I’m woozy at the idea of Europeans having to scold the United States for being naive about a threat.

British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons programme, as a US intelligence report claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran…

British intelligence is concerned that US spy chiefs were so determined to avoid giving President Bush a reason to go to war – as their reports on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programmes did in Iraq – that they got it wrong this time.

A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defence chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons.

The source said British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation. “We are sceptical. We want to know what the basis of it is, where did it come from? Was it on the basis of the defector? Was it on the basis of the intercept material? They say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They say black is white. They will say anything to throw us off.

They’re not the only U.S. ally who thinks we got taken, of course. Adm. Mullen is in Israel today huddling with their intelligence team, an occasion Olmert marked by vowing to expose the Iranian weapons program which, he says, will be bomb-ready by 2010. According to the Times, the money intel that convinced U.S. analysts Iran had suspended its weapons programs was, er, some notes they got hold of from a supposed meeting of Iranian military brass which were corroborated by other intel, including some of those oh-so-reliable intercepts the British spook complained of. Fade in…

[T]he Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies had organized a “red team” to determine if the new information might have been part of an elaborate disinformation campaign mounted by Iran to derail the effort to impose sanctions against it.

In the end, American intelligence officials rejected that theory, though they were challenged to defend that conclusion in a meeting two weeks ago in the White House situation room, in which the notes and deliberations were described to the most senior members of President Bush’s national security team, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

“It was a pretty vivid exchange,” said one participant in the conversation.

Any other sources? Yeah, actually: defectors. Check out this LAT mini-bombshell about the CIA having lured away a handful of mid- to high-level Iranian nuclear officials over the past two years. They claim the defections helped slow the program down but none of the defectors were essential and “none has been in a position to provide comprehensive information on Tehran’s nuclear program.”

Exit question: Does the NIE matter? Obama was promising to strike a grand bargain with Iran a month ago, when the judgment of U.S. intelligence was still that they did have a weapons program. All this does is recast the left’s strategy from not dealing with the problem to not having any problem, officially, to deal with. The rest of the script writes itself.

Update: Mustache fee-vah!

Der Spiegel magazine quoted Bolton on Saturday as alleging that the aim of the National Intelligence Estimate, which contradicts his and President Bush’s position, was not to provide the latest intelligence on Iran.

“This is politics disguised as intelligence,” Bolton was quoted as saying in an article appearing in this week’s edition.

Bolton described the report, released Monday, as a “quasi-putsch” by the intelligence agencies, Der Spiegel said.