, it would be powerful evidence that high-level elements of the Iranian regime were directly involved in the targeting of U.S. soldiers - arguably an act of war...
The briefing has also inadvertently called attention to what may be an even more serious problem: the limits of U.S. intelligence in deciphering Iranian government actions. Unable to recruit enough reliable spies or collect sufficient hard technical intelligence about the country's military and nuclear programs, U.S. intelligence agencies are being forced once again to fall back on "deductions" and "inferences." In many ways, this is the same "guesswork" process that a White House review panel later concluded was governed by "groupthink" conclusions - which ultimately led to wrong calls about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction...

All of which brings us back to the staggering credibility problems of the Bush White House in the wake of its failed justifications for the war in Iraq. But while Iran's nuclear program and its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shiite militias in Iraq is an ongoing concern for U.S. policymakers, President Bush's track record will continue to cause Americans and the global community to doubt any pronouncements on Tehran coming from the White House.
For more, see "Fool Me Once: Bush and Iran."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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