The United Nations’ nuclear monitoring body says Iran is complying with the terms of an interim nuclear agreement struck between the Islamic Republic and six world powers late last year.
In its monthly report released on Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Tehran has diluted half of its uranium earlier enriched to the 20-percent purity to a lower grade to power reactors.
The other half of the stockpile is to be converted into a form that would be relatively difficult to be reconverted to the 20 percent level.
On Wednesday, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said, “I can tell you, these measures [by Iran] are being implemented as planned.”
Iran and the six world powers – the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – sealed an interim deal in Geneva on November 24, 2013 to pave the way for the full resolution of the decade-old dispute with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program. The deal came into force on January 20.
Under the Geneva deal, dubbed the Joint Plan of Action, the six countries have undertaken to provide Iran with some sanctions relief in exchange for the Islamic Republic agreeing to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities during a six-month period.
Iran and the six powers are scheduled to resume expert-level talks on Tehran’s nuclear energy program in New York May 5-9.
The negotiations will be held ahead of a fresh round of high-level nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group, scheduled to begin in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on May 13.
Tehran and the six countries wrapped up their latest round of high-level nuclear talks in Vienna on April 9.
United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Oritz
A brief news story posted by Reuters at 3pm on Friday afternoon reported that Sihai Cheng, a Chinese national is facing criminal charges brought by the U.S. government for allegedly having conspired to export “pressure transducers,” sensors that translate the application of pressure into electrical signals, to Iran in violation with sanctions that restrict trade of scientific equipment and technology to that country.
Cheng was arrested at Heathrow airport two months ago and the indictment was brought by Boston field offices of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, and the Department of Justice’s Massachusetts District Attorney.
Following the publication of the Reuters report, the news traveled fast with outlets like Bloomberg News, AFP, Telegraph, and BBC all picking it up, and inevitably tying the news to the ongoing international nuclear negotiations taking place between six world powers and Iran.
Pressure transducers have myriad industrial and scientific uses; their use in the translating pressurized gas in centrifuges to an analog electrical signal is but one of these applications. A statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office declares, “Pressure transducers can be used in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium and produce weapons-grade uranium.”
Unmentioned is the fact that, not only can transducers be used for thousands of other reasons, but also that Iran’s enrichment of uranium is legal, Iran’s enrichment facilities are under strict IAEA monitoring and inspection, and Iran has never even been accused of enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels. It’s like arresting someone over trading light bulbs, which can be used in automobiles, which can be used to run people over.
The prosecution of people accused of breaching the aggressive U.S.-led sanctions regime is nothing new; just last month, Mohammad Reza Nazemzadeh, a prolific and respected medical research scientist in Michigan was inexplicably indicted for trying to send a refurbished coil for an MRI machine to a hospital in Iran. However, certain language used in press reports to describe the indictment of Cheng – in bold below – is curious.
Reuters reported that Cheng had “supplied thousands of parts that have nuclear applications to Eyvaz, a company involved in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran, federal prosecutors said.”
Bloomberg News used the same formulation:
From November 2005 to 2012, Cheng allegedly supplied thousands of parts that have nuclear applications to Eyvaz, an Iranian company involved in the development and procurement of parts for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
“Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” Read that again. “Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” The ubiquity of this phrase in the press and political speechifying belies the fact that Iran does not actually have a nuclear weapons program and is thus, not only deliberately deceiving, but patently false.
It should now go without saying that, for years now, the United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran is not and never has been in possession of nuclear weapons, is not building nuclear weapons, and its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons. Iran’s uranium enrichment program is fully safeguarded by the IAEA and no nuclear material has ever been diverted to a military program. Iranian officials have consistently maintained they will never pursue such weapons on religious, strategic, political, moral and legal grounds.
This assessment has been reaffirmed year after year by the U.S. Director of Intelligence James Clapper, most recently in mid-February before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The intelligence has maintained for nearly seven years a high level of confidence that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.
Nevertheless, this phraseology goes frequently unchallenged in the mainstream media – despite repeated appeals by ombudsmen and public editors for more careful and measured writing by their reporters.
The reports of the Cheng case, however, are a bit more revealing. The specific claim referencing an Iranian “nuclear weapons program” did not originate with the Reuters wire service or Bloomberg‘s own cribbed report. In fact, the phrase in its entirety came from the U.S. Attorney’s own press release about the indictment, which was posted Friday by the “Boston Press Release Service,” and has still (as of this writing) not appeared on the website for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
That the offending phrase – “Iran’s nuclear weapons program” – was literally copied-and-pasted directly from a government statement by professional reporters for major news outlets, without a shred of skepticism, scrutiny or fact-checking, is sadly par for the course in a media landscape wherein the press simply parrot the government line as a matter of policy.
“The indictment alleges that between in or about November 2005 and 2012, Cheng supplied thousands of parts that have nuclear applications, including U.S. origin goods, to Eyvaz, an Iranian company involved in the development and procurement of parts for Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the release reads.
The government prosecutor responsible for the indictment is Massachusetts’ U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who herself has a sordid history of overly-aggressive prosecution, in one case leading to the suicide of computer programmer and online activist Aaron Swartz in January 2013.
In this indictment, Ortiz has thus made an assumption about Iranian actions and intentions that directly contradicts the consensus of 16 American intelligence agencies. Furthermore, the prosecution itself is part of the Obama administration’s own economic war on Iran.
Just two weeks after Iran and the P5+1 signed their Joint Plan of Action in late November 2013, the U.S. State and Treasury Departments specifically named Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Company among companies targeted “for evading international sanctions against Iran and for providing support for Iran’s nuclear program.”
