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Dragging U.S. Intelligence into the Anti-Iranian Mud

December 15, 2017 Topic: Iran Yemen Saudi Arabia Region: Middle East Blog Brand: Paul Pillar

Dragging U.S. Intelligence into the Anti-Iranian Mud

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who must have cringed when seeing Haley’s remarks, spoke to some of the same subjects on the day of Haley’s presentation.  Guterres repeated his endorsement of the JCPOA as “the best way” to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program stays peaceful, while expressing concern about how President Trump’s withholding of certification to Congress in October had created “considerable uncertainty” about the future of the agreement.

Scare tactics were a big part of the Bush administration’s campaign of selling its war, with the brandishing of things like vials we were told to imagine might be filled with anthrax spores.  Haley got fully into the same mode when she said about the missile that hit close to the Riyadh airport, “Just imagine if this missile had been launched at Dulles Airport or JFK, or the airports in Paris, London, or Berlin. That’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what Iran is actively supporting.”

No, Iran isn’t supporting that at all.  There is zero evidence of any Iranian move toward obtaining a weapon with intercontinental reach.  There is no evidence that Iranian military development and procurement are proceeding with anything in mind other than responding to what Iran sees as threats and rivals within its own region.  The heads of the Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard Corps have talked publicly about 2,000 kilometers being a sufficient range for Iranian weapons to meet that need.  Such a range is not just talk and is consistent with the larger strategic logic of Iran's defense posture .  It is a harmful waste of the time and attention not only of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, but also of all the intelligence officers who were involved in putting together that display at DIA, to be hyping an imaginary intercontinental threat when the United States faces a real one from North Korea.

We still don’t know exactly where Trump, Haley, or anyone else in the current administration wants or expects to go with their campaign of stoking maximum tension with, and hostility toward, Iran.  But more and more of their campaign sounds a lot like what the Bush administration and neoconservatives were saying about Iraq in 2002 and 2003.  Add to the other similarities a perversion of the relationship between policy and intelligence.

Image: Remains of Iranian drones provided by Pentagon are on display before U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley briefs the media on highlights of the UN's 2231 Implementation Report at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas