A Blow to the Neocon ‘Fifth Column’

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Revenge of the Spooks

by Eric Margolis by Eric Margolis

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"Merry Christmas, Mr. President" hissed the men in cloaks as they plunged a dagger into George Bush’s back.

America’s spooks finally had their revenge. After being forced by the White House in 2002—2003 to concoct a farrago of lies about Iraq, and then get stuck with the blame for the ensuing fiasco there, the 16 US intelligence agencies struck back last week with high drama and devastating effect.

US intelligence chief Mike McConnell made public a bombshell National Intelligence Report (NIE) that concluded "with high confidence" Tehran had halted its rudimentary nuclear weapons program in 2003. Even if the program was restarted, said the NIE, Iran is unlikely to produce any weapons before 2012—15.

The new NIE is a devastating, humiliating blow to Bush, Dick Cheney and the neocons who have been furiously whipping up war fever and hysteria against Iran. Only two months ago, Bush actually warned Americans that Iran’s secret nuclear program threatened the entire planet and could ignite World War III.

An earlier NIE in 2005 had billed Iran as a major nuclear threat. Now, we learn it was based on fabricated evidence supplied to CIA, "over the transom," as the old spy jargon goes. Just like the bogus Niger uranium story used by Bush and Cheney to justify war against Iraq. Who, one wonders, is behind these acts of disinformation?

Bush was given the new NIE on Iran last August. But for the past four months, Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice have been beating the war drums over Iran when their own massed intelligence agencies have been telling them there was no danger from Iran. The White House hid its own intelligence community’s findings from the public until the spooks threatened to leak the report.

Ironically, Iran’s leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was telling the truth all along when he said Iran was not working on nuclear arms, while Bush & Company was lying through its teeth, just as it did over Iraq and Afghanistan. Just, in fact, as Saddam Hussein was also telling the truth while Washington was producing a litany of lies that would have made the old Soviet agitprop boys blush.

This column has been reporting for two years growing opposition at CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department to Bush/Cheney’s plans to launch a war against Iran. I repeatedly heard the term "fifth column" used to describe the fanatical neocon ideologues pressing America into a second Mideast war.

Now, America’s national security community is telling the White House to cease and desist before it drags the nation into another foreign catastrophe. While not a military-intelligence—attempted coup as in the wonderful film, Seven Days in May, it was the next closest thing.

At the heart of this drama lies the disturbing fact that Bush/Cheney & Co. were simply ignoring their own $40-billion plus a year intelligence community. When the White House didn’t get the answers it wanted on Iran, it turned to Israel, whose renowned intelligence agency, Mossad, became a primary source of reports about Iran. Mossad still insists Iran will have a nuclear bomb by 2008.

Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, declared the US NIE report a "blow to the groin." Israel and its powerful American supporters, who have come to dominate US Mideast policy, have been straining every sinew to get the US to destroy Iran’s growing nuclear infrastructure. Whether Israel, which has a large nuclear arsenal, will attack Iran on its own remains uncertain. The Bush Administration is supplying Israel with 2,000 BLU-109 deep earth penetrator bombs, and 50 5,000-lb GBU-28 for use against underground Iranian targets.

America’s intelligence has been poor in the past, and might be wrong again. But UN nuclear inspectors confirm the US NIE findings. So does SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency. Iran’s civilian nuclear power program could eventually produce highly enriched uranium for weapons, but there is no sign of Iran developing any long-range delivery capability.

Nuclear warheads without long-ranged delivery systems are useless. Claims by US neocons that Iran is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles are yet more lies. If Iran was indeed developing a limited nuclear arsenal, it was clearly to forestall potential nuclear attack or nuclear blackmail by the US or Israel, not to attack North America or Europe, as Bush so absurdly claimed.

In the midst of all the furor over Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons, not one peep has come from Washington calling for Mideast regional nuclear disarmament — the surest way of ending the nuclear arms race between Israel and its neighbors.

The new NIE is likely to ease sanctions on besieged Iran, and undermine the anti-Iran coalition the US, Israel and their new ally, France were assembling. It should put an end to Bush’s idiotic plans for an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic designed to shoot down missiles Iran does not possess. Sanity seems to be slowly creeping back to Washington.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

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