07 September 2015

A Question about Ron Wyden's Intelligence

The charges in the Indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive wars are charges of the utmost gravity. War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
— Reading of the Judgment, 22 Nuremberg Trial Proceedings 427 (30 September 1946)

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Congress is expected to vote this week on legislation that would undo the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 nations, negotiated on the U.S. behalf by the Obama Administration. Enough Senators have announced that they will vote against the bill to ensure that Mr. Obama's promised veto of the bill if it passes will be upheld in the Senate.

But there are not yet enough Senators on board to ensure that the bill simply does not pass, making a veto and subsequent lobbying unnecessary. One of the Senators who has not yet taken a position is Oregon's Ron Wyden, regarded by the Administration as one of its most difficult "gets."

Why difficult? It is perhaps too glib to suggest that it is simply because of campaign contributions. True, Wyden is Jewish and frequently votes as the Israel Lobby desires. Since 2002, he has raked in $240,031 in Israel Lobby campaign contributions, according to Maplight. So there is fair reason for concern that Wyden may vote against diplomacy, feeding the Israeli Likud Party drumbeat for the U.S. to go to war against Iran, since that is the position being pushed by the Israel Lobby.

But for Oregonians, it is more an issue of whether when Wyden votes, does he represent their interests or the interests of a foreign power, the ultra-right wing Likud Party leaders of Israel?

So it is a fit topic of public inquiry what Wyden, the second ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence must know about the supposed Iranian nuclear weapons threat. Indeed, Wyden hinted in a recent interview with the Oregonian's David Sarasohn that the intelligence he views on Iran as a member of that committee will play a role in his decision on this vote.

So what does Ron Wyden know that might conceivably justify him voting against the diplomatic solution? That could be a very tough question for the Senator when he runs for re-election in 2016 because so much of the U.S. — and Israeli — intelligence about Iran's nuclear weapon ambitions has been publicly disclosed and that intelligence does not support military action against Iran.

What Ron Wyden Knows

In 2007, President George W. Bush received what he regarded as very bad news:
I don’t know why the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] was written the way it was. … Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact — and not a good one.

But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?
Ray McGovern, Iran-Nuke NIE Stopped Bush on War, Consortium News (22 November 2010) (quoting George W. Bush, reporting on passages in his memoir where Bush expressed his anger and disappointment that in late 2007, an NIE produced as a consensus position by all U.S. intelligence agencies came to the conclusion that Iran had no nuclear weapons program, blocking Bush from launching a U.S. war against Iran).

The Israel Lobby began pushing "intelligence" propaganda in the U.S. that Iran in fact had a nuclear weapons program. But investigative journalist Gareth Porter — who has been digging on the Iranian nuclear weapons myth for more than a decade — began punching public holes in that "intelligence" during 2010, with strong evidence that the documents purporting to prove that Iran had ever had a nuclear weapons program were actually forgeries. Iranian Nuke Documents May Be Fake, Consortium News (21 November 2010).

By 2012, high Israeli military and defense officials were also debunking that myth.
The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to [U.S. Dept. of Defense Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin] Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.

The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon — or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.
Amos Harel and Reuters, Barak: Israel 'Very Far Off' From Decision on Iran Attack, Haaretz (18 January 2012). The following month, the same position was adopted in the U.S. intelligence agencies' reaffirmance of their 2007 assessment. Ken Dilanian, U.S. Does Not Believe Iran Is Trying to Build Nuclear Bomb, Los Angeles Times (23 February 2012). A month after that, the CIA and Israel's Mossad intelligence agency let it be known that they agreed. Mossad, CIA Agree Iran Has Yet to Decide to Build Nuclear Weapon, Haaretz (18 March 2012)

European government intelligence agencies also hopped on the bandwagon:
The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

"They're keeping the soup warm but they are not cooking it," a U.S. administration official said.
Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball, Special Report: Intel Shows Iran Nuclear Threat Not Imminent, Reuters (23 March 2012).

But note the several key statements in the latter article attributed to government officials indicating that Iran previously had a nuclear weapons program. These were later proved false, in Porter's carefully-sourced 2014 book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

The "Iranian" documents purporting to establish those "facts" were actually forged by an Israeli government foreign propaganda unit, then laundered through an Iran subversive organization, the MEK (Mujahedin-e-Khalq) to German intelligence, and from thence to the U.S., presumably to the CIA. See also Anon., Israel Provided IAEA with Fake Documents on Iran’s Nuclear Program, Iran Review (26 March 2014) (detailed interview with Porter).

Egged on by Netanyahu, both the Bush and Obama Administrations would use the forged documents as weapons, including in a successful effort to have the U.N. Security Council impose economic sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear energy program.

Allowing no intrusion of reality into his speech, Israel's prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu went before the U.N. General Assembly later in 2012, warning that that Iran was 70 percent of the way to completing its "plans to build a nuclear weapon."

But less than a month later, Netanyahu's claims were contradicted by Israeli intelligence:
A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit reveals that Mossad [Israel's foreign intelligence agency] sent a top-secret cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a 'bottom line' assessment of Iran's nuclear work.
It appears to contradict the picture painted by Netanyahu of Tehran racing towards acquisition of a nuclear bomb.
Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic's scientists are "working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate [for peaceful purposes] such as enrichment reactors."
Will Jordan, Rahul Radhakrishnan, Mossad Contradicted Netanyahu on Iran Nuclear Programme, Al Jazeera (23 February 2015); see also Seumas Milne, Ewen MacAskill and Clayton Swisher, Leaked Cables Show Netanyahu’S Iran Bomb Claim Contradicted by Mossad, The Guardian (23 February 2015) (includes entirety of leaked Mossad cable).

