Drum Beats of War…A Familiar Tune

Let’s hope this time everyone remembers…”There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” FromWaPo

U.N. inspectors investigating Iran’s nuclear program angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran’s capabilities, calling parts of the document “outrageous and dishonest” and offering evidence to refute its central claims.

Officials of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter that the report contained some “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements.” The letter, signed by a senior director at the agency, was addressed to Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, which issued the report. A copy was hand-delivered to Gregory L. Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA in Vienna.

SNIP

Yesterday’s letter, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post, was the first time the IAEA has publicly disputed U.S. allegations about its Iran investigation. The agency noted five major errors in the committee’s 29-page report, which said Iran’s nuclear capabilities are more advanced than either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown.

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SNIP

The report was never voted on or discussed by the full committee. Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the vice chairman, told Democratic colleagues in a private e-mail that the report “took a number of analytical shortcuts that present the Iran threat as more dire — and the Intelligence Community’s assessments as more certain — than they are.”

Privately, several intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either demonstrably wrong or impossible to substantiate. Hoekstra’s office said the report was reviewed by the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

Negroponte’s spokesman, John Callahan, said in a statement that his office “reviewed the report and provided its response to the committee on July 24, ’06.” He did not say whether it had approved or challenged any of the claims about Iran’s capabilities.

“This is like prewar Iraq all over again,” said David Albright, a former nuclear inspector who is president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. “You have an Iranian nuclear threat that is spun up, using bad information that’s cherry-picked and a report that trashes the inspectors.”

The committee report, written by a single Republican staffer with a hard-line position on Iran, chastised the CIA and other agencies for not providing evidence to back assertions that Iran is building nuclear weapons.

It concluded that the lack of intelligence made it impossible to support talks with Tehran. Democrats on the committee saw it as an attempt from within conservative Republican circles to undermine Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has agreed to talk with the Iranians under certain conditions.

The report’s author, Fredrick Fleitz, is a onetime CIA officer and special assistant to John R. Bolton, the administration’s former point man on Iran at the State Department. Bolton, who is now ambassador to the United Nations, had been highly influential during President Bush’s first term in drawing up a tough policy that rejected talks with Tehran.

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