Undermined on Iran?
John Bolton - the former US ambassador to the UN - told me over the weekend that an attack on Iran would be justified under international law because it would be an act of self-defence. That is the case that appears to be damaged by the latest National Intelligence Estimate, with its suggestion that so far there is no bomb to be concerned about and no evidence of an existing effort to make one.
Can you legitimately defend yourself against something that does not exist and might never exist? But at the same time, if anyone doubted Iran's potential to be a threat - well, the intelligence agencies seem almost certain that there was a nuclear weapons programme in Iran until 2003. The document also makes plain that although that weapons effort has probably not been restarted, it could be one day. The option, according to the report, is being kept open.
Still, the problem for the Bush administration is that this is not the headline. The headline is that the spies are holding up their hands and saying they want to change their story - as they put it in this document: "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005." As the Huffington Post put it, rather cutely I thought: "Plans for World War Three have been stymied."
And that is not just the view of the left here: I talked to a former senior advisor to the White House who feels sick at the way in which all of this stuff has to be discussed openly, and fears that the Bush team has been fatally undermined on Iran by its own intelligence agencies. Revenge, perhaps, for the flak they took over Iraq?