There are two intelligence analyses that are relevant to the balance of power between the United States and Iran one is the latest U.S. assessment of Iran, which certainly gave a much more complex view of what is happening there. The other is the Iranian National Intelligence Estimate of America, which my guess would read something like this:
To: President Ahmadinejad
From: The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence
As you'll recall, in the wake of 9/11, we were extremely concerned that the U.S. would develop a covert program to end its addiction to oil, which would be the greatest threat to Iranian national security. In fact, after Bush's 2006 State of the Union, in which he decried America's oil addiction, we had "high confidence" that a comprehensive U.S. clean energy policy would emerge. We were wrong.
Our fears that the U.S. was engaged in a covert "Manhattan Project" to achieve energy independence have been "assuaged." America's Manhattan Project turns out to be largely confined to the production of corn ethanol in Iowa, which, our analysts have confirmed from cell phone intercepts between lobbyists and congressmen, is nothing more than a multibillion-dollar payoff to big Iowa farmers and agro-businesses.
True, thanks to Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. Congress decided to increase the miles per gallon required of U.S. car fleets by the year 2020 which took us by surprise but we nevertheless "strongly believe" this will not lead to any definitive breaking of America's oil addiction, since none of the leading presidential candidates has offered an energy policy that would include a tax on oil or carbon that could trigger a truly transformational shift in America away from fossil fuels.
Therefore, it is "very likely" that Iran's current level of high oil revenues will last for decades and insulate our regime from any decisive pressures from abroad or from our own people.
We have to note that obtaining open-source intelligence in America has become more difficult, because traditional news shows have become more comedic and more comedic news shows more authoritative.
For instance, CNN's nightly business report is hosted by a man named "Dobbs." Real journalists come on his show and present transparently propagandistic stories about immigration and trade and then he fulminates about them, much the way our ayatollahs used to do about "Satanic Americans" on late-night Iranian TV. So viewers have no real idea what's happening in the U.S. economy.
Meanwhile, at 11 p.m., something called "The Daily Show," which appears on Comedy Central, has fake journalists presenting what turns out to be the real news.
Yes, our last INIE in 1990 concluded that after the collapse of communism, America was on track to become the world's sole superpower and most compelling role model for Muslim youth including our own. We were wrong. We now have "high confidence" that America is on a path of self-destruction, for three reasons:
First, 9/11 has made America afraid and therefore stupid. The "war on terrorism" is now so deeply imbedded in America's psyche that we think it is "highly likely" that America will continue to export more fear than hope and will continue to defend things like torture and Guantanamo Bay prison and to favor politicians like Mr. Giuliani, who alienates the rest of the world.
Second, at a time when America's bridges, roads, airports and Internet bandwidth have fallen behind other industrial powers, including China, we believe that the U.S. opposition to higher taxes and the fact that the primary campaigns have focused largely on gay marriage, flag-burning and whether the Christian Bible is the literal truth means it is "highly unlikely" that America will arrest its decline.
Third, all the U.S. presidential candidates are distancing themselves from the core values that made America such a great power and so different from us in particular America's long commitment to free trade, open immigration and a reverence for scientific enquiry wherever it leads. Our intel analysts are baffled that the leading Democrat, Mrs. Clinton, no longer believes in globalization and the leading Republican, Mr. Huckabee, never believed in evolution.
U.S. politicians seem determined to appeal either to the most nativist extremes in their respective parties or to tell voters that something Americans call "the tooth fairy" will make their energy, budget, educational and Social Security deficits painlessly disappear.
Therefore, we conclude with "high confidence" that there is little likelihood that post-9/11 America will, as they say, "get its groove back" anytime soon.
Who needs nukes when you have this kind of America?God is Great. Long Live the Iranian Revolution.
Thomas Friedman is a New York Times columnist.