The recent indictment and accompanying press release present a clear indication that the decades-long disinformation campaign about Iran’s nuclear program is far more powerful and sustaining than facts and evidence. And that’s bad news when the propaganda comes straight from the Department of Justice.
It would be hard to find a more stark demonstration of how differently the IAEA and Western governments, led by the United States, have treated Iran and its nuclear program, as compared to other NPT NNWS who are under essentially the same legal obligations, than in the following couple of developments within the last week.
The first is a presentation given by Robert Einhorn, a recently retired senior US official, who many see as a close confidant of the administration, in which he floated a “trial balloon” of a possible comprehensive agreement between Iran and the P5+1. Among the elements of such a deal, Einhorn proposed the following:
Convert the underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordow into a research and development facility for testing more advanced centrifuges and conducting other nuclear research. Centrifuges there now would be removed to monitored storage.
Modify a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak to greatly reduce its production of plutonium — another potential bomb fuel — by converting it into a light water reactor, fueling it with enriched uranium or reducing its power level. “Fueling the reactor with enriched uranium would make it more capable of producing medical isotopes than the original” planned facility, Einhorn writes.
Require even more stringent monitoring of the Iranian program than dictated by the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including “more frequent and wider access by International Atomic Energy Agency personnel, more extensive installation of surveillance and containment equipment and greater use of remote, real-time monitoring.”
Set up procedures to ensure that any questions about Iranian compliance are “investigated and resolved expeditiously.”
So, under Einhorn’s plan, Iran would get to keep a limited capacity to enrich uranium, but only at a limited number of agreed facilities, not to include the ones that could not be easily bombed if necessary by Israel or the U.S. Iran would also have to scrap plans for building a reactor at Arak that might produce some plutonium, but only if Iran built a separate reprocessing facility that it has no plans to build.
Now, juxtapose that development with the news this past week that Japan has agreed to repatriate some of the weapons grade plutonium contained in its massive stockpile of already separated plutonium, to the US, although according to this report:
The joint statement released at the summit by Washington and Tokyo did not specify how much nuclear material was being repatriated. According to a 10-year-old U.S. report on the Tokai research facility, roughly 1,210 pounds of bomb-ready uranium and 730 pounds of separated plutonium existed at the site, the Center for Public Integrity reported on Tuesday.
Though nonproliferation supporters commended the announcement on the coming withdrawal of fissile material from Tokai, the amount of plutonium held at the facility represents less than one percent of Japan’s worldwide stockpile and just 3.5 percent of the total amount held domestically. Those figures also do not take into account the 8 tons of plutonium the country could begin producing annually at its mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant at Rokkasho, which is still under construction.
See any differences in treatment?
The world’s news media have long accepted without question the charge that Iran had for many years used its civilian nuclear program as a cover for a nuclear weapons program. That narrative has rested on intelligence documents and reports that were accepted as credible by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA in turn has been treated in the news media as a non-political authority without any axe to grind.
But, as I document in detail in Manufactured Crisis, the intelligence documents at the heart of this narrative were fabrications created by the state with most obvious interest in promoting such a narrative—Israel. The origin of the false intelligence was the ambition of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration and their Israeli ally to carry out regime change in Iran, which they believed would require the use of force, though not with large-scale ground troop as in Iraq. They also believed that the only way to justify such a war would be to build a case that Iran was threatening to obtain nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Against the backdrop of a political strategy for Iran, on which Undersecretary of State John Bolton was coordinating with Israel in 2003-04, a large cache of documents from a Iranian nuclear weapons research program came into the possession of Germany’s intelligence agency, the BND, late in the summer of 2004. They included computer modeling of a series of efforts to integrate what appeared to be a nuclear weapon into the Shahab-3 Iranian missile, and experiments with high explosives that could be used to detonate a nuclear weapon. Someone leaked to David Sanger of the New York Times that those documents had come from the laptop computer of an Iranian scientist involved in the alleged program who later feared that he had been discovered and managed to get the computer out through his wife. U.S. officials told senior IAEA officials that they feared the “third party” that had brought out the documents was now dead, according to former Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei.
But that was a crudely constructed cover story to hide the real source of the documents. In fact, the German intelligence agency, BND got those documents from a member of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the Iranian terrorist organization that had become a client of Israel. The MEK member was a sometime source for the agency, but senior BND officials regarded the source as “doubtful,” according to former senior German official Karsten Voigt, who told me the whole story of his November 2004 conversation with his BND contacts on the record a year ago.
The senior BND officials had contacted Voigt, who was then coordinator of North-American relations for the foreign office, immediately after Secretary of State Colin Powell had made comments to reporters about “information” that Iran was “working hard” to combine a ballistic missile with “a weapon.” The BND officials were alarmed that the Bush administration was intending to make a case for war against Iran based on those doubtful documents.
The sequence of events presented a remarkable series of parallels with the Bush administration’s exploitation of the BND source codenamed “Curveball” to make the case for war against Iraq less than two years earlier. That Iraqi refugee in Germany—who turned out to be the brother of a senior official of Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Council—had told tales of Iraqi mobile bioweapons labs to the BND, which had passed them on to the CIA. But BND officers had eventually begun to doubt his stories. When George Tenet had asked BND chief August Hanning in December 2002 whether the United States could use the information publicly, Hanning had written a personal note to warn him that the United States should not rely on the information without further confirmation. Colin Powell had nevertheless used the very information about which Hanning had warned as the centerpiece of the case for war in Iraq. Now Powell was going public with another claim about WMD intelligence from another dubious source to make what sounded like the beginning of a case for war against another adversary of the United States.
