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Hersh vs. the IAEA on Iran’s Nukes

Posted by alanmirs on June 3, 2011

Hersh vs. the IAEA on Iran’s Nukes


By Massimo Calabresi Thursday, June 2, 2011 |


In the latest issue of the New Yorker, Sy Hersh has a long story on what he says is a discrepancy between the intelligence community’s most recent estimate of Iran’s nuclear goals and the Obama administration’s assessment of and reaction to Iran’s intentions.

The central argument of the story is:

There is a large body of evidence… suggesting that the United States could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq eight years ago—allowing anxieties about the policies of a tyrannical regime to distort our estimations of the state’s military capacities and intentions.

That sentence’s syntactic opacity should be a tip-off to readers. The thesis starts off strong by declaring a “large body of evidence” for something, then retreats to declare that the evidence only “suggests” the U.S. “could be” making a mistake “similar to” the one the U.S. made in Iraq. The thesis also maps the main problem of the story—strength in reporting and weakness in analysis.

Hersh confuses two separate issues: the intelligence community’s assessment of the state of Iran’s weapons program and the administration’s policymaking vis-a-vis Tehran. The two are linked, but not absolutely dependent.

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