Fleitz of Fancy & A New Diehl on Iran: An update on fear-mongering about Iran’s nuclear program

It has been nearly seven months since I wrote, ”The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran’s Nuclear Program” (posted here on Mondoweiss), a time-line of false U.S., Israeli, and European assertions regarding the supposed inevitability and immediacy of a nuclear-armed Iran, hysterical allegations that have been made repeatedly for the past thirty years.  Whenever new predictions and claims about Iran’s nuclear program are released, I have added updates to my original piece.  To read all 47 updates, click here.  Here is the latest:

Alarmist editorializing about Iran, its regional influence, and its nuclear energy program has picked up considerably in the past few weeks. In the wake of the latest IAEA report this past Spring which revealed no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, a hefty Sy Hersh article confirming that all 16 American intelligence agencies still stand by their 2007 assessment that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and the potential for a large-scale U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at the end of the year, career fear-mongers have been hard at work trying to re-raise the Iranian threat level from mild khaki to frantic crimson. 
 
An opinion piece published last night in the Wall Street Journal is a perfect example of the heightened hysteria. The article, entitled “America’s Intelligence Denial on Iran“, was written by former CIA agent Fred Fleitz, a neoconservative Bomb Iraner who served as John Bolton’s State Department chief of staff and is currently a columnist for the right-wing outlet Newsmax.

 
 
Fleitz is intent on discrediting the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which has repeatedly found that Iran’s nuclear program is, at best, totally benign and, at worst, not an imminent threat to anyone. He leads with this: 

    Mounting evidence over the last few years has convinced most experts that Iran has an active program to develop and construct nuclear weapons. Amazingly, however, these experts do not include the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community. They are unwilling to conduct a proper assessment of the Iranian nuclear issue – and so they remain at variance with the Obama White House, U.S. allies, and even the United Nations. 

Fleitz goes on to write that, “according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,” Iran currently has enough “low-enriched uranium” for “four nuclear weapons if enriched to weapons grade” and repeats the propaganda line about “an item recently posted to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps website [which] mused about the day after an Iranian nuclear test (saying, in a kind of taunt, that it would be a ‘normal day’).” Fleitz claims that the “message marked the first time any official Iranian comment suggested the country’s nuclear program is not entirely peaceful.” 
 
Beyond demonstrating a severe lack of understanding about what the IAEA has actually reported and his willful omission of the huge difference between low-enriched uranium and weapons grade material, Fleitz tips his hand by relying on the over-hyped “Nuclear Test” post on the Iranian Gerdab website last month for his nuclear scare propaganda. 
 
Fleitz writes that the latest NIE assessment is just as “politicized” and “poorly written” as its 2007 predecessor and similarly downplays the “true account of the Iranian threat” due to what Fleitz claims is the U.S. intelligence community’s apparent aversion to providing “provocative analytic conclusions, and any analysis that could be used to justify military action against rogue states like Iran.” He accuses the 2011 NIE of “poorly structured arguments and cavalier manipulation of intelligence”, all the while boasting of his own objections, which he says were routinely ignored and rebuffed by the report’s supervisors. He lays blame on what he determines is the NIE’s reliance on “former senior intelligence officers, liberal professors and scholars from liberal think tanks.” 
 
He concludes: 

    It is unacceptable that Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists. One can’t underestimate the dangers posed to our country by a U.S. intelligence community that is unable to provide timely and objective analysis of such major threats to U.S. national security – or to make appropriate adjustments when it is proven wrong. 
     
    If U.S. intelligence agencies cannot or will not get this one right, what else are they missing?

Reading this, one might be forgiven for wondering why, rather than merely attacking the credentials of NIE sources, Fleitz doesn’t reveal a shred of evidence for his declaration that “Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon.” Oh right, never mind
 
This sort of “analysis” from Fleitz is far from unexpected. Back in August 2006, Fleitz – then a House Intelligence Committee staffer – was the primary author of a Congressional report entitled, “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States“, which served as a veritable catalog of false assertions about Iran’s nuclear program and, just like his Wall Street Journal piece, assailed the U.S. intelligence community for not sufficiently fear-mongering about the so-called Iranian threat. Among other exaggerations and outright lies, the report accused Iran of “enriching uranium to weapons grade” and stated that the IAEA had removed a senior safeguards inspector from Iran for “allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program and concluding that the purposed of Iran’s nuclear programme is to construct weapons” and for “not having adhered to an unstated IAEA policy baring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear program.” 
 
