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The Predicament of the Intelligence Report on Iran - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Before the recent US intelligence report on the Iranian nuclear program was released, the common criticism surrounding US reports and justifications was that they were “false” and “misleading”, such as the case with Saddam Hussein’s so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) for which the former Iraqi regime was toppled and Iraq was occupied.

Today, Ahmadinejad and his associates have let out a sigh of relief after the US report stated that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program for military purposes in 2003. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman made a statement on behalf of the Iranian people in which he said that the report “proves that Bush’s statements, which invariably refer to Iran’s nuclear program as a serious threat, are unreliable and imaginary.”

Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad declared Tehran’s victory and the Iranian foreign minister said, “We welcome corrections from any of the states that had reserved any doubts or suspicions about the Iranian nuclear issue in the past, regardless of their motivation.” He added, “Iran’s peaceful nuclear development has become clear to the world.”

Thus, the question today is: Is this admission of the US intelligence report’s impartiality and proof of its credibility acknowledged by those who had been skeptical about the Iraqi WMDs?

In this instance, it must be pointed out that history has given us signs that cannot be ignored when it comes to US intelligence authorities and issues of central importance. The intelligence authorities failed to detect India’s readiness to acquire a nuclear bomb, inasmuch as it failed to predict or find out that Pakistan had acquired a nuclear bomb in response to its Indian neighbor until Islamabad announced the news.

Likewise; the US intelligence authorities failed to anticipate the fall of its arch enemy, the Soviet Union, an opponent that resulted in budgets and fictitious prospects within the intelligence agency.

But away from all this and closer to a history that we remember well; the Americans were surprised when the Libyans voluntarily offered the information that they had abandoned their nuclear program in return for a Libyan-US agreement. Of course, what is important here is the extent by which Tripoli had developed its program below the radar of the intelligence authorities.

In his book entitled ‘At the Centre of the Storm’, former CIA director George Tenet recounts an anecdote that summarizes a number of aspects when he says that an intelligence officer received an envelope from a Chinese officer prior to the attack on Iraq. He relates that upon opening the envelope, the US officer found a map of the location of the Chinese embassy in Baghdad.

The Americans understood that the Chinese did not want to give the Americans an excuse this time, in the case of a war being launched on Iraq, based on the fact that the Chinese embassy was attacked in Belgrade. The US excuse at the time was that the maps they possessed had not been updated.

Our reality with Iran today is embodied in its actions and interventions in the region’s security and other issues  not based on a US report that states whether it is capable of developing a nuclear weapon or not.

Enthusiasts in the Arab world today must take note because if Iran became neutralized with regards to the Annapolis issue, and if matters smooth out in Iraq  in accordance with Washington’s interest, of course  who knows when a new intelligence report might emerge to say that Iran is more prepared than ever to acquire a nuclear weapon. What will they say then?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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