The shift appears to be complete. When the intelligence community concluded recently that Iran halted its nuclear-weapons program, the right’s reflexive reaction was to condemn intelligence agencies, question the accuracy of the report, and raise doubts about officials’ motives. If the NIE didn’t tell conservatives what they wanted to hear, then the NIE had to be wrong.
But that was just the initial reaction. Over the last few days, the right seems to have settled on a new talking point — the NIE might be right, but if it is, it’s evidence that Bush’s invasion of Iraq generated progress in the Middle East.
He also explains why this doesn't make much sense.
I’m trying to imagine the scenario as Kristol and Giuliani see it — we invaded Iraq and toppled a long-time Iranian foe; Iran had a secret nuclear-weapons program, which it was having trouble with; and fearful of an invasion, Iran scraps the nuke project.
Here’s the thing: that only makes sense if the Iranian nuclear-weapons program wasn’t a secret. In other words, the Kristol/Giuliani argument characterizes this as some kind of negotiation, as if Tehran said, “If you refrain from invading us, we’ll halt our nuke program.” Except that’s not what happened at all — Iran started and stopped its nuclear initiative without our knowledge. Indeed, we found about the development four years later.
And he offers an alternative explanation.
And what did work in pushing Iran? International diplomatic pressure — which the Bush White House actively opposed.For me, Steve's explanation is a bit unsatisfying. It may have been a coincidence that Iran's abandonment of its nuclear program coincided with our invasion of Iraq, but it's hard to imagine that such a major event in Iran's backyard had no impact on the decision. To be clear, I'm not buying the neocon argument, but I have a logically sound argument which leads to the same conclusion.
The necons, at least implicitly, assume that the program was a defense against Israel. However, Tehran must be aware that if they were to use nuclear weapons against Israel that the retaliation would mean the end of their country. Further, they must also be aware that the weapons wouldn't provide much of a deterrent against an Israeli attack, because of the strength of the Israeli military.
The first premise of my argument is that Iran pursued nuclear weapons as a defense against Iraq. My guess is that Tehran reasoned, that unlike the Israeli situation, no one in the West would be too angry should it use nukes against Baghdad. Granted this premise, then it make perfect sense that Iran would abandon its nuclear program once Saddam had been disposed. The threat for which they were developed was gone and nuclear weapons would be of no use defending against the the new threat of the US occupation of Iraq for the same reason they wouldn't be effective against Israel.
Then doesn't this development, at least post hoc, justify the Iraq War? The short answer is no. If Iran was developing nuclear weapons as a defense against Saddam's Iraq, then the weapons would not have been a direct threat to US interests. Diplomacy would have eventually worked.
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