The report contained so many false allegations and misrepresentations regarding the Iranian nuclear program, in fact, that the IAEA’s Director of External Relations and Policy Coordination Vilmos Cserveny wrote a letter to the Chairman of House Committee, Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), challenging the report’s “incorrect” assertions and criticizing it for promoting “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated information.” 
 
Additionally, Cserveny described Fleitz’s accusations about the safeguards inspector as “outrageous and dishonest” and noted that “Iran has accepted the designation of more than 200 Agency safeguards inspectors, which number is similar to that accepted by the majority of non-nuclear-weapon States that have concluded safeguards agreements pursuant to the NPT.” 
 
It appears that, five years later, Fleitz still chooses fantasy over facts. 
 
Meanwhile, in the pages of the Washington Post, deputy editorial editor and Likudnik ideologue Jackson Diehl has picked up on the amplified push to blame the Iranian government for the recent deaths of American soldiers occupying Iraq. In an opinion piece published earlier this week, he writes, “The larger question is whether Iraq will be forced by a full U.S. pullout to become an Iranian satellite, a development that would undo a huge and painful investment of American blood and treasure and deal a potentially devastating blow to the larger U.S. position in the Middle East.” 
 
Apparently, Arabs and Muslims are only truly liberated when under the influence of the United States. 
 
Diehl believes that an Iraqi government that is bullied into allowing U.S. troops to continue occupying their country beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline would be “making the right choice.” If there is an American withdrawal, however, Diehl is worried about the potential consequences. He claims (citing a Fox News report) that an “offensive [is] already underway by Iranian-sponsored militias [which] shows that Tehran is ready to fight.” He writes that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “like U.S. commanders in the Middle East, understands very well that without an American military presence, Iraq will be unable to defend itself against its Persian neighbor” and laments that, “without U.S. help, Iraqi forces cannot easily counter” Iranian-backed militias since “Iraq’s conventional forces are no match for those of Iran.” 
 
Of course, what Diehl leaves out – beyond the fact that the evidence linking the Iranian government to recent resistance attacks in Iraq is sketchy at best – is that foreign occupation is what most people and non-U.S.-aligned governments in the region are most offended by, not alleged increasing Iranian influence. Yet, the horror of an Iraq allied with Iran is ever-present in the neoconservative community. Diehl even quotes career militarist Frederick Kagan of the neocon flagship, the American Enterprise Institute, as warning in a recent report that “[i]f Maliki allows the United States to leave Iraq, he is effectively declaring his intent to fall in line with Tehran’s wishes, to subordinate Iraq’s foreign policy to the Persians, and possibly, to consolidate his own power as a sort of modern Persian satrap in Baghdad.” 
 
Oh dear, the Persians! Where are AristagorasLeonides and Themistocles when you need them?! It would be unsurprising to assume that Kagan’s neocon classicist fatherDonald is proud of his son’s ridiculous historical analogy. 
 
To his moderate credit, Diehl does also present a slightly alternate perspective, one that naturally views Iran as a spooky menace (no other representation of the Islamic Republic is allowed in the mainstream press, of course), but that doesn’t necessarily see it as a hegemonic threat of imperial proportions. He reports that Antony Blinken, a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden, resists the notion that Iran is capable of wielding such devious influence over Iraq, even without a massive U.S. military presence. “The danger of Iranian hegemony in Iraq,” Diehl writes, “is overstated by analysts such as Kagan,” according to Blinken. 
 
Diehl closes by lamenting the recent departure Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who he describes as “the only Obama administration official who has publicly made the case for a continued U.S. military presence.” In a recent speech, Diehl recalls, Gates said that it would send “a powerful signal to the region that we’re not leaving, that we will continue to play a part,” adding, “I think it would be reassuring to the Gulf states. I think it would not be reassuring to Iran, and that’s a good thing.” 
 
What Diehl omits is that Gates was actually speaking to the American Enterprise Institute when making these comments and that, much to the dismay of its many war-mongering members, has been credited by many as having single-handedly prevented an American attack on Iran. 
 
The specter of a nuclear-armed and hegemonic Iran is still the bread-and-butter of Beltway Middle East reportage and analysis. Consequently, the fever-pitched fear-mongering never stops, despite what the facts are. 
 
Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City. His analysis of United States foreign policy and Middle East issues is published at WideAsleepInAmerica.com. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.

