Despite all the uncertainties surrounding the NIE some things are clear.
First, Old Spook comments on our Sources and Methods, and raises questions about the validity of the report's conclusions that:
with moderate confidence that Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007 ... we do not know whether it currently plans to develop nuclear weapons.
Second, the ability of the Untied States to sustain the levels of military threat and sanctions that the report admits was and is pivotal in Iran's decision to forgo the final steps required for a nuclear weapon has been severely compromised. (The discussion of how the report is now being used to discredit the very policies that led to this desired outcome is an interesting discussion by itself, but not my intention here.)
Third, Iran believes, with very good justification, that it has won a great victory:
"This is a declaration of victory for the Iranian nation against the world powers over the nuclear issue," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people during a visit to Ilam province in western Iran.
In the wake of this victory, Judith A. Klinghoffer suggests Iran will inevitably overreach:
... “an official close to the inspection agency (IAEA) told the Times yesterday that the new American assessment might be too generous to Iran.”
It is not only too generous but too dangerous. Iran is bound to overreach. Victors are always tempted and tyrants always do. The 2007 NIE has made military action more, rather than less, probable.
As the NYT editors note, it is “one of those ironies that would be delicious if it didn’t involve nuclear weapons” or, I would add, the continued misery of the Iranian people.
Tom Barnett is much more sanguine about Iran:
It is ... clear, based on the NIE, that Iran is playing a very careful game in this regard: signaling intent and desire but deciding not to step over certain lines at this time.
Done well, those lines need never be crossed, because--as with Japan--the basic signal can be clearly delivered and serve its purpose.
This tells me two things on Iran:
1) despite all the crazy talk, they want the nuclear capacity for "having," not "using."
2) they use the nuclear program as a bargaining chip in a discussion we have yet to truly begin with them.
My suspicion is that both Tom Barnett and Judith A. Klinghoffer are partially correct and that the asymmetrical outcome has just ensured that Islamic radicalism and terror will be with us in incrementally lethal forms for the indefinite and unforeseeable future.
Ultimately Tom Barnett's optimism about Iran rests upon the idea that the Iranians want the same things we want; that is, they are willing and able to become a part of a community of Nations. If he is correct, increased connectivity will inevitably lead to a process conducive to liberalization.
If Tom is confusing tactical flexibility for strategic decisions, Iran's increased connectivity will be in the service of disruption.
A little noticed news item from Monday suggests that the Iranians are quite clear on the distinction between their strategic and tactical goals. [HT: Serendip]
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed on Tuesday an International Islamic court be formed to prosecute international criminals.
"An international Islamic court should be established to prosecute international criminals, war criminals and those who fearlessly violate others' rights and bring threats and bitterness to their lives," said the president.
Addressing judiciary heads of 57 Islamic states from Asia, Africa and Central Asia, President Ahmadinejad stressed that formation of the international Islamic court "is a must."
"This will present to the world a pattern of justice-based judgment and free the Islamic states from referring to others," the president stressed.
President Ahmadinejad also called for establishment of a judiciary union by Islamic states for following up suggestions discussed during the three-day meeting of the Islamic states judiciary heads.
Respecting justice is the basis in all judiciary affairs, stressed the president.
The plan essentially amounts to replacing Western concepts with Sharia law as the basis for international and national interactions. We see daily the encroachment of Sharia into Western cultures that have no available response to Islamic intolerance except to appease and tolerate it. The core of Sharia law involves the submission of the individual to the Ummah in the name of Allah, and the submission of the infidel to the will of the Ummah in the name of Allah.
In his introductory chapter, Ibn Warraq reproduces a pronouncement on apostasy in Islam from ‘the ultra-conservative Tehran daily Kayhan International’ in 1986. It includes this observation.
The antiapostasy punishments of Islam are proper laws to rescue mankind from falling into the cesspool of treason, betrayal, and disloyalty and to remind the human being of his ideological commitments. A committed man should not violate his promise and vow, especially his promise to God. (p. 32.)
A more wrong-headed idea is difficult to imagine. To define changing one’s mind about any particular set of ideas and truth claims as treason, betrayal, and disloyalty is to forbid thinking itself. [Emphasis mine-SW] Making the human being’s ideological commitments a permanent, irrevocable matter of loyalty is to impose ossification, dogmatism, conformity, and plain mindless stubbornness on an entire society, or, worse, an entire global ‘community of believers.’
This idea, and the dogmatism and simplistic binary thinking (us-them, believers-unbelievers, halal-haram, Dar al-Islam-Dar al-Harb) that issues from it, unsurprisingly make up one of the recurring themes of the book. Witness after witness tells of frustration – in childhood, adolescence, adulthood – at being told not to doubt, not to ask questions, not even to think.
As David Thompson points out, this is the core of totalitarianism:
It may, again, be difficult to conceive of a belief system in which the individual is reduced so severely to a mere sub-unit of the collective and in which affiliation is, according to many, a decidedly one-way street. This belief in punishing doubt and intellectual freedom is an intimately vile contrivance and a profound corruption of moral autonomy.
The Soviets built walls to enslave people and perfected the police state in order to control people's thinking. The Ummah takes this one step further. There is no need for walls since anyone who transgresses Islam, anywhere, is subject to humiliation, violence, and/or death by any believer. This is to create a police state enforced by everyone!
Sharia does not only justify violence against those who are weak; Sharia demands it. Thus, the supreme idiocy of the Western true believer in PC multi-culturism: he fails to understand that he fails to understand the culture of immoderate Islam.
Iran has backed away from building a bomb (the job had probably already been outsourced to Syria in any event; we can thank the Israelis for a job well done) true to the long history of expansionist Islam of declaring a Hudna when over-matched. However, their need to attack the infidel remains as strong, or stronger, than ever. The West has now shown the Iranians, and all the other death eaters of Islam, that we are not yet ready to stand against them. They will feed on our weakness. By keeping their attacks just short of the WMD threshold, with deniability and our need for their oil to protect them, the threat of Islamic terror can only escalate.