Check your rearview mirror before pulling into traffic

Rep. Jane Harman | Washington | May 24

The Agonist – Listen carefully in Washington these days and you’re likely to hear a faint drumbeat for war.

If this sounds a bit familiar, that’s because you’ve heard it before. Nearly four years ago, the Administration began to make the case for invading Iraq. We were told that Saddam Hussein was refusing to give up his weapons of mass destruction, that he wouldn’t comply with international arms inspectors, and that he was harboring terrorists. We were also told that the people of Iraq would be so appreciative of the “liberation” of their country that they would greet us with flowers.

Today, a similar drumbeat is building for Iran.

It’s been reported that senior Administration officials have shopped their intelligence case against Iran to the IAEA and other Western diplomats. Their theory: that Iran has a secret military nuclear weapons program, and that the regime in Tehran is on the cusp of fielding a nuclear weapon.

Vice President Cheney has warned that Iran will face “meaningful consequences” if it continues on its current course — an echo of the “grave consequences” threatened by President Bush before the Iraq invasion.

But as one who has been briefed on the intelligence case, I’m skeptical.

It’s not that Iran isn’t a threat. A nuclear Iran would constitute a strategic threat to the U.S. and Europe, and an existential threat to Israel. Iran bankrolls Hezbollah, a dangerous terrorist organization that has attacked western interests. President Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel rhetoric is hideous and must be condemned. But our intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program is not good enough to know Iran’s true capabilities and intentions. Until we know what Iran is capable of, we won’t know the most prudent course of action.

I’ve spent the past three years helping to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes that led to the Iraq war, our nation’s biggest strategic and tactical blunder in 30 years. I helped lead the charge in Congress to investigate the massive intelligence failure that led to the invasion. In September 2003, I co-wrote the first critique of pre-war intelligence in a letter to then-CIA Director George Tenet. I also pushed the House Intelligence Committee to conduct a full investigation of the failure. And in April 2004, I introduced legislation to modernize the Intelligence Community. (A version of that legislation became law in December 2004.)

The Bush Administration’s incompetence and arrogance have undermined stability in the region. Donald Rumsfeld is the architect of the war and he should be fired.

A smart policy on Iran must begin with good intelligence. Before the drumbeat for war gets any louder, I’m demanding more accuracy and less hype.

That’s why I strongly supported an Amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act that would require classified quarterly reports to the Intelligence Committees on Iran’s nuclear program. The Republican-led Rules Committee chose not to allow the House to debate that Amendment — a move that I deemed so egregious that I voted against the Intelligence funding bill for the first time in my career.

We have little clarity on Iran’s capability and intentions. This is not the time to talk of war.

Harman represents California’s 36th District in the House of Representatives.

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Rep. Jane Harman

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  • • Hardening of Bush policy rebuffs Tehran’s approach
    • Move appears to surprise US ambassador to Iraq

    Julian Borger and Ewen MacAskill | Washington | May 25

    The Guardian – The White House yesterday ruled out previously authorised direct talks between Tehran and the US ambassador in Baghdad, which were to have focused on the situation in Iraq. The move marks a hardening of the Bush administration’s position, despite pressure from the international community to enter into direct dialogue with Iran.

    A White House official said that although the US envoy had originally been granted a mandate for talks with Iran, “we have decided not to pursue it.”

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