It seems like only a couple of weeks ago that most of the civilized world was in agreement that Iran was engaged in an ongoing nuclear weapons program and that it posed a serious threat not only to the Middle East, but to the rest of the world as well. Actually, it was only a couple of weeks ago, and because of that perceived threat, most civilized countries felt that at the very least, sanctions should be applied to try and persuade Iran to give up its dangerous program and that, also, the military option should at least not be taken off the table as a last resort.

And then a remarkable thing happened. Kaboom! Like a totally unexpected bomb attack coming out of nowhere, the new US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear intentions was released and blew away international unity and resolve by claiming that it believed “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

That was all it took to send the do-nothing-about-Iran crowd into a deep state of soporific complacency. See? They said. We finally have the proof. There is no Iranian threat (just like there was no Iraq threat), Bush has no excuse for starting another crazy war and all is right with the world. Hip hip hooray!

It was certainly something for Iran’s beady-eyed dictator, Ahmadinejad, to crow about: “This is a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue. This was a final shot to those who, in the past several years, spread a sense of threat and concern in the world through lies of nuclear weapons.”

Ever trusty Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, well known for his lugubrious and premature declaration that the war in Iraq was lost, could not have agreed more with our enemy: “President Bush’s heated rhetoric on Iran — including comments about a potential World War III — is even more outrageous now that we know the intelligence community had informed him that it believes Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago.”

Well now, wait just a minute, Senator Reid. There you go with a less than subtle accusation that the president lied about the Iranian threat. But President Bush has said that in August he was told by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell that there would be a reassessment of Tehran’s nuclear goals, but that “he didn’t tell me what the information was. He did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.”

If you don’t believe that explanation, then I’d like to pose one simple question of logic. If the president already knew that the new intelligence estimate concluded that Iran’s nuke program had been suspended in 2003, why would he have continued to pump up concern over Iran knowing that the report would soon be made public and he would then be nailed as a liar? That doesn’t really make logical sense, does it?

No, but the Reid rhetoric does make for the usual Democratic anti-Bush politicking. Anyway, before we all start preparing for that long-promised one-world utopia that could come about if the United States would only stop being so interminably belligerent, everyone might want to give some attention to the second line of the NIE report (separated from the first part only by a semicolon) which states that “we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”

Hel-lo-o? Can we all please come back to our senses? The Iranian problem isn’t over by a long shot. The very report that has Harry Reid & Company ready to declare another vacation from history à la the Clinton years is, in fact, chock full of other assessments that should give everyone pause. Here are a few examples:

“We judge . . . with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program.”

“We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

“Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. . . . We also assess with high confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications–some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.”

In other words, the authors of this much ballyhooed NIE report, which may have destroyed international resolve for keeping the pressure on Iran, literally don’t have a clue as to what’s going on inside that rogue country at this moment. Iranian scientists could be working with maniacal fervor even as we speak on an Islamic atomic bomb and the NIE spy guys would be none the wiser. Or if such work isn’t currently ongoing, it could be started back up at the drop of a turban — er, I mean, hat.

In the meantime, the UK-based Sunday Telegraph has reported that British intelligence types have serious doubts that Iran dropped its nuclear weapons program. According to this report, the Brits are “concerned that U.S. spy chiefs were so determined to avoid giving President Bush a reason to go to war — as their reports on Saddam’s weapons programs did in Iraq — that they got it wrong this time.”

According to a senior UK official, British analysts also believe that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation. Wow! Is it really just that easy to fool American intelligence?

“Hello, Farooq? This is Mohammad. Yep, you heard right. Due to international pressure we’re shutting down the nuke program. What’s that? Nope, no plans to ever restart it. Have a nice day. Allahu akbar.”

Forgive my incredulousness, but I find the tapped phones theory a bit hard to swallow. A more plausible theory about all of this is that the primary authors of the NIE report — who are reputed to be deeply partisan and hostile to Bush’s foreign policy goals — have pulled off a colossal political coup, a preemptive strike, if you will, by wiping out any significant support for Bush to take military action against Iran’s nuclear program.

Sure, the report makes clear, as I’ve pointed out, that Iran could still crank up the program at any moment (if they haven’t already), but the authors knew that the Democrats and all the other reluctant international participants in applying pressure and sanctions against Iran would cave after reading the first line, thus making a military strike pretty near out of the question.

The bottom line is that this NIE report is a potential disaster for the good guys (that would be the West) in the struggle to prevent Iran from becoming capable of actually bringing about some of its apocalyptic desires. Like the one expressed in a speech a few years ago by Hashemi Rafsanjani (who, if you recall, lost a presidential election to Ahmadinejad):

“When the Islamic world acquires atomic weapons, the strategy of the West will hit a dead end — since the use of a single atomic bomb has the power to destroy Israel completely, while an Israeli counterstrike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.”

By the way, Rafsanjani was considered to be a moderate.

Only the dreamiest of peaceniks could possibly believe that Iran is done with its nuclear ambitions and is now ready to become a part of the community of responsible and peaceful nations. Iran is still the world’s number one state sponsor of terror, still routinely calls for the destruction of Israel, still believes that Islam must rule the world and–oh yeah, is still enriching uranium (for peaceful purposes, they claim–wink, wink) and is still building ballistic missiles.

They’ve been given something akin to a free pass with this disastrous NIE report. Why in the world wouldn’t they pull out all the stops now and go for a nuclear bomb?

Greg Strange provides conservative commentary with plenty of acerbic wit on the people, politics, events and absurdities of our time. See more at his website: http://www.greg-strange.com/.

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