Most of the world experienced a collective sigh of relief recently when the Bush administration released the conclusions of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, and the collective judgment of U.S. intelligence officials is that Iran halted its nuclear-weapons program more than four years ago. Without an imminent nuclear threat, the neocon dream of a military confrontation with Iran seemed effectively off the table.
Of course, that’s only true if the president is willing to take the NIE seriously. There’s growing evidence that he does not.
[I]n private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. “He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views” about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity.
What I can’t quite wrap my head around is the notion that the president has “views” that differ significantly from his own intelligence reports. If the NIE on Iran is based on available evidence, and Bush has decided to “all but disown” the NIE, what, exactly, serves as the basis for his “views”?