But still unbothered by intelligence, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress on March 3 of this year, offering a repeat of his U.N. performance, a speech whose essence was perhaps best captured by a skillful remix of the event's video. It bears notice that while Oregon's Congressmen Bluementhal and DeFazio boycotted the event along with dozens of other members of Congress, Wyden declined to do so, saying afterward:
The United States and five other countries have been negotiating with the Iranians on a potential nuclear agreement that would have implications for Israel's security. I believe strongly that a U.S. ally should be able to express deeply held concerns to the United States Congress, and that is why I attended the speech to hear the prime minister's concerns.
Ron Wyden 13 April 2015 email to this writer.

Yet last month, the Israeli Defense Force for the first time released a document describing its long-term military strategy, which completely omits any mention of a nuclear weapons threat from Iran in its list of major military threats. Reuters, New IDF Strategy Dismisses Iran Nuclear Threat, Al Monitor (17 August 2015).

Back to Ron Wyden

Ron Wyden either knows all this or he has not been reading the government's intelligence on the subject. But assuming Wyden is aware of the intelligence, then what grounds might he assert to justify his vote if he votes against the diplomatic solution and for the Israel Lobby's Plan B, legislation being circulated by Senator Ben Cardin that fills the U.S. implementation of the deal with a host of poison pills? Jim Lobe, Cardin Opts for Plan B and Bibi, Lobe Log Foreign Policy (4 September 2015); ibid., Poison Pills Aplenty in Cardin Bill (5 September 2015).

Of course, Wyden might abandon principle and appeal to public ignorance. Mainstream media has dutifully filled American noggins with the Israel Lobby's propaganda. A poll was reported in 2012 demonstrating that four out of five Americans believe that Iran has nuclear weapons and that it is a threat to the U.S. and its NATO allies, which is strong testament to the effectiveness of Israel's pro-war propaganda operations directed at the U.S. population. Anon., 80% of Americans think Iran’s nuclear program threatens the US, Times of Israel (31 July 2012).

So Wyden might have room to ply that sea of ignorance and simply claim that he was worried about Iranian nuclear weapons. That might work to win re-election, providing that the public does not in the meantime become aware of reality in this regard.

But for those who are aware, the questions for Ron Wyden run more along the vein of his reasons for standing silent all these years as war propaganda that he knew to be false swirled about the U.S. May we not reasonably expect elected members of the Intelligence Committee to warn the public when a foreign power is inflicting such dangerous propaganda on the American public, egging the public to support war against a third nation?

Aparently not, at least when the Committee member is Ron Wyden. So let's keep an eye on how Wyden votes on this issue and on the poison pill legislation to follow. It may be time to elect a new Senator from Oregon.

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Should readers wish to communicate their views on this topic to Sen. Wyden, he can be contacted here.

UPDATE: Senator Wyden was provided with a link to this article at 0213 hours on 7 September 2015 via his web contact form.

UPDATE 2: Senator Wyden announced on Tuesday, 8 September 2015, that he would vote for diplomacy, delivering the final vote needed to ensure defeat of the deal-blocking legislation without a Presidential veto.

UPDATE 3: Gareth Porter has published another update, this one titled A Prized Iran-Nuke Myth Unraveling, Consortium News (September 23, 2015).

UPDATE 4: Porter has also published an in-depth account of two fatwahs issued against Iranian production of nuclear weapons in 1984 (by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) and by his successor (Ali Khamenei) in 2003, based on an interview with Mohsen Rafighdoost, who served as minister of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) throughout the eight-year Iranian war with Iraq and had personally received the fatwahs. Gareth Porter, When the Ayatollah Said No to Nukes, Foreign Policy (16 October 2014). Cf., Anon., Rafsanjani’s Admissions, National Council of Resistance of Iran (27 October 2015) (contradictory article by Iranian exile group).

UPDATE 5: List of United Nations resolutions concerning Iran (Wikipedia). 

UPDATE 6: U.S. National Intelligence Estimate: Iran: Nuclear Intentions andCapabilities (2007). 

UPDATE 7: Adam Johnson, Iran Doesn’t Have a Nuclear Weapons Program. Why Do Media Keep Saying It Does?, LobeLog Foreign Policy (19 October 2017).

UPDATE 8: Gareth Porter, Exclusive Report: Evidence of Iran Nuclear Weapons Program May Be Fraudulent, Truthout (18 November 2010).

UPDATE 9: Nima Sharazi, The Goldberg Predilections: Ignoring Decades of Iranian Statements on Nuclear Weapons for the Sake of Propaganda, Wide Asleep in America (10 October 2012).

UPDATE 10: Micah Zenko, Putting Iran’s Nuclear Program in Context, Council on Foreign Relations (31 March 2015). 

UPDATE 11: Alexander Fulbright, Netanyahu: Iran ‘Brazenly Lied’ about Nuclear Program, Continued Work after Deal, The Times of Israel (30 April 2018). 

UPDATE 12: Brandon Conradis, White House Adjusts Statement That Said Iran 'Has' Secret Nuclear Weapons Program, Politico (30 April 2018).

UPDATE 13: Paul Pillar, Netanyahu Makes A Case For The JCPOA, LobeLog (30 April 2018).

UPDATE 14: Netanyahoo's "Iran Files" are Well Known, Old and Purloined from Vienna, Moon of Alabama (1 May 2018).

UPDATE 15: Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979, Christian Science Monitor (8 November 2011).

UPDATE 16: Trump Urged Not to Pull Out of Iran Nuclear Deal, Consortium News (7 May 2018) (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity).

UPDATE 17: Was There Ever an Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program?, American Conservative (14 May 2018) (Gareth Porter).

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