Voigt believed the senior BND officials wanted him to issue another warning to the United States not to rely on these documents, and a few days later, he did give such a warning in public, in a coded fashion. In an article in the Wall Street Journal Voigt was reported to have said the information to which Powell had referred had come from “an Iranian dissident group” and that the United States and Europe should not “let their Iran policy be influenced by single-source headlines.”
The BND officials were not the only ones who had questions about those documents. Some U.S. intelligence analysts wondered why the purported nuclear weapons research project documents only included material about alleged high explosives experiments, a missile reentry vehicle and the design of another uranium conversion facility totally different from the one Iran had adopted after years of research, development and testing. Why, they wondered was there nothing about weapons design? And why was the work on the missile reentry vehicle amateurish – or, as David Albright put it to this writer in a September 2008 interview, “so primitive”? Why was the design for a bench-scale conversion process marred by such fundamental flaws that the IAEA’s Olli Heinonen had to acknowledge in a February 2008 briefing that it had “technical inconsistencies.”
The documents also exhibited anomalies that were direct indicators of fraud. The most dramatic was the fact that the studies modeling the missile reentry vehicle were based on the initial Shahab-3 missile, which the Iranian missile program is known to have begun to replace with an improved model as early as 2000 – two years before those modeling studies were said to have been started in mid-2002. The redesign of the reentry vehicle, which was a key to improved design, would have been far advanced by then, according to Michael Elleman of International Institute for Strategic Studies, who was the main author of an authoritative study of the Iranian ballistic missile program. The shape of the new reentry vehicle, first revealed to the world when the new missile was flight tested in August 2004, bore no resemblance to the old one portrayed in the documents. The authors of the documents had obviously been unaware of that complete redesign of the reentry vehicle, meaning that they could not have part of an Iranian Defense Ministry-sponsored program.
The creators of the collection of documents were clever enough to build them around an authentic document that could be verified as real and thereby lend credibility to a collection that otherwise lacked any evidence of authenticity. But the document was not from inside the Iranian government but a letter from a high tech company to an Iranian engineering firm. It would have been relatively easy for Mossad, which carries out constant surveillance of high tech companies, to acquire that document. The document was then used to provide evidence of connections between different parts of the alleged project that was otherwise absent: anonymous handwriting on it referred to the reentry vehicle study. Those touches reveal creators who were eager to maximize the political effect of the document and apparently not worried that they would be too obvious.
The daring of the venture as well as the fact that the actual document around which it was built would have been a routine discovery for Mossad leave little room for doubt about the Israeli origins of the collection.
The plan had been to have the IAEA focus entirely on what ElBaradei was calling the “alleged studies” once the “Work Program” negotiated with Iran on the various other issues the Agency had raised since 2004 was completed. But then came the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007, which concluded that Iran had stopped the work on nuclear weapons that the intelligence community had been certain it had been doing for years in 2003. That estimate all but eliminated the case for the use of force, so it created a serious problem for Israel.
The Israelis responded quickly, however, coming up with an entirely new series of intelligence documents and reports in 2008 and 2009 showing that Iranian nuclear weapons research and development program was far more advanced than previously believed. Those documents were transmitted to the IAEA directly by Israel, according to ElBaradei’s memoirs, but the IAEA never disclosed that highly salient fact.
The first document arrived as early as April 2008, and the IAEA’s Safeguards Department immediately mentioned it in the May 2008 IAEA report. It was a Farsi-language report on experiments with high explosives that was obviously intended to suggest the initiation of a hemispherical charge for an implosion nuclear weapon.
The very next IAEA report in September 2008 announced that the experiment “may have involved the assistance of foreign expertise.” That was obviously a reference to a scholarly paper on a methodology for measuring intervals between explosions using fiber optic cables co-authored in 1992 by Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko, who had worked in Iran from 1999 to 2005. The IAEA thus swallowed the implausible Israeli claim that a spy had obtained a top secret Iranian document on nuclear weapon-related experiments that just happened to involve the same methodology about which Danilenko had published.
The far more plausible sequence of events was that Mossad had discovered Danilenko’s work in Iran in a routine investigation of foreign personnel in the country and soon found out that he had worked at the Soviet nuclear weapons complex at Chelyabinsk and had published on a method for measuring explosive internals. Those discoveries would have inspired the idea of secret Iran document describing high explosives experiments that would include a measurement technique that would implicate Danilenko—who would be portrayed as a Soviet nuclear weapons specialist—in the alleged Iran nuclear weapons program.
Further supporting that explanation for the appearance of the document is the fact that the most sensational intelligence claim in the November 2011 IAEA report involves yet another Danilenko publication. The IAEA said it had “information” that Iran had built a high explosives containment chamber in 2000 “in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments”, which it defines as tests to “simulate the first stages of a nuclear explosion”, at its Parchin military facility. And it cited a publication by the same “foreign expert”—i.e., Danilenko—as allowing it to “confirm the date of construction of the cylinder and some of its design features (such as its dimensions).”
That Danilenko publication, however, was actually on the design of an explosives chamber for the production of nanodiamonds. The drawing of the chamber accompanying the article, moreover, displays features, such as air and water systems for cooling the tank immediately before and after the explosion, that would have made it unusable for the purpose of testing nuclear weapons designs. Despite having worked in a Soviet nuclear weapons complex for many years, Danilenko had worked from the beginning of his career on explosive synthesis of nanodiamonds, which involved no knowledge of nuclear weapons or of methods for testing them. (The first American to discover nanodiamonds synthesis, Dr. Ray Grenier, who had also worked for many years in Los Alamos National Laboratory, the top U.S. nuclear weapons complex, told me that he himself had never worked on anything directly connected with nuclear weapons, and that all of his work on nanodiamonds synthesis had been unclassified.)
