In an Op-Ed in the WaPo today  , John Bolton says, in part:
Rarely has a document from the supposedly hidden world of intelligence had such an impact as the National Intelligence Estimate released this week. Rarely has an administration been so unprepared for such an event. And rarely have vehement critics of the “intelligence community” on issues such as Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction reversed themselves so quickly.
All this shows that we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than “intelligence” analysis, and too many in Congress and the media are happy about it. President Bush may not be able to repair his Iran policy (which was not rigorous enough to begin with) in his last year, but he would leave a lasting legacy by returning the intelligence world to its proper function.
He goes on to list the flaws he finds. (RTWT.)
I think his initial comment is spot on; What we’re seeing is far too much of the INtel agencies trying to second guess, and alter policy, and far too little of their effort is on the ground intel gathering. It comes as no shock to anyone that the people issuing this report have been raling at White House middle east policy since day one. So, the report, given the massive changes in assessment between this report and the last, is suspect on it’s face. Better, a goodly chunk of the people forming this more recent report, are people who until recently were working at the State Dept… who has had it’s own policy fights with the White House.
Of course that problem is far deeper than this, as Bolton notes:
 Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux.
Exactly. The people opposing White House policy in the middle east are hoping, apparently, that we’ll pay not attention at all to that linkage… that if the Iranians had abandoned their nujes in ’03, the president’s actions in Iraq were the only reason for that shift. This would seem to be confirmed by Gaddafi quite publicly giving up his nuke programs quite publicly at about the same time… something nobody seems to recall until forced to. We’ve already stated that the report is at least problematic for the Democrats for that reason… and most certainly equally problematic for the ex-state Dept wonks who fed us this more recent NIE.
And still, those centrifuges are churning away over there, by all reports, including that of the UN.
So, if we take the report on face value, our conclusion is that Iran giving up their nukes was the result of Bush getting tough with Iraq. If we question the report… and there is certainly much to question… we are left with the conclusion that Iran is still a threat.
The left must be having lots of headaches of late. They’re being forced to admit that Bush did something right in invading Iraq, or admit to intentionally flubbing a report so as to create a situation they could use to foul up an existing… and apparently quite successful… foreign policy. I won’t lay bets on which of these two poisons the left will chose.
Discussion at Memeorandum.