Skip to comments.U.S. intelligence on Iran seen lacking - experts
Posted on 02/09/2005 2:03:45 PM PST by F14 Pilot
WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence is unlikely to know much about Iran's contentious nuclear program and could be vulnerable to manipulation for political ends, former intelligence officers and other experts say.
Amid an escalating war of words between Washington and Tehran, the experts say they doubt the CIA has been able to recruit agents with access to the small circle of clerics who control the Islamic Republic's national security policy.
Serious doubts also surround the effectiveness of an expanded intelligence role for the Pentagon, which former intelligence officials say is preparing covert military forays to look for evidence near suspected weapons facilities.
"I will be highly remarkably surprised if the United States has (intelligence) assets in the organs of power," said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"They don't even know who the second-tier Revolutionary Guards are," he added.
Doubts about U.S. intelligence on Iran have arisen amid talk of possible military strikes by the United States or Israel against suspected nuclear weapons facilities.
Former chief weapons inspector David Kay, the first to declare U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a failure, warned that the Bush administration is again relying on evidence from dissidents, as it did in prewar Iraq.
"The tendency is to force the intelligence to support the political argument," Kay said in a CNN interview on Wednesday.
He added that the CIA has yet to give U.S. policymakers an up-to-date comprehensive intelligence assessment on Iran.
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
"We're talking about military action against Iran and we don't have a national intelligence estimate that shows what we do know, what we don't know and the basis for what we think we know," Kay said.
Problems arose for U.S. intelligence in Iran a quarter of a century ago after the Islamic revolution, when Washington cut diplomatic ties following the seizure of the American embassy by student radicals.
Richard Perle, the influential neoconservative thinker who was a driving force behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, said intelligence suffered a major setback in Iran with the arrest of about 40 agents in the mid-1990s.
"As I understand it, virtually our entire network in Iran was wiped out," Perle recently told the House of Representatives intelligence committee.
"I think we're in very bad shape in Iran," he said.
Some intelligence analysts argue a preemptive strike is the only way to delay Iranian nuclear-weapons production, despite the Bush administration's public emphasis on diplomacy.
Tehran denies U.S. charges that it is seeking nuclear weapons and has warned that a U.S. or Israeli strike would only accelerate its legal uranium enrichment activities.
U.S. intelligence has had a huge credibility problem over reports that prewar Iraq possessed large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear arms.
The assertions were a main justification for the 2003 U.S. invasion, but no such weapons have been found.
"If U.S. intelligence was bad in Iraq, and it was atrocious, it's probably going to be worse vis-a-vis Iran," said Richard Russell, a former CIA analyst who teaches at the National Defense University.
The task of recruiting useful agents in Iraq faces immense hurdles posed by a secretive decision-making hierarchy and widespread mistrust of the U.S. government, experts said.
"People have worked their whole lives on the 'Iran problem' and they'll finish their lives with a huge 'A' for effort and probably a 'C' in terms of recruited human sources," said a former senior intelligence official who asked not to be named.
Not even covert forays into Iran by U.S. military units would likely bear much fruit, the former official added.
"They're never going to find anything out of substance except that there's some mysterious place in the desert with barbed wire and mines around it," he said.
Anyone Reuters calls an "expert" isn't worth a steaming pile of cow manure.
The "Peace at Any Cost" movement has begun...Wars cannot be stopped, only delayed to the advantage of others.
Well seeing how we were so far off the mark in Iraq, why should anyone trust our intel on Iran? I'm sure it's wrong. Doesn't help us figger out what to do about the threat, which is believable enough to require attention.
They took our people hostage, they finance people who kill Americans...good enough reasons to wipe the SOBs out!
The regime did that and they'll pay the price soon
I believe the operative terms here are "former intelligence officers" and "other experts".
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