The IAEA never produced any confirming evidence for the tale of the bomb test chamber at Parchin provided by Israel. Former IAEA chief inspector in Iraq Robert Kelley, who had also been project leader for nuclear intelligence at Los Alamos national laboratory and head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory, immediately pointed out that the IAEA description of the alleged explosive containment chamber and its intended purpose made no sense technically. Kelley observed that the capacity of the alleged chamber to contain 70 kilograms of high explosives reported by the IAEA would have been as “far too small” for the kind of hydrodynamic nuclear tests the report claimed as its purpose. Kelley and three other intelligence experts on photo interpretation also pointed out that the satellite photos of the site at Parchin indicate that it displays none of the characteristics that would be associated with a high explosives testing site.
And Iran’s behavior in regard to the site in Parchin contradicts the notion that it needed to hide evidence of nuclear testing there. Iran allowed the IAEA to pick any five sites in one of the four quadrants of Parchin to visit and take environmental samples in February 2005 and then did the same thing again in November 2005. And the IAEA reported in February 2012 that it had obtained the complete run of satellite photos of the site from February 2005 to February 2012 and found that there was no evidence of any significant activity at the site for the entire seven years.
The tainted intelligence underlying the charges of a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program is now one of the major issues in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. The introduction of the demand that Iran must satisfy the IAEA indicates either that the Obama administration believes completely in the official nuclear narrative and is dangerously overconfident about its bargaining position or that the administration has been assured by IAEA director general Yukiya Amano that he will do what is necessary to reach agreement with Iran on the issue of “possible military dimensions” of the nuclear program. In either case, the fate of the false intelligence and the fate of the nuclear talks are now deeply intertwined.
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian who writes on U.S. national security issues. His latest book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February by Just World Books.
If you take politicians and the mainstream media seriously, you believe that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and has relentlessly engaged in covert efforts to build one. Even if you are aware that Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, you may believe that those who run the Islamic Republic have cleverly found ways to construct a nuclear-weapons industry almost undetected. Therefore, you may conclude, Democratic and Republican administrations have been justified in pressuring Iran to come clean and give up its “nuclear program.”
But you would be wrong.
Anyone naturally skeptical about such foreign-policy alarms has by now found solid alternative reporting that debunks the official narrative about the alleged Iranian threat. Much of that reporting has come from Gareth Porter, the journalist and historian associated with Inter Press Service. Porter has done us the favor of collecting the fruits of his dogged investigative journalism into a single comprehensive and accessible volume, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
A grain of truth can be found at the core of the official story. Iranian officials did indeed engage in secret activities to achieve a nuclear capability. But it was a capability aimed at generating electricity and medical treatments, not hydrogen bombs.
Porter opens his book by explaining why Iran used secretive rather than open methods. Recall that before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran was ruled by an autocratic monarch, the shah. The shah’s power had been eclipsed in the early 1950s by a democratically elected parliament. Then, in 1953, America’s Eisenhower administration sent the CIA in to foment civil discord in order to drive the elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from office and restore the shah’s power.
During his reign, the shah, a close ally of the United States and Israel, started building a nuclear-power industry — with America’s blessing. Iran’s Bushehr reactor was 80 percent complete when the shah was overthrown.
When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became Iran’s supreme leader in 1979, he cancelled completion of the reactor and stopped related projects. But “two years later, the government reversed the decision to strip the [Atomic Energy Organization of Iran] of its budget and staff, largely because the severe electricity shortages that marked the first two years of the revolutionary era persuaded policymakers that there might be a role for nuclear power reactors after all,” Porter writes.
The new regime’s goals were “extremely modest compared with those of the shah,” Porter adds, consisting of one power plant and fuel purchased from France. Take note: the Iranian government did not aspire to enrich uranium, which is the big scare issue these days.
Iran brought the IAEA into its planning process, Porter writes, and an agency official, after conducting a survey of facilities, “recommended that the IAEA provide ‘expert services’ in eight different fields.” Porter notes that the IAEA official said nothing about an Iranian request for help in enriching uranium, “reflecting the fact that Iran was still hoping to get enriched uranium from the French company, Eurodif.”
Had things continued along this path, Iran today would have had a transparent civilian nuclear industry, under the NPT safeguard, fueled by enriched uranium purchased from France or elsewhere. No one would be talking about Iranian centrifuges and nuclear weapons. What happened?
The Reagan administration happened.
Continuing the U.S. hostility toward the Islamic Republic begun by the Carter administration, and siding with Iraq when Saddam Hussein’s military attacked Iran, the Reagan administration imposed “a series of interventions … to prevent international assistance of any kind to the Iranian nuclear program.” Not only did President Reagan block American firms from helping the Iranians; he also pressured American allies to participate in the embargo. This was in clear violation of the NPT, which recognizes the “right” of participating states to acquire nuclear technology for civilian purposes.
No wonder Iran turned to covert channels, most particularly A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani who “was selling nuclear secrets surreptitiously.” This would have been the time for Iran to buy weapons-related technology — however, Porter writes, “there is no indication that [Khan’s Iranian contact] exhibited any interest in the technology for making a bomb.”
This is indeed a manufactured crisis.
Progress in Iran Nuclear Talks Depends on the Israeli Government Coming Clean on its Nuclear Disinformation Campaigns
One of the sticking points in the on-going Iran nuclear negotiations is the fate of the so-called “Possible Military Dimensions” (aka “Alleged Studies”) file. This is a compendium of allegations against Iran’s nuclear program – largely gathered by third-party intelligence agencies – that the IAEA would like Iran to respond to. Not only are the allegations largely outside the IAEA legal authority and expertise (because they do not directly deal with nuclear material diversion), but Iran has not been allowed to see much of this secret evidence that is being used against it. Such a process is, of course, not consistent with normal Western legal practice. Iran has responded to what little it has been shown of the PMD file by saying that the evidence thus far shown is fabricated.
