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U.S. statements on Iran remind Carnegie director of pre-war Iraq debate

Last year former US weapons inspector David Kay compared the debate about Iran's nuclear program with the debate about Iraq before the war. Similarly Joseph Cirincione, the director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment, now claims that "some U.S. officials have already decided they want to hit Iran hard." He is concerned that the "political or ideological agenda of a small group" will once again "create havoc in a critical area of the globe":
Does this story line sound familiar? The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames it for attacks on U.S. troops. The intelligence agencies say the nuclear threat from this nation is 10 years away, but the director of intelligence paints a more ominous picture. A new U.S. national security strategy trumpets preemptive attacks and highlights the country as a major threat. And neoconservatives beat the war drums, as the cable media banner their stories with words like "countdown" and "showdown." The nation making headlines today, of course, is Iran, not Iraq. But the parallels are striking. Three years after senior administration officials systematically misled the nation into a disastrous war, they could well be trying to do it again.
Cirincione might be wrong: This time the intelligence information might be better. Iran certainly is a bigger threat than Iraq ever was, but who trusts the Bush administration anymore? Many of those politicians and citizens around the world, who supported the U.S. policy towards Iraq, seem to be more skeptical now about U.S. statements on the extent of the Iranian threat (and the urgency) and doubt U.S. regime change capabilities. Besides, Anti-Americanism has increased, which makes supporting the U.S. even more difficult. "Trust us" is not enough to get support, more information is needed. Cirincione concludes:
The administration should now declassify the information it used to estimate how long it will be until Iran has the capability to make a bomb. The Washington Post reported last August that this national intelligence estimate says Iran is a decade away. We need to see the basis for this judgment and all, if any, dissenting opinions. The congressional intelligence committees should be conducting their own reviews of the assessments, including open hearings with independent experts and IAEA officials.
About the national intelligence estimate see our related post: War against Iran? Populism against the US?

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Chris on :

Cirincione's conclusion is perfect!

Hans on :

Cirincione is an imbecile, an unconscienable ignoramus, or a psychotic if he honestly believes that the Bush administration misled anyone about Iraq. Based on the best information available, Bush's decision was thoroughly correct.Mr. Cirincione cites David Kay as an authority, but he appears not to have read either Dr. Kay's report or the more thorough report of the Dulfer investigation that followed. Both lead inescapably to the conclusion that Iraq was hiding small supplies of bio-and chemical weapons and that the regime of Saddam Hussein had every intention of building atomic weapons, rebuilding its bio-and-chemical weapons capabilities, and using such weapons. Furthermore, the links between Hussein's government and international terror groups are undeniable and date back to the days of Carlos the Jackal. If this twit knows better but is simply slamming the president for political reasons, then we have another word that describes him: dissembler, or, as so many have so wrongly named of President Bush, liar.

Anonymous on :

"small supplies" and "intention of building atomic weapons" sounds nearly as poetic as "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." Many dictators have "intentions", not just Saddam, but do they have the capabilities? The only problem with your comment is that Bush and co made much bigger statements concerning the "imminent threat", uranium from Africa, tons of WMD, responsibility for 9/11, ties to Al Qaeda. You are wrong about Duelfer: He uncovered numerous banned weapons-related programs, but did not find stockpiles, which were 1 of 7 stated reasons for United States President George W. Bush ordering the invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam. And you are wrong about David Kay: David Kay, resigned his position, stating that he believed WMD stockpiles would not be found in Iraq. "I don't think they existed." You should not have called Cirincione a "psychotic", but used another word starting with i. Then you would have used three insults in row starting with i. The point is that Iraq wasn't an imminent threat and Iran is neither. Don't let the fear mongers fool you again.

FrauBudgie on :

Propaganda has worked very well, hasn't it?

Shawn in Tokyo on :

Imminent threat. President Bush specifically said we shouldn't have to wait for a dangerous country like Iraq to be an imminent threat before taking action. It really boggles me people still repeat this distortion of the President's words. Here is an excerpt of the President's SOTU in 2003: "Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.) "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)" The link is here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030128-19.html Shawn

Bruce Miller on :

Shawn, you might want to revisit these parts of that speech: "The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax - enough doses to kill several million people." Actual liters of anthrax found: 0.000 "The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure." Actual liters of botulinum toxic found: 0.000 "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. Actual tons of sarin, mustard or VX nerve agent found: 0.000 "From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs." Actual # of mobile biological weapons labs found: 0.000 "The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. [The infamous 16 words!] Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide." Actual # of nuclear program activities found: 0.000 "The dictator of Iraq is not disarming." Actual total amount of WMDs found: 0.000

JS Narins on :

EXISTING THREAT! The House Jount Resolution (114 of the 107th Congress) said Iraq was an "existing threat." A threat can only exist after it is imminent. That is the bill that almost all Republicans and a significant minority of Democrats in Congress voted for, and Bush signed.

joe on :

Shawn, Tz tz tz.......there you go again. Don't let facts get in the way of emotions.

