Monday, December 3, 2007

Politics, Transparency, and Iran

The National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) has just released a new report on Iran's nuclear program stating that Iran has put a hold on their nuclear weapons development since 2003. There are a number of reasons why this is a very interesting development, in terms of foreign and domestic policy. 

In the United States there has been a push in the last couple years to deal with an alleged Iranian nuclear program. The rhetoric used by those inside the Bush administration as well as other hawkish politicos - Joe Lieberman  comes to mind - has been harsh, unrelenting, and familiar. We were all party to such fear-mongering in the lead-up to the Iraq war. What hasn't materialized, much like in the run-up to the Iraq war, has been evidence to back up the claims of an immanently nuclear Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been ambivalent about Iranian nuclear progress, mostly stating that Iran, while not fully cooperating, is not about to "go nuclear". 

The Mitt Romney ad I posted on this blog is another example of what the Iranian boogyman can do for a campaign. I am sure most intelligent people who watch that ad will find it ridiculous. We all know that Romney's case is exaggerated. What happens though, especially in a country dominated by sound-bites and shallow political punditry, is that eventually, when "nuclear Iran" is repeated enough, false assumptions begin to propagate, and priority shifts from real issues to specters. 

Now we are getting to why this new N.I.E. report is so remarkable. Firstly, it goes a long way in demystifying the Iranian nuclear agenda: instead of framing Iran as a maniacal weapons developer, determined to get weapons of mass-destruction and then use them, the report concludes that Iran is "guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs" (report). Secondly, the report reaffirms what the IAEA has been saying for a while now, that there is no evidence that Iran is developing weapons at the breakneck speeds alleged by those with seemingly nefarious motives. Lastly, and most importantly, this report was released to the public. As the New York Times reports, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Donald M. Kerr, said that the assesment should be released to the public "to ensure that an accurate presentation is available." Now that this information is out there it will make it much harder, although far from impossible, for the Bush administration to make a case for an assault on Iran. I only hope that people pay attention and begin to put the "Iranian threat" in context. 

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