Though this Iranian response is often cast as Iran “not cooperating with the IAEA” (or “refusing to discuss the matter”), another possibility must be considered: that Iran is correct. That is, that at least some the evidence has indeed been cooked-up by an adversarial Intelligence service (or by an agent recruited by such an Intelligence service).
A wonderful new book by Gudrun Harrer on the IAEA inspections in Iraq sheds some light on which countries could be involved in fabricating and planting such fake nuclear “evidence”. On p. 185 of the book, it is confirmed that Israel provided the IAEA with false information on Laser Isotope Separation activities in Iraq. The reference for this information is the author’s interview with David Albright of ISIS (see at this insert the relevant scanned pages from the book):
Israel has, of course, long been suspected of being behind some of the forged and suspect evidence against Iran: the neutron initiators, AP graphs, etc., but until now it was hard to definitely pin the blame on that country. Thanks to David Albright at ISIS, we now know that Israel has been guilty of planting disinformation with the IAEA in the past.
The German intelligence agency has also discredited much of the secret evidence against Iran.
Having myself analyzed some of what is (evidently) in this PMD file – with Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies – I can say that the evidence is certainly of poor quality and/or an amateurish forgery. It does not look like anything a state-level research scientist would produce. There are large and conspicuous mathematical and physical errors in the material.
Similarly, Robert Kelley has assessed that at least some of the evidence purporting to show weaponization research work continuing past 2004 is less than compelling:
[The] evidence, according to the IAEA, tells us Iran embarked on a four-year program, starting around 2006, to validate the design of a device to produce a burst of neutrons that could initiate a fission chain reaction. Though I cannot say for sure what source the agency is relying on, I can say for certain that this project was earlier at the center of what appeared to be a misinformation campaign…. Mohamed ElBaradei, who was then the agency’s director general, rejected the information because there was no chain of custody for the paper, no clear source, document markings, date of issue or anything else that could establish its authenticity…
David Albright’s confirmation of Israeli nuclear disinformation goes hand-in-glove with statements from former IAEA director, and Nobel Prize winner, Mohammed ElBaradei. In his biography, ElBaradei says that the documents that the IAEA had about the alleged neutron initiators in Iran circa 2008 were given to the Agency by Israel. He further states that Israel gave him permission to show the evidence to Iran.
So the question is, why has the IAEA not cooperated with Iran in evaluating material like they did with Iraq circa 1995, in the incident mentioned by Harrer?
Iran could be genuinely helpful if they were allowed to see the original evidence and comment on it. When the IAEA worked with Iraq to evaluate documents, the Iraqis helpfully pointed out mistakes that the IAEA could independently confirm. Isn’t that the example we would like to see with Iran?
Being charged with secret evidence also goes against every notion of Western justice. The IAEA either needs to drop the PMD file, or amend their procedures.
Unfortunately, it is quite likely that the Israeli government is once again carrying out nuclear disinformation, possibly in collaboration with the MEK, an Iranian terrorist – in some nations, formerly terrorist – organization opposed to the current Iranian regime.
Over the past weekend, it was also confirmed that Israel masterminded the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. These assassinations, too, perhaps were carried out with local MEK collaboration. If the Israeli government is capable of assassinating civilian Iranian scientists, would fabricating nuclear intel on Iran trouble their consciences? Presumably not. Especially as they have done it in the past, according to David Albright at ISIS.
Before further pursuing Iran on the PMD file – which may contain substantial forged evidence – it would make sense to ask Israel to come clean about any fabricated intelligence it may have planted with the IAEA. It is quite possible that some of the PMD file is not fake. Israel’s assistance and cooperation in identifying what is fake and what is not would be most helpful. If David Albright of ISIS has further insight into this – as he did in the Iraqi case – his involvement would also, of course, be very welcome.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to give credibility to hyperbolic Israeli statements about Iran’s underhandedness in pursuing its nuclear program, when Israel itself has been underhanded in pursuing clandestine disinformation campaigns against NPT states, while itself remaining resolutely outside the NPT.
There are several points for the IAEA to consider in light of these recent developments:
1. Should the IAEA reject all evidence from Israel against Iran and other adversarial states now?
2. Should the IAEA, generally, not accept intelligence from non-NPT states?
3. The IAEA should show Iran any evidence it wants an Iranian response on. Anything less is not consistent with Western notions of justice. Furthermore such cooperation could unveil the origin of any possible forgeries in the PMD file.
4. The IAEA and the US should ask Israel to come clean on any fabricated “evidence” it may have inserted into the PMD file.
5. As I have suggested previously, it would be best to simply drop the PMD file as it relates to decade old unauthenticated allegations of possible research. It is not even clear that what is in the PMD file – even if true – would be a violation of the NPT or the safeguards agreement.
6. If the IAEA really wants to pursue the content of the PMD in a legal way they can initiate special inspections or undertake arbitration as provided for in the CSA. The IAEA does not even have the technical expertise in-house to undertake investigations of missiles, warheads etc. which are mentioned in the PMD file.
7. Since Iran is now in compliance with its safeguards agreement, Iran’s nuclear file – currently hung-up in the Security Council – should return to the IAEA. The referral to the Security Council was unorthodox and politicized to begin with, and there is no rationale for Iran’s nuclear file to remain there post-2008. (Footnote 38 of the latest IAEA report on Iran makes clear that the remaining issues are not IAEA safeguards issues but extraneous UNSC ones).
