Saul Singer at PostGlobal

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer, a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post, is co-author of the forthcoming book, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Middle East Quarterly, Moment, the New Leader, and (an Israeli/Palestinian e-zine). Before moving to Israel in 1994, he served as an adviser in the United States Congress to the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Banking Committees. He is also on Twitter. Close.

Saul Singer

Jerusalem, Israel

Saul Singer is a columnist and former editorial page editor at the Jerusalem Post. more »

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Bureaucratic Mutiny May Backfire

Readers of this blog may have noticed that Yossi Melman and I, though we are both from Israel, often don't agree. But in this case, I would refer readers to Yossi's excellent post on the new US National Intelligence Estimate. I would only add that an "intelligence" report should not be held immune from scrutiny by the light of an even higher authority: common sense.

One does not need satellites, defectors, and spies to determine that Iran remains, as the same U.S. intelligence community testified in January, "determined to develop nuclear weapons - despite its international obligations and international pressure. It is continuing to pursue uranium enrichment and has shown more interest in protracting negotiations than reaching an acceptable diplomatic solution."

Even if one assumes that the discovery that Iran suspended its "military" nuclear program in 2003 is valid, this should not affect the consensus that U.S. intelligence judgment stated above. Nothing substantial has changed in Iran's behavior; what is new is the American national security system's decision to arbitrarily distinguish between Iran's "civilian" efforts to enrich uranium and the other two components of its bomb program: building missiles and assembling a weapon.

No one in the intelligence community would deny what many US officials and experts are now emphasizing, namely that obtaining fuel is a critical, and quite possibly the critical, obstacle between Iran and a bomb. So why say that Iran has "halted" its nuclear quest when it is forging ahead with enrichment, in defiance of the entire international community and despite repeated offers to facilitate true civilian nuclear power development?

This simply does not meet any standard of basic common sense, or even what would be called the "laugh test" if the issue were not so serious. The only explanation for this reversal in interpretation, rather than the fundamental facts, is as an attempt to determine policy by tying the hands of President George Bush – in effect, a bureaucratic mutiny.

While some might dispute this attribution of motives, the results remain the same. America's main allies in the attempt to isolate Iran – Britain and France – feel bitter and betrayed. The Arab states that the U.S. proudly gathered in Annapolis now question, even more than before, America's will and ability to prevail in the open contest with Iran, and will quickly start accommodating this changed reality.

The question now is whether Bush can correct the damage done by those supposedly serving America's elected leader and U.S. interests. A press conference or two obviously won't do it. Maybe if Bush went to London, Paris, and Berlin and personally pressed for tightened sanctions, the tide could be turned. If not, we are headed for a nuclear Iran and eventually for the war that the bureaucratic mutineers were attempting to prevent.

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