About Nima Shirazi

Nima Shirazi is co-editor of the Iran, Iraq and Turkey pages for the online magazine Muftah. His political analysis can be found on his blog, WideAsleepinAmerica.com, where this post first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 10 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. MHughes976 says:

    To me it has seemed some time since the ‘Within one year, I tell you!’ card was played. Everything now seems to be more vague. I find it hard to believe that Gates had a difficult job in persuading either Bush or Obama that an attack in Iran would be utterly foolhardy.

  2. annie says:

    yeah, i knew when i watched the video of bolton’s conference w/jpost last week there was going to be a new iran push. (not sure is the video attached is the full conference or just a smidgen). they just keep revamping the same ol stuff.

  3. The Al Jazeera had been running this report for a few days now:

    link to english.aljazeera.net

    from a retired CIA reporting, amplifying concern Israeli secret services have with Israeli political leadership and its drive to open an Iranian front. The recent retired head of Mossad publicly called error on PM Nyet ‘n Yahoo and FM Lie-bermann’s regurgitation of the Iranian menace lies.
    “”Baer was especially impressed by the unprecedented warning about Netanyahu’s plans by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Dagan left the Israeli intelligence agency in September 2010. Two months ago, he predicted that Israel would attack and said that doing so would be “the stupidest thing” he could imagine.”” (from Al Jazeera). That public announcement calling out the politicians is without precedent.

    There has been no report from reputable sources that contradicts the 2007 CIA estimate but the shambling, baseless assertions founded on nothing more than twisted imagination continue, unchanged.

  4. RE: “It appears that, five years later, Fleitz still chooses fantasy over facts.” – Nima Shirazi

    MY COMMENT:
    “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but facts will never sway us.” ~ Neocon Creed

    P.S. FROM The Telegraph (U.K.), 07/20/11:

    …Among the more elaborate and daring plots Mossad is known or suspected of being involved in are:
    1968: The German freighter ‘Scheersberg A’ disappears on a voyage between Antwerp and Genoa, together with 200 tonnes of yellowcake, or concentrated natural uranium, which was reportedly transferred to an Israeli ship. After 15 days at sea, the ‘Scheersberg A’ docked at the Turkish port of Iskenderun…

    SOURCE – link to telegraph.co.uk

  5. radii says:

    “by way of deception, thou shalt do war”

    … this credo encompasses nationalist zionism and the israeli government’s modus operandi

    NOTHING israel, it’s agents and operatives says or does can be taken at face value – N-O-T-H-I-N-G

    All zionist-nationalist and israeli gov’t words and actions are designed to expand territory, push out the Palestinians, loot the U.S. taxpayers for more money, and amass power

    period

  6. Again, why aren’t we seeing more criticism of Hillary Clinton for her statements and stances on the “Iranian nuke” thing? To read the various sites that address the exagerations and propaganda about the Iranian nuclear program, one could almost believe its an exclusively right wing campaign of fear mongering. But this wretched Secretary Of State, Clinton, has been on the “Iran Is The Devil” bus from the very beginning.

    • NimaShirazi says:

      You should read me more often, PissedOffAmerican!

      December 29, 2010:

      Speaking in Doha, Qatar on February 14, 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed, what she called, “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.” Although Clinton said that the United States was attempting to “influence the Iranian decision regarding whether or not to pursue a nuclear weapon,” she added that “the evidence is accumulating that that’s exactly what they are trying to do, which is deeply concerning, because it doesn’t directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners here in this region and beyond.”

      January 9, 2011:

      Hillary Clinton, speaking today in Abu Dhabi, dismissed Meir Dagan’s prediction as irrelevant, saying, “The timeline is not so important as the international effort to try to ensure that whatever the timeline, Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.” Repeating the age-old absurdity that Iran has threatened Arab countries and Israel with military action (which it never has), Clinton continued, “I don’t know that it gives much comfort to somebody who is in the Gulf, or who is in a country that Iran has vowed to destroy, that it’s a one-year or a three-year timeframe.”

      The Reuters report stated that “Western intelligence agencies say Iran could make a bomb by the middle of the decade, should it choose to enrich uranium to higher levels and master weaponization techniques.”

      Translation: A country could make a nuclear bomb if it does what is necessary to make a nuclear bomb.

      Genius.

      January 10, 2011:

      [Hillary] Clinton has once again chimed in from Abu Dhabi, advancing the claim that the successful implementation of sanctions “have made it much more difficult for Iran to pursue its nuclear ambition.” Although Clinton also credited technical and technological problems with supposedly slowing down Iran’s “timetable,” she continued, “But the real question is how do we convince Iran that pursuing nuclear weapons will not make it safer and stronger but just the opposite…We have time, but not a lot of time.”

