February 09, 2007
Just out: "The Politics of Iran Intelligence," at National Journal. Unfortunately, it's subscription only, but here's a brief excerpt:
From the February 10, 2007 issue. Posted by Laura at February 9, 2007 01:56 PM
Amid the continued political fallout over the faulty intelligence case for going to war in Iraq, the Bush administration is newly cautious about the specific intelligence it plans to present to the public to back up its claims that Iran is fighting a kind of proxy war with the United States in Iraq.
At least twice in the past month, the White House has delayed a PowerPoint presentation initially prepared by the military to detail evidence of suspected Iranian materiel and financial support for militants in Iraq. The presentation was to have been made at a press conference in Baghdad in the first week of February. Officials have set no new date, but they say it could be any day.
Even as U.S. officials in Baghdad were ready to make the case, administration principals in Washington who were charged with vetting the PowerPoint dossier bowed to pressure from the intelligence community and ordered that it be scrubbed again. The officials understand that the press will scrutinize the information intensely, that the intelligence "dots" that the administration has assembled about Iran in Iraq can be connected multiple ways, and that the public is wary of any possible intervention in Iran. "The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times on February 2.
A White House official who declined to be named told National Journal that the presentation was sent "back into the interagency process ... with all the usual agencies involved, both in Washington and Baghdad." Asked if it was the intelligence community that was most cautious about how to interpret the facts in the Iran dossier, the White House official said only, "It's, frankly, their job to be sure of the facts and to make sure the information is accurate, and to give their best advice about how to interpret it."
The delay in the briefing demonstrates the crosscurrents running through the administration, the intelligence agencies, and Congress over Iran. ... The debate is still simmering over who was at fault in the prewar intelligence failures: the policy makers or the intelligence community.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, for example, is moving aggressively to vet the intelligence community's analytical products on Iran. [...]
"Even if this PowerPoint presentation eventually gets made public ... what does this show us as to where Iran is really coming from?" [former National Intelligence Council Middle East analyst Paul] Pillar asked. "What is the larger significance? Even if Iranian assistance to an Iraqi group is proven to everyone's satisfaction, the [administration's] policy never rested on that. The policy [is being driven by a] much larger sense of Iran as the prime bete noire in the region, and that is why the administration is trying to put together these coalitions with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Sunni states, that we've been reading about. None of this hinges [on the Iran dossier]. We are not going to call this off if we can't prove that Iran is furnishing munitions to Iraqi groups. ..."