The story two weeks ago about the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on Iran and how that country likely stopped pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003 still demands explanation. Some folks think it was sabotage by some elements within the US intelligence community. That is possible, but not my favored explanation. What strikes me as incredible is that the administration seemed to be caught off guard by the report. How could that possibly happen? The report had to be in the making for weeks, and I just cannot believe that the top intelligence officers would not know how it was going to come out. A conspiracy that deep could never be kept secret. Is there another explanation for the report that also explains the seeming surprise/ignorance of the administration?
Now in today's papers comes another story, citing a US official crediting Iran with helping (!) to limit violence in Iraq. This also comes just in advance of another meeting between US and Iranian diplomats.
Could the NIE estimate be more purposeful than many think? Maybe the deal, even implicitly, is that the US will back off the rhetoric on Iran's nuclear ambitions, and in turn Iran will back down on its support of Iraqi violence. Maybe there is some signaling going on from each side, with the intent of moving forward in a more friendly, negotiated fashion.
This theory explains the Administration's seemingly surprised and ignorant stance as being much more strategic, using the feigned ignorance to avoid admitting that they are offering Iran a fig leaf.
The fact that both sides seem to be giving in a little supports my theory. The test of competing theories will lie in what happens in the coming months.
But all in all, the NIE report remains another case of "there's something happening here and we don't know what it is."