Jorg on :

What about Iran? Cirincione and the Wash Post write that the national intelligence estimate considers iran 10 years away from the bomb, but the director of intelligence paints a more ominous picture according to Cirincione... Does that sound familiar? Does that worry you? The further Iran is away from the bomb, the more time we have for negotiations and the hope that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs will be toppled... Not very likely, but then again hardly anybody thought in the early 80s that the Soviet Union would collapse within the next decade.

Fuchur on :

IMO the really important questions are: What would we do if we knew that Iran would have the bomb ready within a year? Would it be morally acceptable to use military force? How are the chances to succeed with military force? That´s where the real dispute is. Whether Iran is 5 or 10 years away from getting the bomb is not the real issue - it´s like saying: Oh, let´s not think about it yet, it´s not really pressing yet... IMO, Iran with a nuclear bomb is a nightmare scenario, which should be avoided AT ALL COST. You heard Ahmadinedshad. History has taught us to take people like him very serious. Once we´ve reached this conclusion, the other steps are fairly easy.

Thomas on :

How do you want to prevent Iran from getting the bomb? Airstrikes will only delay their program and rally the Iranian people around their regime. This is the worst scenario. And the US does not have the capacity for anything but a few airstrikes thanks to the war of choice in Iraq. Rather than airstrikes, we have to negotiate and motivate the Iranian people to revolt against their regime before the mullahs get the bomb. We can give the Iranian people ten years to change their regime according to the US national intelligence estimate about the Iranian nuclear program. That's far more sensible than airstrikes. If we attack Iran now, then even ordinary Iranians will be keen on getting nukes and the world will be even more dangerous. But I think this is too complicated for reptilian brains.

Fuchur on :

Sounds like wishful thinking to me: "Maybe the mullahs will disappear, if we just wait long enough!" Yeah, maybe. And what if not? Are you willing to bomb then? It would be very helpful to give an absolutely clear signal to Iran that we would be willing to use military force. I don´t think this would be an empty threat. Capacity is not the problem: the US air force isn´t really tied up in Iraq. A massive airstrike would do a lot of damage. There is a lot of advanced technology involved, which Iran would have to try to import.

Thomas on :

And you think the Iranians will give up their program after some air strikes? We don't need to attack Iran now. They are still ten years away from the bomb. They might change their regime and give up their program anyway in the next five years. If we attack Iran now, they will definitely NOT give up their program. Did not you guys learn anything from Iraq? Iraq has only become a threat to the world after you attacked it. Let's not do the same with Iran.

Anonymous on :

@ Shawn The Bush people frequently described Iraq as an imminent threat: "Absolutely." • White House spokesman Ari Fleischer answering whether Iraq was an "imminent threat," 5/7/03 "This is about imminent threat." • White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2/10/03 "Well, of course he is.” • White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett responding to the question “is Saddam an imminent threat to U.S. interests, either in that part of the world or to Americans right here at home?”, 1/26/03 "There is real threat, in my judgment, a real and dangerous threat to American in Iraq in the form of Saddam Hussein." • President Bush, 10/28/02 "The Iraqi regime is a serious and growing threat to peace." • President Bush, 10/16/02 "There are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists." • President Bush, 10/7/02 "The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency." • President Bush, 10/2/02 "There's a grave threat in Iraq. There just is." • President Bush, 10/2/02 "This man poses a much graver threat than anybody could have possibly imagined." • President Bush, 9/26/02 "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq." • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/19/02 "Some have argued that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent - that Saddam is at least 5-7 years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain. And we should be just as concerned about the immediate threat from biological weapons. Iraq has these weapons." • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/18/02 "Iraq is busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue an aggressive nuclear weapons program. These are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam Hussein can hold the threat over the head of any one he chooses. What we must not do in the face of this mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or to willful blindness." • Vice President Dick Cheney, 8/29/02 http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=24970 Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney exaggerated the Iraqi threat. They did not have any evidence for the claims they made. One day you will realize that you were fooled.

Anonymous on :

Spinsanity has a balanced take on "imminent threat" debate: http://www.spinsanity.org/columns/20031103.html why has the phrase become so commonly used and an object of such contention? It first gained wide usage based on the National Security Strategy of the United States, a document published in September 2002 that outlined the U.S. government's policy for national defense. In it, the Bush administration argued that the concept in international law of "imminent threat" - which allows countries to defend themselves against opponents who are poised to attack them - must be given a new meaning in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks: For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat-most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack. We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction-weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning... ...The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction- and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively. Blogger Josh Marshall argued that this assertion justifies claims that the White House did say Iraq poses an imminent threat. "For my money, one of the most revealing quotes is the passage in the National Security Strategy the White House released in 2002, which essentially argues that the concept of 'imminent threat' must be reinterpreted to apply to countries like Iraq," he wrote.

joe on :

Still no direct quote. These are someone else's words. Of course to many that does not matter. Then again why should it.

JS Narins on :

Although the Bush administration might have been the major (in Smedley Butler's words) "finger-pointers" before the war in Iraq, and it harbors the "brain-men" who justified it, they don't have the rest of the apparatus set up this time. The Generals have little interest. Wolfowitz and Perle are out of office. The media won't play cheerleader like last time. The public isn't nearly so enthusiastic. Heck, the current Iraqi government would have no interest in it, and could even spoil any such attack by feeding Intel to Iran about troop movements.

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