8. This also means that the UNSC nuclear-related sanctions on Iran should now be dropped. In fact, they ought to have been dropped in 2008.
David Albright must be commended for his helpful insight into fabricated Israeli intelligence in Iraq, and hopefully can assist in tracking down similar disinformation in the case of Iran.
Relatedly, we must thank him and ISIS also for showing the international community expensive satellite pictures of Parchin, in which one can see that west of the paving activity, the site is untouched, and so the IAEA could get environmental samples there (if they even needed those). This undercuts ISIS’ own conclusion that the site has been magically “sanitized” by paving. Normally, of course, the IAEA would take such swipe samples from within the buildings where any suspect U naturally collects: in the corners and at the places where the walls meet the floor.
The technical weaknesses in ISIS’ and IAEA’s approach to Parchin were previously commented on.
The IAEA’s technically unsound obsession with environmental sampling at Parchin may also mean they are confusing the site at Marivan (where open-air implosion tests may have taken place) with the site at Parchin (where implosions in a chamber are alleged).
From the May 2008 Board report, referring to the Marivan site:
A.2. High Explosives Testing
Document 3: Five page document in English describing experimentation undertaken with a complex multipoint initiation system to detonate a substantial amount of high explosive in hemispherical geometry and to monitor the development of the detonation wave in that high explosive using a considerable number of diagnostic probes.
And the alleged weapons’ studies annex Nov 2011:
43. Information provided to the Agency by the same Member State referred to in the previous paragraph describes the multipoint initiation concept referred to above as being used by Iran in at least one large scale experiment in 2003 to initiate a high explosive charge in the form of a hemispherical shell. […...] Further information provided to the Agency by the same Member State indicates that the large scale high explosive experiments were conducted by Iran in the region of Marivan.
So what is the point of carrying out environmental sampling at Parchin (where chamber experiments are alleged) and not at Marivan where open-air experiments were allegedly done? Is the IAEA – and ISIS – confused between Marivan and Parchin?
The IAEA’s unprofessionalism in vetting the content of the PMD file, and in the obsession over Parchin (which the IAEA visited twice already) vs. Marivan smacks of an agenda to target Iran rather than any sound technical analysis. It is likely to blow up the Iran nuclear deal for no good reason. Iran has cooperated with the IAEA on the PMD file by saying that the material it was shown was fabricated – this may be true. Now Israel should also cooperate and come clean about what forged material – or material from compromised sources like “Curveball” – may be within this file. David Albright, with his past knowledge and evident expertise in fabricated Israeli intelligence should also step up to the plate.
And, certainly, Iran should be shown any evidence it is being asked to answer to by the IAEA. The Agency should also spend about half an hour and check whether the site it is interested in for environmental sampling is Marivan or Parchin. Environmental sampling at Parchin makes little sense. At Parchin, swipes would be taken from within the buildings since chamber-based implosions are alleged. While it is at it, the IAEA should also review the technical basis of their conclusions on Syria.
It is hard to take the Agency seriously when it persists in being blatantly unprofessional.
Dr Jim Walsh, a research associate at MIT, has an excellent suggestion about what to do with Iran’s “PMD” file – as paraphrased by Mark Hibbs: “If the nuclear activities were in the past, I don’t care. It’s dead, and it’s regretful, but let’s do a deal with Iran that moves forward.”
But before we do that, the IAEA should ask Israel to come clean about its potential role in fabricating some of the “evidence” within the PMD file.
Dr. Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, is Director of the Emerging Technologies Program at the Cultural Intelligence Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting fact-based cultural awareness among individuals, institutions, and governments. The views expressed here are his own.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has rejected Israel’s demand to release an alleged report about the Iranian nuclear energy work, saying there is no report that may indicate any diversion in Tehran’s program.
“The IAEA has not prepared any report containing new information relating to possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program,” spokeswoman Gill Tudor said on Friday.
The remarks came after Israel demanded that the UN nuclear watchdog agency go public with all information it has regarding the Iranian nuclear energy work.
The demand was made following a Thursday report by Reuters alleging that the agency had held off an update over the Iranian nuclear energy program last year due to concerns that it may undermine nuclear talks with Tehran.
“The agency’s reports on Iran to its Board of Governors are factual and impartial. Their content is not influenced by political considerations,” Tudor added.
Iran has repeatedly emphasized that its nuclear energy program is meant for civilian purposes.
Officials in Tehran have already called on the IAEA to come clean on anything it has regarding the suspicions over the diversion of the Iranian nuclear energy program.
However, the agency has so far found no diversion in Iran’s nuclear program to publicize it.
Iran is in talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Russia, China, France, the UK and the US — plus Germany to fully resolve the decade-old dispute over the Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
The two sides inked an interim nuclear deal in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 24, 2013. The Geneva deal took effect on January 20. The two sides are now in pursuit of a final comprehensive deal.
Israel’s allegations against Iran come as the Tel Aviv regime, which is widely believed to be the only possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East, reportedly maintains between 200 and 400 atomic warheads.
Furthermore, the Israeli regime has never allowed any inspection of its nuclear facilities and continues to defy international calls to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Barack Obama administration has demanded that Iran resolve “past and present concerns” about the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program as a condition for signing a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Administration officials have suggested that Iran must satisfy the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the allegations in the agency’s report that it has had a covert nuclear weapons program in the past.
But the record of negotiations between Iran and the IAEA shows Tehran has been ready for the past two years to provide detailed responses to all the charges of an Iranian nuclear weapons work, and that the problem has been the refusal of the IAEA to share with Iran the documentary evidence on which those allegations have been based.
The real obstacle to providing those documents, however, has long been a U.S. policy of refusing to share the documents on the assumption that Iran must confess to having had a weaponization program.
