Last Thursday, a private rift within the United States intelligence community became public when it was alleged that the Defense Intelligence Agency believed that North Korea now had the ability to plant a nuclear warhead on its missiles, some with a range that puts the United States in its sights. The DIA did not deny the report.
That prompted the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to issue his own statement to the media. “North Korea,” he insisted in his best spy manual double-speak, “has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear-armed missile.”
The fallout from this internal squabble is potentially awesome – not for the Koreas or its neighbors, but for the people living on the other end of the Asian Continent, in Iran and in Israel.
The United States insists that there remains time to negotiate with Iran over the issue of its nuclear development. Its intelligence estimate is that Iran is at least a year or so away from being able to produce a bomb.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been saying that he cannot afford to risk his people’s safety on the reliability of United States intelligence estimates. The internal squabble in Washington supports his position. The DIA and the DNI cannot both be correct. Given DNI Clapper’s circumlocution, however, it is logical to believe that the DIA probably is closer to the truth.
Netanyahu now can rightly claim that when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, the United States is an unreliable source of information. That bodes ill for Iran, and possibly for Israel, the entire Middle East, and the world at large.