But one highly reliable intelligence community source I consulted immediately after Hadley spoke answered my question this way: “This is absolutely absurd. The NIE has been in substantially the form in which it was finally submitted for more than six months. The White House, and particularly Vice President Cheney, used every trick in the book to stop it from being finalized and issued. There was no last minute breakthrough that caused the issuance of the assessment.” So what, I asked, if not an intelligence breakthrough, what caused the last-minute change and the sudden issuance of the summary of the NIE? My source had no idea.
Horton’s source adds that though it appears Vice President Cheney “and his team” had “to fold their cards” on “plans for an air war in Iran,” Cheney’s “a tenacious son-of-a-bitch. He may very well be back at it tomorrow.”
Norman Podhoretz, widely reputed to be the “godfather” of neoconservatism, has been one of the most aggressive hawks clamoring for war with Iran. Podhoretz laid out the “The Case For Bombing Iran” in a June cover story in the right-wing Commentary Magazine. He insisted that the Iranians were very close to developing a nuclear weapon:
[Iran’s] effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all. […]
“[A]ll this negotiating has had the same result as Munich had with Hitler. That is, it has bought the Iranians more time in which they have moved closer and closer to developing nuclear weapons.”
Yesterday’s NIE proved Podhoretz’s claims were false. Rather than modify his views on Iran, Podhoretz — who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 — aired a nasty conspiracy theory yesterday, attacking the authors of the NIE and accusing the intelligence community of deliberately “leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush:”
I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view (including as is evident from the 2005 NIE, within the intelligence community itself) that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons. […]
But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.
After insisting that Iran was “only a small step away from producing nuclear weapons,” and after pushing for military strikes against Iran for months, Podhoretz is apparently determined not to let facts get in the way of his prayers for an Iran war.