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The Iran war party and the war skeptics

In one corner, we have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the heads of the US and Israeli intelligence communities, and the Pentagon. In the other corner, we have TV pundits and politicians.

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also sought to turn down the volume on the war talk last week. "The intelligence does not show that [Iran has] made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon. That is the red line that would concern us and that would ensure that the international community, hopefully together, would respond," he told a congressional committee. That position, by the way, is one that appears to be shared by the Israeli intelligence community.

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So, on the one hand you have the consensus position of the most senior defense and intelligence officials in the United States. And on the other? People like CNN's Erin Burnett, a former Goldman Sachs financial analyst and occasional participant on Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice. Ms. Burnett says "no one buys Iran's claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes," (and then bolsters her point with a clip of Clapper's testimony in which he said Iran is not currently pursuing a nuclear weapon).

She's not alone. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, for instance, pushed back on Clapper during his testimony. When Clapper told him that he has doubts Iran is seeking a bomb, Senator Graham responded, "I'm very convinced they're going down the road of developing a nuclear weapon." Graham was likewise convinced that Mr. Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. In February of 2003, a month before the US invasion, he wrote: "There’s no question that Iraq and Saddam Hussein aren’t telling the truth. Iraq had hundreds of artillery shells with chemical weapons, thousands of liters of anthrax, and hundreds of tons of nerve agents in their inventory. Now they are not accounted for. The Iraqi response of ‘we have no weapons of mass destruction,’ is a flat-out lie."

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