Jeffrey Lewis argues persuasively that the end of Iran’s nuclear program was an act of bureaucratic sabotage by regime moderates — he even made the case back in 2005. According to his “death by reorg” theory, ongoing negotiations with the EU allowed Iranian moderates to put nuclear decisions into a new institutional framework where hardliners lacked power.
If I were to hit my head on something and wake up with a newfound respect for the competence and good faith of my fellow humans, I might infer that the bureaucratic obstructionists on each side had carried the day in a semi-coordinated maneuver. It sounds like the new estimate evolved over time, and that the administration has had time to think through how to play this revelation, and how to turn it into leverage in Iraq:
One of the senior U.S. intelligence officials who discussed the matter cautioned against concluding that a single piece of information, or “Rosetta stone,” had surfaced. Instead, the officials pointed to a number of developments, including Tehran’s decision to allow foreign journalists to visit the country’s nuclear facility at Natanz last summer.
In a DOD briefing from Iraq yesterday, the briefing officer was asked about the nature of IEDs that his unit has faced, and how many were EFPs of possible Iranian origin. He unequivocally denied encountering any, and described the enemy’s munitions as leftovers from the Saddam era.
If the forces of inertia on each side have actually engineered progress on Iranian nukes and Iraq at the same time, my hat is off to them.