Thursday, December 06, 2007

How Will the Bush Administration Use the NIE Report?

About time I wrote about this. Iran nuclear weapons report finally released, and says Iran has suspended its nuclear weapons program, etc., here comes the analysis.

It is important to consider the use of this report by the Bush Administration. Far lefties *cough* DAILY KOS *cough* have been milking this for all it’s worth. It’s a big dent in the Administration’s policy towards Iran, and the far right isn’t going to get a war with Iran. It’s huge. But in fact, I’d say this helps Bush more than it hurts him. Are you skeptic? You should be. But I won’t need a National Intelligence Estimate to convince you.

Uses by the Administration

1. To discredit Hillary Clinton based on her vote to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorists - HIGHLY UNLIKELY
2. To pass the problem of a nuclear Iran on to the next administration - UNLIKELY BUT POSSIBLE
3. As an excuse for NOT going to war with Iran - LIKELY
4. To take away Iran’s biggest bargaining chip - HIGHLY LIKELY

Iran’s biggest bargaining chip
As you can probably tell, numbers three and four are the most important. Number one I’d reserve for hardcore Clinton supporter conspiracy theorists.

We’ll start with use number four. To understand this, we have to take Iraq into the equation. Iraq is the President’s biggest concern right now. He may not show it in public, but it’s his biggest worry. It’s his legacy. He’s not going to be remembered for denuclearizing North Korea, or an attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peace. He’s going to be remembered for the invasions of both Afghanistan and the disastrous invasion of Iraq. And with little more than a year left in his presidency, it’s more on his mind than ever.

Consequently, he’s been working hard in order to improve the image of how successful the coalition of the willing has been in Iraq. He’s hired General Petraeus, a counterinsurgency expert, and has willfully engaged in talks with Middle Eastern states over the situation in Iraq. One of those states has been Iran.

Iran is crucial to the stabilization of Iraq. They have influence over much of the Shiite population, their leaders, and their weapons. It will be impossible to have even semi-stable state in Iraq without the support of Iran. The good news, Iran would love to see a friendly, stable Iraq under Shiite control. To get a friendly, stable, Shiite Iraq, Iran needs the U.S.

It may sound like a win-win situation, but like everything geopolitical, it’s not that simple in any way. It’s complicated by bad U.S.-Iran relations and uncooperative presidents on both sides. Iran wants a more Shiite dominated, Iranian influenced Iraq than the U.S. would care to give them. But Iran has had one huge bargaining chip the U.S. hasn’t been able to ignore: its nuclear weapons program.

Up until a few months ago, when the current NIE was being finalized, it appeared Iran had a weapons program (the last NIE thought the same). Iran didn’t mind; it gave them a huge bargaining chip. So, behind back doors, it played along.

But now Iran has lost this influence, because of this report. The U.S. could have the upper hand in Iraq negotiations, and Bush could receive a more favorable view from historians than even appeared possible six months ago.

Use number three, “an excuse for not going to war with Iran,” has just as much to do with Bush’s legacy as use number three. A third war on the president’s report card would be given an ‘F’ by historians, and could possibly an expulsion (read: impeachment) by the school administrators even before that.

Of course, this is a very oversimplified version of the situation. There are many more players involved: Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Now that we’re done with all that, it’s probably a pretty good idea to see the consequences of the report. These, compared to the reasoning for the report, are simple.

1. Repercussions at U.S.-Iran discussions over Iraq (as discussed above)
2. Allies less likely to pursue sanctions at the U.N. (specifically Russia and China)
3. Virtually no chance of war with Iran
4. Cheney very disappointed (just kidding)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the months ahead.

On My NIE Analysis
Do You Think the Iranians Have a Nuclear Weapons Program?
Why The NIE Should Be Trusted
The Significance of the NIE
How Will the Bush Administration Use the NIE Report?