Not a single foreign intelligence service appears to have been impressed by the NIE. Those of Great Britain and Israel have raised more than eyebrows. The Israelis, who cannot afford to make the kind of mistakes the Americans keep permitting themselves, are not merely unimpressed with the conclusions but by all reports appalled by them, and now realize that they are on their own.
The actual text does not support the conclusions, the conclusions ballyhooed by The Times on the front-page as a Great Achievement In Intelligence. But what disturbs most of all is the underlying failure of its authors, in assigning the “moderate” or “high degree” of “confidence” in this or that conclusion, to realize how much depends upon an understanding of the nature of the Iranian regime. One must understand its origins, its history, the worldview of those who run it and what they wish to do, and what might, temporarily, give them pause, but in the end would cause them to start right up again when they thought the coast was clear. What conceivable explanation can there be for what Iran has been caught trying to import, or has managed to build? What conceivable explanation can there be for the 3,000 centrifuges to which the Iranians have admitted (the actual number is much greater)? It is the taking of Iranian denials at face value that is so disturbing, as well as the ignoring of the entire pattern of behavior that is prompted by deep beliefs, beliefs that in Ahmadinejad’s case include a chiliasm that ought to scare many into grim comprehension.
Every assumption that appears to lie behind this report is on the side of seeing Iran’s rulers as sensible, sane, rational actors. It’s nonsense. That is not what Islam teaches — not in the advanced Western sense. It teaches the duty to promote the spread, and dominance of Islam, coute que coute. Seventh-century texts may be laughed off by us, the Infidels, but they are not laughed off by others. The chiliasm of Ahmadinejad (a follower of a particular group within Shi’a Islam) may appear mad to us, but so what? It is the fact of his belief, not what we think of it, that matters, and that should underlie any weighing of evidence and any judgment as to what may be concluded — and what it makes little sense to conclude.
Iran, meanwhile, needs to be preoccupied with something. That something should be Iraq. If the American forces leave, the Sunnis will be outnumbered, but despite American efforts to train an “Iraqi” army that, in fact, consists essentially of two wings — the Kurdish and the Shi’a Arab — the Sunnis will still, one suspects, exhibit superior ferocity. And they will, of course, be refreshed, from Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. The Americans, free to concentrate on the larger problem of Islam, should then focus on the one thing that immediately matters — which is the disruption, or destruction, or partial destruction, of Iran’s science project.
One assumes that the Iranians, who have already been swarming into southern Iraq, and who have the sympathy, and perhaps even the allegiance, of some if not all Iraqi Shi’a, would not lightly allow the Sunni ascendancy to somehow be established, or to permit the wholesale slaughter of Iranian Shi’a. They will intervene. This, in turn, will require men, money, materiel to be expended, and those men, that money, that materiel so expended will further reduce the popularity of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The more fanatical supporters, i.e. basiji, will leave their duties policing and intimidating fellow Iranians to fight (and, one hopes, die) in Iraq, the better not only for the disaffected Iranians who will not be quick to join them, but also for Infidels elsewhere.
Western powers who wish to protect Infidels should do only one thing in Iraq: get out, and allow the natural fissures of Shia and Sunni, Arab and non-Arab, widen and widen and widen, to the great good fortune of Infidels, who if nothing else, need to buy time until a more informed political class comes to power all over the Western world, in its governments, in its armed services, in its judiciary, in its press, radio, and television.