By Gordon Thomas
Monday, October 2, 2006
London. a secret intelligence report has warned there is "little which can be done to stop Iran acquiring the components for a nuclear bomb".
The shattering conclusion was made in a Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) report to Downing Street last week. It follows the visit by Sir John Scarlett, head of MI6, to John Negroponte, the director of US national intelligence.
Both attended a meeting of senior US intelligence analysts at a National Security agency facility outside Washington.
as well as members of the 16 agencies in the US intelligence community, senior representatives of French and German security services also attended.
The two-day gathering the first of its kind concluded that to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities should be rejected because "we are lacking the essential intelligence to ensure that air strikes will be successful. We still only have an imperfect understanding of the extent and location of the Iranian nuclear facilities".
a senior intelligence source in London revealed the JIC report will require "an urgent re-evaluation in our strategy for dealing with Iran. It will also inevitably have a profound effect on the Pentagon's thinking".
Until now the Pentagon has urged that its new super-bunker-busting bombs capable of penetrating 18-feet of concrete would destroy Iran's nuclear plants.
But the JIC report reveals the meeting concluded: "there is no guarantee of 100% success. Such attacks would set back the Iran programme, but the evidence strongly suggests, on what intelligence is available, that it would simply start up again in even greater secrecy. and the political consequences of such an attack would be incalculable not only throughout the Middle East, but beyond".
JIC is the invisible footbridge across which MI6 and MI5 brings its concerns to their political master in this case prime minister Tony Blair, now in the dying days of his leadership.
The JIC report also cites the sombre warning by General John abizaid, commander of US forces in the Middle East, that "striking Iran will cripple oil supplies, unleash a surrogate terrorist army, lead to missile attacks on america's regional allies and destabilise an already chaotic Iraq".
One high-level source with knowledge of the JIC report said it stated: "there was almost unanimous acceptance that at best only 80% of the Iranian nuclear facilities are sketchily mapped out. any attack on them would lead to serious collateral damage to civilians".
Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East policy said: "Condoleeza Rice has staked her reputation on achieving a negotiated settlement with Iran. The blunt fact is President Bush is not going to order military action against the advice of the secretary of state, US generals and the director of national intelligence".
But the meeting also concluded there are "no negotiating carrots or sticks, such as sanctions capable of persuading Iran to stop its pursuit of a nuclear capability".
an intelligence source in London said: "While Mr Bush still does not need to accept the conclusions of his analysts, he should be very wary".
The JIC report identical to the document John Negroponte sent to the White House indicated that the prospect of further conflict in the region has "pulled back a few steps".
But the tantalising question is: what will Iran's volatile president Mahmoud ahmadinejad do? at the recent Cuban summit of non-aligned nations he continued to issue blood-curdling threats against Israel and the United States.
Were they merely intended to anger the West using only bluster? Or will he now see the conclusions of the intelligence meeting as an indication he can press on with his nuclear ambitions?
The certainty is that unless the United States can lead its partners to find a skilled containment strategy, then it is likely other countries in the region Syria, Saudi arabia and Egypt will also decide it is time they had the bomb.
How long then would the Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction, MaD, continue?
� Gordon Thomas 2006