Roger Cohen, writing at the New York Times, looks into his Magic Iranian-8 Ball and discerns that Iran is not getting nuclear weapons. As evidence, he endorses another writer who quotes a retired intelligence official:
…as Seymour Hersh concludes in a New Yorker article this month that, as he put it in one interview, “There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon.”
For both Cohen and Hersh, I’d offer this appears to be a case of inappropriately deferring to an “expert.”
While Iran may well be an epicenter of inefficiency, Cohen waives off the fact the Iranian government is in a non-stop loop to deny, deceive, delay, and mislead and that they have none-the-less been massively affected by nuclear sanctions and international nuclear oversight.
How much so? Like that of a nuclear powered proctologic Hubble telescope—just about everything that can be seen gets seen and I mean just about everything. OK, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but you get the idea (I hope).
So if Iran is doing the brinksmanship thing as Cohen suggests, the follow on question would be “brinksmanship for what purpose?” and “to what Iranian benefit?” Logic says that it might be to further Iran’s power aspirations, but Cohen offers that it’s brinksmanship for no particular purpose, which makes no particular sense.
And how about the preponderance of open source evidence like secret enrichment facilities sized for a nuclear weapons program? The refusal to deal with IAEA inspectors? The non-Iranian introduction of Stuxnet into Iranian control systems? The Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons delivery systems? Cohen must think that’s all just unpleasant coincidence.
The Magic-8 Ball has been recognized as a generally poor tool of statecraft and policy (although in a pinch, it can be used as an adjudication method for wargaming).