Dennis Blair, It’s Truth-To-Power Time « The Washington Independent
Greg Sargent at The Plum Line catches Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appearing to stretch the available evidence from the U.S. intelligence community on the Iranian nuclear program. “There’s nothing more important,” she recently said in Prague, “than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon.” Sure, but the problem is Clinton implicitly concluded that the Iranians are in fact engaged in an effort to obtain a nuclear weapon, a conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community has not reached. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said last month that “We do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop nuclear weapons,” and therefore “we assess Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop them.” A spokeswoman for Blair confirmed to Greg that the director stands behind the assessment.
But this isn’t the first time Obama administration officials have affirmed an assessment that the intelligence does not endorse.
Last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Iran has enough fissile material to make a nuclear weapon. It was up to Secretary of Defense Bob Gates — a former CIA director — to implicitly correct Mullen, saying Iran was “not close” to a bomb. But this is a tone set from the top: in his first press conference after winning the election, President Obama said that “Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable,” even though the intelligence community backed away from presuming Iran was engaged in such development in 2007.
While it’s not as if Obama is going to start bombing Iran — he’s gone out of his way to engage the Iranians; and even promised in Prague to “support Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections” — nevertheless, as Blair said in his confirmation-hearing statement, facts are stubborn things. A coalition of progressive and realist foreign policy experts known as the American Foreign Policy Project warned yesterday that “Pressure is mounting on the President to deliver an ultimatum to Iran that it must immediately suspend all enrichment of uranium or face draconian economic sanctions, or worse,” pressure that mounts through a misrepresentation of the current intelligence assessment on Iran’s nuclear energy program.
As a result, Blair also should clarify whether he stands behind something he told Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) during his confirmation hearing.
LEVIN: … Are you committed to speak and committed that when your factual assessments, your intelligence assessments say one thing and public say another thing and don’t delineate between your own personal views and what the intelligence community has informed them that you will speak to them about that?
ADM. BLAIR: Yes, sir. I think that’s the only way to proceed.