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Neocons believe US intelligence community too timid after Iraq
David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Published: Tuesday December 4, 2007

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Following its botched reports about Iraq's weapons capabilities, the US intelligence community is now too gun-shy to get it right about Iran, according to some hawkish conservatives who have advocated possible military intervention against the country.

Newly declassified portions of a new National Intelligence Estimate -- which indicates that Iran is no longer actively developing a nuclear weapon -- are part of an effort by the US intelligence community to avoid a repeat of its mistakes in the run-up to war with Iraq, former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Fox News.

"They're so concerned about overstating the threat in Iraq, that they're overcompensating in the wrong direction," Bolton said. "You know they've changed their estimate on Iran from just two years ago. One has to ask why we should be more inclined to believe this one today than the one two years ago." A 2005 NIE reported Iran was "determined" develop nuclear capability.

Bolton characterized the White House as having been taken aback by the new NIE report's conclusions.

"I think they were floored by it, since it's inconsistent with what the intelligence community was telling them as recently as a week ago," he said. "In fact, members of the House and Senate were briefed on this last week, and there was no mention of the suspension point. So, I think there are some questions that need to be raised about how this thing was put together and what its conclusions are."

He also contends that there is that there is a whiff of politics to the NIE summary.

"I think there is a risk here, and I raise this as a question, whether people in the intelligence community who had their own agenda on Iran for some time now, have politicized this intelligence and politicized these judgments in a way contrary to where the administration was going," said Bolton. "I think somebody needs to look at that."

Neoconservative columnist Norman Podhoretz also has "dark suspicions" about the new report, and suggests that the intelligence community's current beliefs about Iran amount to a calculated reverse image of it's determinations about Iraq.

"I must confess to suspecting that the intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view...that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons," writes Podhoretz in a Commentary Magazine column published Monday. "I also suspect that, having been excoriated as well for minimizing the time it would take Saddam to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal, the intelligence community is now bending over backward to maximize the time it will take Iran to reach the same goal."

Podhoretz goes on to suggest that intelligence agencies may also harbor political motivations to thwart Bush administration policy goals.

"But I entertain an even darker suspicion," he adds. "It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again."

Read Podhoretz's full column in Commentary Magazine here.

This video is from Fox's Studio B, broadcast on December 4, 2007.