Thinking About Iran

The LA Times has a lovely story:

The administration’s decision to step up intelligence collection on Iran in 2005 was a reversal from a position the White House took after President Bush was first elected. Former CIA officials said that the agency had built up a large Iran Task Force, made up of nearly 100 officers and analysts at headquarters, by the end of the Clinton administration. But that office shrank to fewer than a dozen officers early in the Bush administration, when the White House ordered resources shifted to other targets.

“When Bush came in, they were totally disinterested in Iran,” said a former CIA official who held a senior position at the time. “It went from being a main focus to everything being switched to Iraq.”

Asked about decisions to reduce the size of the Iran Task Force, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said: “Iran has been an issue of priority to the United States for a long time. You shouldn’t assume that a single unit of any size reflects the complete level of effort. That would be a mistake.”

Even as the task force shrank, officials said, other CIA units, including its counter-proliferation division, continued to track Iran’s procurement networks and other targets.

Some of that reduced task force capacity has been restored, former CIA officials said. Two years ago, the agency created an Iran division within its overseas spying operations, applying to a single country resources and emphasis usually reserved for multinational regions.

U.S. intelligence officials said the information that surfaced this summer prompting the reevaluation of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program centered on intercepts of Iranian government officials’ conversations and the seizure of a journal that contained notes documenting the country’s decision to shut down its weapons research.

During a briefing with reporters last week, a senior U.S. intelligence official said that Iran was “the hardest intelligence target there is.”

“I mean, by comparison, North Korea is an open and transparent society,” the official said.

I don’t buy that North Korea is open and transparent compared to Iran. Does anyone in North Korea have access to the internet? Can North Koreans leave the country? Can North Koreans criticize the government and live? Would Reagan have sold them missiles? What percentage of Iranians are in death camps? And does Mr. Cheney have businessinterests in Iran?

So… what we have here is an administration operating under self-imposed ignorance about Iran, having made the decision to gut their own ability to obtain intelligence about the country, and making ludicrous statements about the country. Iran may well be an enemy of the US, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an incompetent mouse of an enemy.

My guess… Iraq was attacked because the administration knew they didn’t have WMDs. The administration has figured out that Iran also has nothing and that puts them in the fair-game-to-be-attacked category, and since its flailing around for something to do with its time (who wants to pay attention to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the Economy, etc.? It’s all so very depressing), Iran does look attractive. The problem is… the administration can’t even handle Afghanistan, much less Iraq – how can it launch an attack on Iran? It must be so very frustrating to be one of the great strategic thinkers in the White House or who advise it, giants of almost Liliputian stature like GW and Cheney and Ledeen and Podhoretz and Hanson, stymied by the real world that just refuses to cooperate in the textbook, or rather, comic book fashion they expect.