The Two Weak Pillars Of The IAEA’s Case Against Iran
The annex of the recent IAEA report on Iran claims that Iran, up to 2003, had an active nuclear weapon program and, based on a few hints also claims that such a program “MAY” have continued after 2003. (Only 4 out of 65 paragraphs in the annex point to some post-2003 work).
The IAEA accusations about the alleged pre-2003 work relies on two major pillars of “evidence” plus some “corroborating” information from open and dubious secret sources. The report is based on “1,000 pages of research” claims the IAEA, pretending that volume can make up for quality.
The first pillar of evidence are issues related to the work of the Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko in Iran. The second pillar is a set of papers in electronic form known as the “alleged studies” which were collected on the “Laptop of Death” and which some secret “western” agency years ago pushed onto the IAEA. It is from a combination of selected parts of those two sets of alleged “evidence” and some additional hearsay, anecdotes and innuendo that the IAEA report draws its conclusions.
My analysis of the work of Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko showed that his known expertise is the production of nanodiamonds through detonations and not nuclear weapons production. Danilenko’s work is about precise explosions that push a concentrated detonation wave onto carbon atoms which then, under maximum pressure, form into small diamond crystals. These are useful in many industrial fields for example for high quality polishing of optics and computer hard disk surfaces.
I also demonstrated that Iran has a very active nanotechnology program and that its scientists have published various papers about their progress in this field. Danilenko himself categorically denies having worked on anything other than civil applications of his knowledge with Iran. While some of the technologies used in creating nanodiamonds can also be applied towards nuclear weapons, the IAEA report shows no proof that Iran has done this. That someone uses a screwdriver to fix a car does not provide that s/he plans to stab the neighbor.
This now has some officials in a twist and they are racing to reclaim the lost credibility of the IAEA allegations by throwing more chaff around:
[D]iplomats — who asked for anonymity because their information was privileged — said Danilenko’s son-in-law has further implicated the scientist, telling the agency the expert also helped Iran build a related project, a large steel chamber to contain the force of the blast set off by such explosives testing.Diplomats first told the AP last week that the IAEA had evidence of such a chamber, set up at Iran’s Parchin military complex. The confidential IAEA report obtained by the AP on Wednesday confirmed their statements.
Of course, did Danilenko help Iran build an explosion chamber? He has a patent [USSR Patent No. SU 181329 A3, Priority May 12 (1991)] for these and has built one for his son-in-law’s company Elit which has a picture of it on its website. He himself does not talk about it. Likely because he has the usual confidentiality/non-disclosure clause in his contracts with Iran like all consultants all over the world have in theirs. But the building of a detonation chamber does not prove anything nefarious. Indeed one needs such a chamber if one wants to create nanodiamonds. There is nothing in the IAEA report that proves that the chamber has been used for anything related to nuclear work.
These anonymous diplomats (American? Israeli?) also come up with another “new” “conspicuous” issue. Notice the innuendo that is involved here:
The diplomats said some of those at the meeting also expressed their concerns about indications that nearly 20 kilograms — about 45 pounds — of a component used to arm nuclear warheads was unaccounted for in Iran.The IAEA has long known that Iran has drawings of how to form uranium metal into the fissile core of warheads. But the diplomats pointed to an inconspicuous section of Wednesday’s report — near the end, under “Other Matters” — revealing that an IAEA inspection in August came up 19.8 kilograms, or 43.56 pounds, short of what Iran says it had stored.
See how “fissile core of warheads” is put next to a few kilograms of allegedly missing unidentified stuff implying that this stuff has made it into such a warhead. A simple look into the IAEA report (page 9) tells us that this stuff is nothing usable:
In August 2011, the Agency carried out a PIV at the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory (JHL) to verify, inter alia, nuclear material, in the form of natural uranium metal and process waste, related to the conversion experiments carried out by Iran between 1995 and 2002. The Agency’s measurement of this material was 19.8 kg less than the operator’s declaration of 270.7 kg. In a letter dated 2 November 2011, Iran provided additional information on this matter. The Agency is working with Iran to try to resolve this discrepancy.
