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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Reality Breaks Through On Iran

The release of a startling new National Intelligence Estimate showing that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 was a timely reminder that real-life events can trump politics. The document has clearly put the kibosh on the administration/neocon campaign to justify, if not execute, a preemptive military strike–perhaps in conjunction with Israel–on Iran. And the extreme irritation being expressed towards the report by such noted saber-rattlers as John Bolton and Norman Podheretz is as good a measure as any of its enormous impact.
The weird thing, of course, is that George W. Bush knew about this intelligence well before his inflammatory “World War III” remarks about Iran in October. This makes today’s spin effort by the White House to cite the report as a validation of the administration’s Iran policy especially laughable. More seriously, Bush’s decision to ignore as long as he could his own government’s best information on Iran is yet another blow to U.S. credibility around the world.
Aside from its impact on the administration, the intelligence estimate should have a salutory effect on the Republican presidential campaign, where discussion of military action against Iran has been (with the obvious exception of Ron Paul) kicked around as a matter of “when,” not “if.” It’s less clear that Iran will subside as an issue on the Democratic side, with the Edwards and Obama campaigns already citing the report as evidence that Hillary Clinton was again misled by Bush in voting for the Kyl-Lieberman resolution.
However it shakes out politically or diplomatically, the intelligence estimate clearly puts up a big roadblock on the path to preemptive war with Iran, and should lessen fears that Bush will be able to double-down on his Iraq disaster before he finally heads home to Crawford.

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