We’ve been here before.
The House Intelligence Committee stands accused of falsifying information and exaggerating the threat of a country’s nuclear program. Some Democrats are joining in the criticism. Republicans, for their part, maintain that the committee’s report is correct.
Alas, this is not from a couple of years ago, and the country under discussion is not Iraq. Instead, it happened in just the last couple of days and involves Iran. The accuser this time is none other than the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. body that won the Nobel Peace Prize last year. And this time it is proving itself to be more outspoken than in 2003.
“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,” The Washington Post reports.
The IAEA is not the only one to find holes in the House report. The Post quotes intelligence officials who privately go further than the agency in their critique, saying that there are at least a dozen erroneous or unsubstantiated claims.The agency cites five major errors in the report. Among them is the case of the Iranian weapons facility at Natanz, where the House committee says that the Iranians are producing weapons-grade uranium. Not true, says the agency, since weapons-grade uranium implies enrichment of uranium to 90 percent or more, while the Iranians, under IAEA supervision, have only enriched uranium to the level of 3.5 percent!
The stance of the agency is courageous, considering that the independence of its head, Mohamed ElBaradei (who shared the 2005 Nobel with the agency), almost cost him his job last year. The campaign against ElBaradei’s renomination was led by Sheriff John Bolton, who didn’t relish ElBaradei’s refusal to toe the U.S. line, most notably in the run-up to the Iraq War.
“One of the reasons he's been successful,” an IAEA official said then, “is because he has not pandered to any one country's agenda or any group of countries’ agenda and always strives to maintain his impartiality.”
Not exactly a positive in the Bush Administration’s rulebook.
Bolton gave up on the crusade against ElBaradei when he realized that the United States did not have a single ally.
The IAEA is not the only one to find holes in the House report. The Post quotes intelligence officials who privately go further than the agency in their critique, saying that there are at least a dozen erroneous or unsubstantiated claims. And some Democrats on the committee are joining in the criticism.
The report “took a number of analytical shortcuts that present the Iran threat as more dire—and the intelligence community's assessments as more certain—than they are,” Representative Jane Harman of California, vice chair of the committee, stated in an e-mail to other Democrats.
The slant of the report is not all that astonishing when you consider the people behind it. The report’s author, Fredrick Fleitz, is special assistant to (surprise! surprise!) John Bolton, a leading advocate both of the Iraq War and of tough action against Iran. What is shocking, however, is that these people would attempt to pull a fast one all over again after the whole Iraq WMD fiasco and the huge political damage it caused.
“No one wants a repeat of 2003,’’ a European diplomat told the New York Times.
Unfortunately, some people do. The Bush Administration and its allies in Congress seem determined to repeat Iraq, no lessons learned.
© 2006 The Progressive