Monday, December 03, 2007

Reality or realpolitik?

As the election gets closer some very strange and unusual things are beginning to unfold. Let's quickly summarize some of them.

Recall that back in the hazy days of summer, when General Petraeus was still betraying us, Iran was being testily accused of fomenting violence in Iraq. We had the evidence. Syria was likewise being accused of raising havoc on the western front and was itself still under the gun for the murders of Gemayal and Hariri. Bush was being bashed into a pulp for ignoring Baker-Hamilton. Things looked pretty grim.

But as summer faded to fall the Iranians and Syrians have mysteriously become less threatening. At the same time peace broke out with most of the militants in Iraq in the worst provinces. Al-Sadr's name is hardly ever spoken and now we're hearing stories that the flow of arms into Iraq from Iran has dried up. Did we miss the peace talks?

Something happened. There are good reasons for that something--the pressure to remove Iraq as a boat anchor for BOTH Republicans and Democrats in the coming election is huge. Very huge. Neither wants to run on the issue.

Two, we saw one of the weirdest attacks in modern history over the eastern Syrian desert in the end of summer with Israeli jets and special forces crushing something out there. That we still don't know precisely what is itself high evidence it was something major, perhaps deal-altering. Perhaps one of the sticks in the carrot bag?

Since then we've seen a major peace summit, including all parties minus Iran. Strangely, today someone in the government declassified another top secret NIE that says whoops--Iran ain't got nothing nookular after all! Matter of fact:
The decision to release an unclassified version of the key judgments reverses a stand McConnell took in a speech just one month ago.

"Since our understanding of Iran's nuclear capabilities has changed, we felt it was important to release this information to ensure that an accurate presentation is available," according to a statement from Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence.
Stuff like that just doesn't happen without a reason. Reports today suggested that Reid wanted the judgments released to slap back at Bush's warmongering soul but if he did--under his own authority and without consent from the administration or intelligence community--his head should be rolled all the way back to Las Vegas along a bumpy road. Apparently that's not the case, though.

Mighty strange. It sounds for all the world like a complex set of deals have been made. Maybe Baker-Hamilton isn't dead after all? Maybe all the warring parties simply had to find a public position they could take to allow it to occur to some degree--including president Bush and Harry Reid. Whatever the case, we can all keep hope alive.

MORE 12/4/07

This NIE thing continues to be deliciously confusing. Imagine what the Iranians must be thinking? Allow me another chance to speculate wildly:

1. Like many, my first thought was, "who directed the release of this and why?". Most of the wire stories don't bother to address that question in detail. We do know these were only the key judgments and the rest is still classified, but shouldn't the whole thing be classified?

2. Are they playing semantical games between 'civilian' and 'military' programs? The Times worded their story:
But the new estimate declares with “high confidence” that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down
First, the report seems to verify that the Iranian military, ie IRGC, had a secret nuclear program up through and beyond our invasion of Iraq. Good thing we had them surrounded, eh? Then they abandoned it, about the same time Quaddafy did. Why?
Did shock and awe work better than reported? Thomas Joscelyn also asks about semantics, among other things.

2. What, if anything, did the arrest of AQ Khan have to do with them rolling back their program?

3. What, if anything, does Joe Wilson know about Iran's attempts to acquire yellercake from Africa?

4. We are fortunate to have conservative bloggers who provided thoughtful insight, compared to the standard wall of ChimpyMcBushlerburton reaction from the reality based community. Here's Tom Maguire, who seems to think this news might help both political parties:
But what about an alternative story line - heroic Dems forced the release of this info, thereby halting the Cheney-led march to war? Well, bully for them and we promise not to vote for Cheney in 2008. Meanwhile, insinuations that McCain or Giuliani (or Huckabee!?!) will take us to war with Iran have been dramatically undercut.
In a way it's what I was trying to say (but less conspiratorial), ie, an Iran not meddling in Iraq could help both sides down the road.

5. But what about Hillary? Despite repeated attempts she's steadfastly refused to pledge against launching missiles into Iran if the nuclear need were to arise. She recently took heat from the choir about her vote on Kyl-Lieberman:
Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment to press the army toward war with Iran. This was an important step, for her, and a vote as closely considered as her vote to authorize the bombing and occupation of Iraq.
At what point can we compare her to Darth Cheney?

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