So there is a 7% discrepancy in weighing the stored WASTE and natural, not-enriched Uranium from quite old experiments. Are we to believe that Iran can now make a “fissile core for warheads” from old process waste? Or is it more likely that this is one of the simple discrepancies of byproduct measurement that seem to occur in every second IAEA report and is usually explained in the following one?
Onto the second pillar of the IAEA “evidence”.
The 2005 “laptop of death” “alleged studies” documents focus on three areas: the so-called “green salt project” to provide a source of uranium, high-explosives testing and re-engineering a Shahab-3 missile load chamber to fit a nuclear warhead. One wonders how papers, reportedly written in English, from three very distinct technical fields, have made it onto one laptop which then miraculously ended up in the hands of the “western” secret service that provided it to the IAEA.
Robert Kelley is an American nuclear engineer and former IAEA inspector who now works on non-proliferation at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). As an IAEA inspector he personally reviewed the “alleged studies” papers when those were handed to the IAEA and he does not believe that they are reliable evidence:
“The first is the issue of forgeries. There is nothing to tell that those documents are real,” says Kelley, whose experience includes inspections from as far afield as Iraq and Libya, to South Africa in 1993.”My sense when I went through the documents years ago was that there was possibly a lot of stuff in there that was genuine, [though] it was kind of junk,” says Kelly. “And there were a few rather high-quality things” like the green salt document: “That was two or three pages that wasn’t related to anything else in the package, it was on a different topic, and you just wondered, was this salted in there for someone to find?“
It would not be the first time that data was planted. He recalls 1993 and 1994, when the IAEA received “very complex forgeries” on Iraq that slowed down nuclear investigations there by a couple of years.
So we have Danilenko’s work, the first set of the IAEA’s “evidence”, precise detonations, hemispherical formed sets of explosives and a detonation chamber, all of which is plausibly explained through his cooperation with Iran’s work on nanodiamonds. While these technologies could eventually also be used in nuclear weapon research there is nothing in the IAEA report annex that proves that Iran has actually applied them towards anything nuclear.
We also have some stuff from the “laptop of death” which Robert Kelley regards as possible forgeries and planted evidence. Kelley as well as Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project at SIPRI are unconvinced that all the above adds up to a clear case against Iran:
“Yes, Iran is making progress, they’ve covered the waterfront in terms of the main technical areas that you need to develop a nuclear weapon,” says Mr. Kile. “But there is no evidence they have a dedicated program under way. It’s not like they are driving toward nuclear weapons; it’s like they’re meandering toward capability.”
For Kelley, formerly with the IAEA, the current Iran report is a “real mish-mash” that includes some “amateurish analysis.”Among several technical points, Kelley notes the report’s discussion of Iran’s “exploding bridge-wire detonators,” or EBWs. The IAEA report said it recognizes that “there exist non-nuclear applications, albeit few,” and point to a likely weapons connection for Iran.
“The Agency is wrong. There are lots of applications for EBWs,” says Kelley. “To be wrong on this point, and then to try to misdirect opinion shows a bias towards their desired outcome…. That is unprofessional.”
Both pillars of the IAEA Report Annex that are supposed to prove work on nuclear weapons in Iran are very weak. Unless something proves that Danilenko’s work in Iran was not for civilian purposes and that the “alleged studies” “evidence” is not just forgery it is impossible to accept the IAEA’s report annex as something that would stand up in a trial and could support a case for punishment.
It is no wonder that the former director of the IAEA El Baradei rejected the publishing of such a report. It took the more pliable new IAEA director Amano, installed with U.S. help, to discredit the IAEA by publishing a report which the former inspector Kelley calls “unprofessional” “mish-mash”.
Based on this weak report the U.S. is pressing for more sanctions on Iran but as Russia, China and many other states do not buy the case the IAEA tried to make there is little chance for that to happen.
We can thereby expect more dirt to be thrown at Iran by anonymous “diplomats” in the hope that the media will stay as uncritical towards their claims as they so far have been. It may be that believable evidence of a nuclear weapon program in Iran may emerge one future day. So far it has not.
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