Irangate Theories

Here are three alternative explanations for the US publication of its National Intelligence Assessment (NIE) that the Mullahs’ bomb program has, like the dead parrot, ceased to be. The most convincing one is encouraging.

Theory 1: Reds Under the Bed

This has a lefty cabal distorting the NIE to spite the president – here’s the WSJ:

…the NIE’s main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as “hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials,” according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It’s conceivable Messrs Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill are villains.

But if a nuclear armed Iran kills millions of Jews, these men face the fates of those complicit in Hitler’s Holocaust – dishonor and death. That risk surely outweighs any short term pleasure they might get from jabbing their president.

So this theory doesn’t wash.

Theory 2: Bureaucratic Incompetence

John Bolton agrees with the WSJ theory, but adds another:

…the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. We have lost many fruitful sources inside Iraq in recent years because of increased security and intelligence tradecraft by Iran. The sudden appearance of new sources should be taken with more than a little skepticism…

the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the overvaluation of the most recent piece of data. In the bureaucracy, where access to information is a source of rank and prestige, ramming home policy changes with the latest hot tidbit is commonplace, and very deleterious…

…many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence.

Plus they know nothing about building nuclear weapons, so they’re incompetents.
So this theory has a fading administration, exhausted by the prosecution of a successful war, losing power to the second rate – rather as happened to Churchill at the end of WW2.

But why didn’t the administration control the report? Even lame ducks can bite.

So this theory doesn’t explain why the administration let the lunatics run the asylum, and thus is implausible.

Theory 3: Misinformation

Consider Dick Cheney’s comments:

“I don’t have any reason to question what the [intelligence] community has produced,” he said. “Now, there are things they don’t know. There’s always the possibility that circumstances will change. But I think they’ve done the best job they can with the intelligence that’s available.”…

Cheney said the assessment was released because “there was a general belief that we all shared that it was important to put it out — that it was not likely to stay classified for long, anyway,” he said.

Cheney said that “especially in light of what happened with respect to Iraq and the NIE on weapons of destruction,” officials wanted to be “upfront with what we knew.”

He said he agreed that was “the right call.” So he thought it might leak? “Everything leaks,” he said with a chuckle.

It seems unlikely that a patriot like Cheney would be this relaxed about such a disaster. But if the administration wanted the Mullahs and Russians to relax, the best way to do it would be hand security assessment to politicized incompetents.

That would explain Cheney’s chuckles.

If so, Tel Aviv might yet make it into the 22nd century.


8 Responses to Irangate Theories

  1. afterehcoes says:

    er.. um… and just what would Iran do with a Nuclear Weapon?

  2. afterehcoes says:

    or two

  3. afterehcoes says:

    or maybe 3 or 4?

  4. gandalf says:


    I don’t do target selection for tyrants.

  5. afterehcoes says:

    i will expound on a little theory of my own…. eh.. hem…

    kinda goes like this…

    Once upon a time there was an “EVIL EMPIRE” that was the focus of evil in the modern world. Threatening us, and our allies, and armed with many many (did I say many) WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.

    And A great RED DRAGON lived by the shores of the China Sea.

    And sabers did rattle both to and fro from continent to continent and around the world. And even … almost…. some CIGARS were lit up over these terrors – blood RED.

    We almost got caught in the snare … in the Jungles of Viatnam…. We almost slipped into the quick SAND of the dangers in Lebenon. And many lives were lost. Until we learned our lessons.

    Then along came a Statesman, and a Pope – who stood firm, but stayed the hand of their great military power so skillfully built up. And yet with courage and conviction – Told the Emperor to TARE DOWN THAT WALL….

    And the Evil Empire… and The Dragon….. simply faded away into the asheaps of history….

    or did they?

    Once again by proxy and by happenstance the significant strategic opponents, not friend, not foe…. Russia and China – benifit from our escapades in tactical delusion, and historical amnesia for the sake of political ambition.

    My good friend. We must re-focus our eyes not on the minutia of 16th rate powers and dictators with dilusions of godhood, with neither the wherewithall or intellegence to present a true existential threat. who thump their chest and snare us in undending assymetrical warfare, to the pleasure of our good friends in Moscow and Bejing.

