You’d think that sensitive spying operations against a hard target like Iran would normally be kept out of politics.
You’d be wrong, of course -- and these aren’t normal times, with Israeli extremists and Republican chickenhawks clamoring for a reckless military strike on Iran.
So the Obama administration used secret intelligence and The Washington Post this weekend to fend off war mongers that it’s soft on Iran -- and more: to send the message that a military attack is unnecessary, at least for now.
The intriguing piece by The Post’s Joby Warrick and Greg Miller opened with a provocative lead:
“More than three years ago, the CIA dispatched a stealth surveillance drone into the skies over Iran,” it said.
“The bat-winged aircraft penetrated more than 600 miles inside the country, captured images of Iran’s secret nuclear facility at Qom and then flew home. All the while, analysts at the CIA and other agencies watched carefully for any sign that the craft, dubbed the RQ-170 Sentinel, had been detected by Tehran’s air defenses on its maiden voyage.”
“There was never even a ripple,” a "former senior U.S. intelligence official involved in the previously undisclosed mission" told The Post.
The administration’s point: We know what’s going on inside Iran’s nuclear program. And we have high confidence that we’ll have six-months notice of an Iranian decision to build a weapon.
And to you, Mitt Romney: We won’t hesitate to defend ourselves against spurious charges that we’re soft.
Obama’s national security team may be taking a page from the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy campaign.
The tables were turned then, with the Democratic challenger, John F. Kennedy, charging that the Republicans were “weak on defense,” having allowed a “missile gap” to develop between U.S. and Soviet arsenals. Kennedy and his minions leaked phony “intelligence” to favored columnists bolstering the false claim.
(Sound familiar? Bush? Iraq?)
In the event, Vice president Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, knew the charge was false. He’d been made privy to the results of the CIA’s top-secret, U-2 spy-plane flights over Russia demolishing the missile-gap charge.
But Nixon and President Eisenhower kept their mouths shut, fearing that refuting the charge would jeopardize the spy flights.
How times have changed -- and haven’t.