The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, declared February 12, “The authenticity of each allegation should be proven first, then the person who submitted it to the agency should give us the genuine document. When we are assured of the authenticity, then we can talk to the agency.”
Neither the IAEA nor the Obama administration has responded publicly to Salehi’s statement. In response to a query from IPS, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, said the NSC officials would have no comment on the Iranian demand for access to the documents.
The spokesperson for IAEA Director Yukiya Amano did not answer a request from IPS Thursday for the agency’s comment.
But a draft text of an agreement being negotiated between the IAEA and Iran dated February 20, 2012, shows that the only difference between the two sides on resolving issues about allegations of Iranian nuclear weapons work was Iran’s demand to have the documents on which the allegations are based.
The draft text, which was later published on the website of the Arms Control Association, reflects Iran’s deletions and additions to the original IAEA proposal. It calls for Iran to provide a “conclusive technical assessment” of a set of six “topics”, which included 12 distinct charges in the report in a particular order that the IAEA desired.
Iran and the IAEA agreed that Iran would provide a “conclusive technical assessment” on a list of 10 issues in a particular order. The only topics that Iran proposed to delete from the list were “management structure” and “Procurement activities”, which did not involve charges of specifically nuclear weapons work.
The two sides had agreed in the draft that the IAEA would provide a “detailed explanation of its concerns”. But they had failed to agree on provision of documents to Iran by the IAEA. The IAEA had proposed language that the agency would provide Iran with the relevant documents only “where appropriate”. Iran was insisting on deletion of that qualifying phrase from the draft.
The first priority on the list of topics to which both sides had agreed in the draft was “Parchin” – referring to the claim of intelligence from an unnamed state that Iran had installed a large cylinder at the Parchin military reservation.
A November 2011 IAEA report suggested the cylinder was intended for testing nuclear weapons designs and had been built with the assistance of a “foreign expert”. Iran also agreed to respond in detail on the issue of the “foreign expert”, who has been identified as Vyacheslav Danilenko, a Ukrainian specialist on nanodiamonds.
The evidence associated with that claim and others published in the 2011 report shows that they were based on intelligence reports and documents given to the IAEA by Israel in 2008-09. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei referred to a series of documents provided by Israel in his 2012 memoirs.
Iran also agreed to respond in detail to allegations that Iran had sought to integrate a nuclear weapon into the reentry vehicle of the Shahab-3 missile, and that it had developed high explosives as a “detonator” for a nuclear weapon.
Both alleged activities had been depicted or described in documents reported in the U.S. news media in 2005-06 as having come from a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Those documents, about whose authenticity ElBaradei and other senior IAEA officials have publicly expressed serious doubts, have now been revealed as having been given to Western intelligence by an anti-regime Iranian terrorist organization.
Former senior German foreign office official Karsten Voigt revealed in an interview last year for a newly published book by this writer that senior officials of the German intelligence agency BND had told him in November 2004 that the BND had gotten the entire collection of documents from a member of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) who had been one of their sources, and that they did not consider the source to be reliable.
The MEK, considered by the United States and European states as a terrorist organization, had been used by Saddam Hussein’s regime to support the war against Iran and by Israel to issue intelligence and propaganda that Mossad did not want attributed to it.
ElBaradei, who retired from the IAEA in November 2009, had declared repeatedly that sharing the documents was necessary to ensure “due process” in resolving the issue, but the United States had prevented him from doing so.
In his final statement to the Board of Governors on September 7, 2009 he appealed to “those who provided the information related to the alleged weaponization studies to share with Iran as much information as possible.”
A former IAEA official, who asked not to be identified, told IPS that the United States had allowed only a very limited number of documents to be shown to Iran in the form of Power Point slides projected on a screen.
A May 2008 IAEA report described a number of documents purported to be from the Iranian weapons program but said that the IAEA “was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran.”
Around 100 pages of documents were given by the United States to the agency to share with Iran, the former official said, but none of the documents described in the report were among them.
The U.S. policy of denying Iranian access to the documents continued during the Obama administration, as shown by a U.S. diplomatic cable from Vienna dated April 29, 2009 and released by WikiLeaks. At a P5+1 technical meeting, both U.S. and IAEA officials were quoted as implying that the objective of the policy was to press Iran to confess to the activities portrayed in the papers.
U.S. officials said that a failure by Iran to “disclose any past weaponization-related work” would “suggest Iran wishes to hide and pursue its past work, perhaps to keep a future weapons option”.
IAEA Safeguards Chief Olli Heinonen made it clear that no copies of the relevant documents charging Iran with weaponization would be provided to Iran and complained that Iran had continued to claim that the documents were fabricated.
In its report of November 14, 2013, the IAEA said it had received more information – presumably from Israel – that “corroborates the analysis” in its 2011 report.
The past unwillingness of the Obama administration to entertain the possibility that the documents provided by the MEK were fabricated or to allow Iran the opportunity to prove that through close analysis of the documents, and the IAEA’s continued commitment to the weaponization information it has published suggest that the issue of past claims will be just as contentious as the technical issues to be negotiated, if not more so.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book “Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare”, was published Feb. 14.
I’m seeing a false narrative being constructed by the media around the Iran nuclear talks which, as usual, will become repeated so often that it becomes ‘true’ by virtue of repetition, as is the case usually with most of the conventional wisdom about Iran.
According to this false narrative, Iran was engaged in nuclear “weapons-related” research which was stopped in 2003, mostly, and this was the cause of the confusion all along and the reason why the US thought Iran was making nukes and not negotiating with Iran.
