At first I thought I'd misheard; I thought perhaps Batchelor had said Iran has a nuclear weapons program. But about 40 minutes later, during his closing monologue for KFI 640 AM radio, he said it again, and that time there was no mistaking.
He said, "Iran has nuclear weapons. Iran has a nuclear weapons program."
If the statement, which Batchelor did not support with data, had come from any other news source I would have filed it. But from the years I've been following his news program, I know that John Batchelor is a very cautious, very careful, analyst and news reporter. The sources he features on his show have sometimes been wrong, but John's track record is virtually unblemished because he is so cautious. As an analyst he lives by the golden guideline that in war, the first three reports are wrong.
A recent example of John's cautiousness is his refusal to speculate on the target of Israel's September 6 bombing raid in Syria. And his refusal to give weight to any of the published speculations. He has told his radio audience that the only "story" we have on the bombing is that we don't have the story.
So when Batchelor stated flatly that Iran had nuclear "weapons" -- I note the plural -- that was enough to cause me to drop my jaw.
Where from here? I await further developments.
The podcast for John's show on KFI-AM last night will be available in a few days, if you'd like to check my hearing.
You can also listen right now to Bill's discussion on Batchelor's show last night. Visit Bill's Long War Journal site for a link to the podcast. (Bill generally leaves the podcasts on his radio appearances up for a few days only.)
Meanwhile, the fallout from the NIE continues to rain down:
China's leaders have leaped into the breach created by the NIE publication; they have given the nod to Sinopec to go ahead and sign a $2 billion oil deal with Iran.
It's a good thing I didn't learn of that development on a Tuesday or Thursday, which I reserve for being deeply cynical. In that case I might have commented about the China-Iran deal signing that Thomas Fingar's work is now done. More than one observer of Mr Fingar's career has termed him a Panda Hugger, for those who don't get Pundita's little joke.
More fallout: Britain's intelligence community is bent out of shape about the NIE:
British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons programme, as a US intelligence report [NIE] claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran. [...]The same report from today's (UK) Telegraph notes:
A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defence chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons. [...]
A US intelligence source has revealed that some American spies share the concerns of the British and the Israelis. "Many middle- ranking CIA veterans believe Iran is still committed to producing nuclear weapons and are concerned that the agency lost a number of its best sources in Iran in 2004," the official said.
The timing of the CIA report has also provoked fury in the British Government, where officials believe it has undermined efforts to impose tough new sanctions on Iran and made an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities more likely.Britain's government is not half as furious with the NIE publication as some members of Israel's government. Aaron Klein reported last night for John Batchelor, and again in World Net Daily, that at Sunday's Knesset session:
[...] lawmakers here blasted the report and questioned America's commitment to Israel and its front against Iran.Now that's what I'd call fury.
"It cannot be that Bush is committed to peace as was declared at Annapolis, and then the Americans propagate such an intelligence report which contradicts the information we have proving Iran intends to obtain nuclear weapons," stated Minister Yitzhak Cohen, a member of the Shas party, a key coalition partner in Olmert's government.
Cohen compared the NIE report to what he said were faulty reports released by the U.S. during the Holocaust that Jews were not being killed in spite of information possessed by American intelligence of the existence of concentration camps.
"In the middle of the previous century the Americans received intelligence reports from Auschwitz on the packed trains going to the extermination camps. They claimed then that the railways were industrial. Their attitude today to the information coming out of Iran on the Iranians' intention to produce a nuclear bomb reminds one of their attitude during the Holocaust," stated Cohen.
Meanwhile, the meeting took place today between Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen and Israel's defense minister Barak, during which Mullen was slated to review, among several other things, Israel's intelligence on Iran's nuclear weapons program.
No details have yet emerged from the meeting, with the exception of an inane statement by Mullen's spokesman, Captain John Kirby:
"Sometimes friends disagree," said Kirby of the differences of opinion between Israel and the US over Iran's agenda.This is not about friends disagreeing and it's not about "opinion." It's about hard data, evidence, that Iran has continued with their nuclear weapons program. Israel's military says they have the data. The ball is now in the US government's court because the NIE on Iran's nuclear threat says the program was abandoned in 2003.