Calling Team B

On the neo-con Iran-war front, Marc Lynch notes the intensifying neo-conservative campaign for attacking Iran, led this week by Reuel Marc Gerecht’s cover story in the Weekly Standard. (I wrote an article along similar lines ten days ago for IPS.)

The only piece he doesn’t mention is one published Monday on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal by the Hudson Institute’s Gabriel Schoenfeld, in which he makes a rather blatant appeal for a new “Team B” — this time for analyzing the intelligence community’s work on the Iranian nuclear program — although without recalling the old, neo-con-led Team B of the mid-1970’s that helped derail detente with the Soviet Union. The old Team B, which was headed by Richard Pipes — father of Daniel — and which included Paul Wolfowitz, has subsequently been proven wrong on virtually every one of its key conclusions about the strategic threat posed by the Soviet Union. If composed of the kind of people who hyped the Soviet threat so badly in the original Team B, the “independent inquest” proposed by Schoenfeld to assess Iran’s nuclear program and the intelligence community’s presumed under-estimation of its progress, would no doubt reach similar conclusions as its badly flawed and highly politicized antecedent.

The best line in Schoenfeld’s piece, however, has to be the lede:

“U.S. intelligence has already had two horrendously costly lapses this decade: the failure to interdict the plot of Sept. 11, 2001, and the erroneous assessment that Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction. Both brought us into wars.”

Of course, putting the blame on the intelligence community for providing the faulty assessments absolves the neo-cons and their enablers of any responsibility for corrupting the intelligence process through the vice president, or Doug Feith’s office and Ahmed Chalabi, and the constant stream of disinformation they themselves provided through friendly media outlets in the run-up to the invasion. It was, after all, then-Defence Policy Board chairman Richard Perle who published an op-ed in the New York Times way back on December 28, 2001, arguing for attacking Iraq:

“With each passing day, he comes closer to his dream of a nuclear arsenal. We know he has a clandestine program, spread over many hidden sites, to enrich Iraqi natural uranium to weapons grade. We know he has the designs and the technical staff to fabricate nuclear weapons once he obtains the material. And intelligence sources know he is in the market, with plenty of money, for both weapons material and components as well as finished nuclear weapons. How close is he? We do not know. Two years, three years, tomorrow even?”

Oh, and lest we forget how good Perle’s intelligence was, he went on in the same article to argue:

“Saddam Hussein’s removal from office, we are told privately, would be cheered in the Persian Gulf. The conventional wisdom that an attack on him would be seen as an attack against Islam is an insult to Islam, and it is wrong. To most Muslims, his reign of terror is an abomination. In Iraq itself, his downfall would be met with dancing in the streets. A decent successor regime would be very likely to encourage peace in the region.”

Any of that sound familiar?

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Pretty depressing (read your IPS piece too). Still, there’s one big difference between 2002 and now: Barack Obama is the president. I just don’t see U.S. military strikes on Iran. What Israel may do in 2011 is another matter, but even there I’m starting to have some doubts. I don’t think the Israelis can significantly degrade Iran’s nuclear program. By “significantly” I mean set it back by a decade or more. Anything less makes it hard to justify strikes from a cost-benefit perspective.

    There is one other issue. Back in 2007 (if I recall the year correctly) we had that bizarre “confrontation” between U.S. and Iranian naval units in the Gulf. Could a “Persian Gulf incident” (orchestrated by . . ?) be in our future? Under such a scenario war could happen. But even here I have doubts. History does not repeat itself so exactly. . . .

  2. Iran is no threat to America. But our constant interventions in the Mideast are building widespread hatred for us. Our virtually absolute support of Israel is seen as sponsoring their expulsion of non-Jews from Palestine.

  3. This article is unfair. It cites facts and the historical record.

  4. 2o July 2010

    Andrew Cockburn wrote a book in the 80’s called “The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine”.

    In it he totally demolishes the original Team B report – before it was written. It’s description of Pentagon Procurement Policies, Threat Inflation, and Mission Creep are as relevant now as they were then. Read it now.

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