    In the next 10 to 20 years, China will eclipse the United States as the worlds largest economy. They will also expand their military capabilities, and become a first rate regional power. Russia’s vast oil reserves and vodka induced resurgent pride will present another challenge to our self diluded supiriority.

    Once upon a time Statesmen and Pragmatists learned the lessons of the snares of tactical distraction, men like GHW Bush, Colen Powell, Gen Norman Swartskoph. Should a regional event require urgent attention… then act with unity of purpose with other regional partners at your side. And in the interests of the larger geopolitical landscape – with overwhelming force. The Powell Doctrine.

    We MUST abandon the delusional, myopic vision of the “Bush Doctrine” – nothing more than democratic imperialism in the guise of national security – and dig ourselves out of the tar (oil) pits and armpits of third world cultures and regions and focus once again on our TRUE and STRATEGIC national security objectives.

    I am taking a serious look at Mike Huckabee, who may be on to some better ways to fight the small groups of terrorists, without injecting our Strategic Reserves into an unsustainable, low intenstity conflict with little or no tactical victory possible.

    We should continue to “contain” Iran’s nuclear ambition. If you think about it what possible sense does it make to fixate with obsessive compulsive behaviour on a nation that may or may not even be trying to build a weapon, in the face of potential adversarial events with those that truely could threaten our existance, ergo Russia and China?

    Engagement and dialog is not cowardice or capitulation. For god sake we have 5,000 plus nuclear warheads deliverable to anywhere on earth in a matter of minutes… and everyone already knows that. So I am sure they would be very, VERY interested in talking to us.

    One final thought. this whole NIE business is quite simple. Iran stopped working on Nuclear Weapons programs because we knocked on their Front and Back doors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Proving they are pragmatic, and containable.

    So we should not abandon the middle east but we need to re-direct our force structure in the region to better allow for the coming decades where we will need to increase the size and scope of our military power to negotiate from a position of strength, with the emerging super power China and with Russia.

    I see the prospects as good. An opportunity to partner and share global security, with other regional powers. And then with dialog and diplomatic pressure – slowly turn the tide of the 3rd world toward cooperation with a better future for all humanity.

    thank you for allowing my rant on your blog.

  6. I’m with Bolton on the process behind the classified NIE.


    I enjoy the legendary retelling of the cold war, but I think the release of the unclassified NIE had a couple or three simpler purposes.

    1. The NYT had obtained data from the classified NIE and was getting ready to release it. This would burn US sources in Iran. If the WH released the unclassified NIE earlier it would give US sources in Iran and elsewhere time to take protective measures.

    2. US has eyes in Iran. The release of the unclassified NIE is a stick in the anthill. Look for activity to figure out what is going on. Test the information in the NIE by releasing an unclassified version.

    3. Domestically, after the NYT published information from the classified NIE it would have created a huge public outcry among Democrats, once again baying for the blood of members of the executive branch. The unclassified release was a way to steal the thunder of the NYT’s latest betrayal.


    As for what Iran would do with nukes, how about threaten its neighbors and further increase the price of oil on the world market? How about force Iraq to kick MNF-I out? How about force other middle east countries to kick the US out? How about give nukes to terrorists to be smuggled and set off somewhere? And can you be sure that once it becomes regional hegemon, Iran, which has repeatedly threatened to wipe tiny Israel from existence, won’t follow through?

    I think that Iran’s history of perfidy, state sponsorship of terrorism, and dishonest dealings is enough reason they should never get nuclear bombs.


    My response is to point to the smoking hole in the ground where the World Trade Center used to stand and ask, “How many of these do we allow before we lance the boils of Wahabi-, Nazi- and Soviet-sponsored middle eastern despotism that exported this terror to our shores?”

  7. gandalf says:


    I agree both Russia or China pose threats, but don’t agree that either wants to take our societies over (OK, Russia will take a slab of Western Europe).

    The problems with the Mullahs, third rate though they be, are:

    1. Their foreign policy is to either kill or enslave us.

    2. They think that if they die while killing us, that’s cool. So deterrence doesn’t work.

    That means someone either has to stop them now, or we’ll slug it out sometime over the next 15 years with megadeaths.

    Megadeaths is you and me.

    That’s not

  8. gandalf,

    You are so obviously correct about paying now or paying more later I don’t know how the world doesn’t see it…………steve

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