      In order to be sufficiently ridiculous, Clinton also blamed Iran for both warmongering in the Middle East and opposing the so-called Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.”

      Clinton’s focus on sanctions should be viewed within the context of the latest Iranian airplane crash that occurred yesterday, killing at least 77 people. The Washington Post points out today that “U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from updating its 30-year-old American aircraft and make it difficult to get European spare parts or planes as well. The country has come to rely on Russian aircraft, many of them Soviet-era planes that are harder to get parts for since the Soviet Union’s fall.”

      As LobeLog analyst Ali Gharib points out:

      “State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley basically admitted last fall that a shift had occurred wherein U.S. sanctions were no longer seeking to assiduously focus pressure on certain figures associated with Iran’s leadership. In other words, innocent Iranians — ‘Jamshid Averages’ — were now on the hook for the behavior of their government.

      One may wonder whether this plane full of Iranians was dangling precariously from that hook before it broke in mid-air and fell to the ground.”

      Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Clinton expressed her confidence that existing sanctions on Iran “have had a very significant impact.”

      Without a doubt, the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children, families, and friends of those Iranians killed in yesterday’s plane crash would agree.

      Regarding Dagan’s 2015 prediction, by far the best thing Clinton said was this:

      “We don’t want anyone to be misled by anyone’s intelligence analysis.”

      Indeed, what a shame that would be.

      June 2, 2011:

      …the paradoxical views of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who addressed Iran directly on Meet the Press in July 2009, saying, “You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil, nuclear power,” and then immediately contradicted herself by insisting, “You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control.”

      July 19, 2011:

      While on the campaign trail in April 2008, Hillary Clinton was asked about a potential response to a hypothetical Iranian first-strike on Israel (hilarious in itself considering Iran has never threatened as much, whereas nuclear-armed Israel has repeatedly threatens Iran with an attack, conducted war games planning for such an operation, and has often boasted of its ability to carry out such an attack), and she replied:

      “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran [if it attacks Israel]…In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.” (emphasis added)

      Clearly realizing how truly demented such a statement was, she continued, “That’s a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic.”

      Not the kind of reckless or foolishness it would take or tragedy it would be to, oh, I don’t know, totally obliterate an entire country of over 70 million people.

      A couple of weeks later, when Clinton was asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos whether she regretted making that statement, she doubled down:

      “Why would I have any regrets? I am asked a question about what I would do if Iran attacked our ally, a country that many of us have a great deal of, you know, connection with and feeling for.

      “I think we have to be very clear about what we would do. I don’t think it is time to equivocate about what we would do. I sure want to make it abundantly clear to them that they would face a tremendous cost if they did such a thing.”

      So, should there really be any fuss over the “Cain Doctrine”, when we’ve known about the “Clinton Doctrine” for over three years now?

  7. Shingo says:

    Another outstanding pice Nima,

    It never ceases to amaze me how these neocons, who have historically been proven wrong every step fo the way, still consider themselves to be more in touch with realuty than those who are consistently vindicated. As you poit out, no evidence is produced to support his argument.

    And who are these “experts” that believe Iran has an active program to develop and construct nuclear weapons that Fleitz keeps alluding to?

    We all know what is going to happen, on should I say NOT going to happen. No nuclear test will be conducted and the story will dissapear. Fleitz will pretend his BS was never mentioned and will return with another bout of hysteria a few months or weeks from now.

    These neocons are so discredited that they have been reduced to pandering to hteri audience in NewsMax and the WSJ.

    I don’t even remember the last time I saw Bill Kristol on Fox – not that I have been watching Foxc mind you.

  8. radii says:

    Shingo,

    the neocons care not a whit about reality … don’t you remember their late 90s white paper?

    … their aim is to CREATE a reality to their liking and anything and everything that serves that end if fair game in their minds (including the destruction of America)

  9. Following, in black and white, is the official script on Iran that must be read by anyone attempting to do anything political in Washington DC. This holds true from the rung clawing spider monkeys, such as Clemons, Maddow, Hannity, Coulter, etc, to the current posturing fraud soiling the carpet in the Oval Office. (And all the nodding minions in between, on both sides of the aisle).

    Here it is, Ladies and Gentleman, the script….

    link to aipac.org