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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Déjà Vu all Over Again? (Iran, the UN and Nukes Version)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:30 pm

Via WaPo: U.N. Inspectors Dispute Iran Report By House Panel

U.N. inspectors investigating Iran’s nuclear program angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran’s capabilities, calling parts of the document “outrageous and dishonest” and offering evidence to refute its central claims.

Officials of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter that the report contained some “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements.” The letter, signed by a senior director at the agency, was addressed to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, which issued the report. A copy was hand-delivered to Gregory L. Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna.

While I am hardly going to say that UN is perfect, I will say this: despite all the criticism that was levelled at al Baradei and the UN WMD inspectors in the build-up to the Iraq invasion, we have to face facts, the UN guys were right about the Iraq’s WMD capabilities and the administration and their allies were wrong. Indeed, fantastically wrong.

I have already expressed skepticism about the House report and the similarities to Iraq:

This all sounds a bit too much like Iraq, where it was clear that many in the administration had decided (indeed, were quite convinced) that Saddam was a WMD threat, and then went looking for the intel to make their case. I don’t think we need to repeat that methodology here.

Indeed, there is a similar sentiment quoted in the WaPo piece:

“This is like prewar Iraq all over again,” said David Albright, a former nuclear inspector who is president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. “You have an Iranian nuclear threat that is spun up, using bad information that’s cherry-picked and a report that trashes the inspectors.”

Now we have another element to the story: the UN weapons experts are telling us that the Iranian capabilities are not as dire as some in the administration are saying that they are. As Justin Logan blogging at Cato@Liberty puts it, Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me. As much as at the time I was skeptical of the UN’s capability to provide a clear picture of what was going on in Iraq, I now have to do a 180 and ask if the administration has a clue as to what it is saying about Iran.


  1. I am reasonably certain that the administration (or rather those inside of it who are pushing for a confrontation of some sort) knows exactly what it is doing.

    The question is whether we-the citizens to whom those folks are allegedly accountable-have a clue. Some folks are counting on that being answered in the negative. Again.

    Comment by MSS — Thursday, September 14, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

  2. Can we estimate how politicized the intelligence might be, if at all? If the intelligence is not too politicized it must then be interpreted in order to judge the risk.

    These are educated guesses based upon what we think we know. The big question is if we are going to make an error which way should we err?

    Do we assume the danger is greater or less than what we know? Which choice puts the country more at risk? Keep in mind choosing a high risk of a nuclear weapons program still puts us at risk (it may prompt war) just like underestimating risk of a nuclear weapons program (we wait to long to do something to stop it).

    Hindsight in Iraq shows we made a mistake in capabilities but that does not mean we made a mistake in the course of action that was taken.

    When it comes to nuclear weapons programs an ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure when your sworn enemies are involved.

    Comment by Steven Plunk — Thursday, September 14, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

  3. I am not so sure. It wholly depends on what the actual risk is, and what the “cure” is.

    And it is difficult, indeed impossible, to state that any WMD-based argument vis-a-vis Iraq can be said to have resulted in the right course of action.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, September 14, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

  4. They may have been right about Iraq. But, they were completely blindsided by Libya, the Khan network, and North Korea. Simply stating “nothing here” will be right due to chance, but considering all their failures, I wouldn’t put much faith in them.

    Comment by Gary and the Samoyeds — Friday, September 15, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

  5. […] In the context of my post yesterday about the IAEA and the House Intelligence Committee, and why I am more prone to believe the UN in these matters than was once the case, I would note (from a post by Matthew Yglesias) this quote from Charles Krauthammer at an AEI event held on April 22, 2003: DR. KRAUTHAMMER: Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem. […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Credibility, Iraq and Iran — Friday, September 15, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

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