Fie Upon NIE

Robert Kagan argues Bush no longer has any choice but to talk to Iran. He has his own reasons, but just on general principles I think the Vatican policy of talking to whoever is actually in charge makes more sense than the Wilsonian policy of only talking to "moral" governments. That's turned out rather impracticable; and in any case, what's important is what you say. ("The bombing starts in 5 minutes is always an option.") Kagan thinks, by the way, that the NIE is an embarrassment. As does (curtsy to Prof. K.) John Bolton.
the headline finding -- that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between "military" and "civilian" programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's "civilian" program that posed the main risk of a nuclear "breakout."
He lists five big reasons why the latest NIE is ridiculous and suggests that intelligence analysts stick to analyzing intelligence rather than crafting policy. (Which sounds like a polite way of agreeing with me that the CIA's become a rogue agency.)