And now Iran has to ‘come clean’ about this past research which misled the US into thinking that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, causing the US to impose sanctions on Iran, which then led to Iran ‘giving in’ to the sanctions and accepting talks whose ‘goal’ is to reduce or eliminate Iran’s nuclear program.
This is of course a PR spin that was invented by someone. It has the benefit of providing a nice little story line in which everyone comes out not a bad guy, and we can all just put it down to a case of miscommunication — like some sort of TV sitcom episode.
But that’s not what happened at all.
The only question is why they’re pushing this spin in the media. An optimist would say that the US side is pushing this narrative in order to portray its eventual agreement with Iran as some sort of victory, and the Iranian side may allow this face-saving move by the US if only to remove sanctions. BUT, i’m not an optimist. I think that just as the entire nuclear issue was always a red herring and distraction, just as ‘WMDs in Iraq’ was always just a pretext for an entirely different policy, I think that the presumption should be that the talks too are just pretextual and a tactic.
But we’ll see.
Anyway, everything in that narrative that the media is trying to cook and feed average Americans is complete baloney, and I could type out a book to debunk it. So just for example about the claim that Iran was involved in ‘nuke-related’ research: When the 2003 NIE came out saying that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the IAEA, whilst welcoming that conclusion, also pointed out that they had no evidence of a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003 either and NOTHING has changed since then, except that the IAEA head Elbaradei was replaced by US puppet Amano, who had sworn loyalty to the US and then started trying to give credence to the “Alleged studies” claims by renaming them ‘possible military dimensions’ and then issuing the ‘secret annex’ as part of the IAEA’s 2011 report that the previous IAEA head had dismissed as unverified claims. And to date NONE of the the claims have ever been verified, aside from anonymous claims of additional supporting information which no one has seen.
And that’s just one problem with this narrative. I could go on and on.
The point is, watch out for these false narratives and ‘conventional wisdom’ and don’t just ignore these claims in analysis pieces or reportage that proceed on such assumptions.
Aside from tha,t “nuclear related” research per se does not have to be reported by Iran to the IAEA anyway.
With the publication of Gareth Porter’s book about the history of Iran’s nuclear program entitled appropriately “Manufactured Conflict” and the up-coming publication of Daniel Joyner’s book which touches on the legalities of Iran’s nuclear program, I pretty much have nothing to write about these days but I have been enjoying the mess that we see in the media as the Gatekeepers of Opinion scamble to re-tune their messages:
The current meme they’re trying to sell is that the negoatiations are the result of a shift of policy by Iran, which was itself the result of the sanctions — rather than conceeding that the sole item which had stifled negotiations for years until now was the US insistence that Iran first abandon enrichment before engaging in negotiations about abandoning the rest of the nuclear program, and that the sanctions did not force Iran to the negotiating table but in fact prevented a resolution that could have been reached years ago in accordance with Iran’s multiple compromise offers.
For example, according to the Washington Post,
“But Khamenei has approved a less combative approach to the West, especially in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. That is fueling hope here that Iran can win a lifting of tough international sanctions, the root of its economic woes”
Nonsense. Whatever Ahmadinejad’s faults, it was he that went before the UNGC and re-announced Iran’s long-standing offer to suspend 20% enrichment — the subject of the much lauded agreement reached recently with the Rouhani government. In fact Iran had been offering to place additional, non-legally required limitations on its nuclear program for YEARS but was consistently snubbed by the US which continued to insist that Iran has to first abandon enrichment before any talks could happen.
Don’t let them re-write the history to suit themselves.
Oh and Carnegie Endowment head Jessica Matthews is back to writing fiction about Iran’s nuclear program. It makes for quite entertaining reading as a purely fictional account of history, in which for example the Iranians,
“For more than fifteen years, intelligence and on-the-ground inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed nuclear facilities, imports of nuclear technology, and research that had no civilian use.”
Actually the IAEA has repeatedly and consistently stated that it has never found any evidence of non-civilian nuclear program in Iran.
And in fact IAEA officials complained that US intelligence failed to back up the allegations.
According to Jessica Matthews’ :
“There is no formal, legal “right” to enrichment or any other nuclear activity.”
Yes, world. The 14 nations that enrich uranium today do so by virtue of the fact that God gave them special permission to do so, or was it Jessica Matthews? — and did not give that permission to Iran. Sorry Iran, you don’t have the same sovereign rights as other nations.
But I won’t go into a fib-by-fib analysis here.
Anyway, even after the Obama administration finally gave up on the “zero enrichment” precondition to talks, they tried to claim that the ultimate agenda of the talks was still Iran abandoning enrichment — though this has been looking less and less likely too. AIPAC and Nuttyyahoo are left flopping in the wind nonetheless.
For its part, the New York Times has been trying its hardest to try to blow some life into the carcass of the “alleged studies” claims, first by promoting the “Polonium studies” nonsense that the IAEA itself said was resolved to Iran’s credit years ago, and now by failing to mention that the “neutron initiator” claims involving the bridgewire detonators which are the subject of today’s news, were dismissed by the IAEA as frauds according to IAEA Director ElBaradei’s book, which apparently none of the journalists bothered to read — Oh yeah, lets not forget that the Israelis accused Elbaradei of being an “Iranian agent” and a “despicable person” for that.
When Western intelligence agencies began in the early 1990s to intercept telexes from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms, intelligence analysts believed they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme. That suspicion led to U.S. intelligence assessments over the next decade that Iran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.
The supposed evidence of military efforts to procure uranium enrichment equipment shown in the telexes was also the main premise of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear programme from 2003 through 2007.
But the interpretation of the intercepted telexes on which later assessments were based turned out to have been a fundamental error. The analysts, eager to find evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, had wrongly assumed that the combination of interest in technologies that could be used in a nuclear programme and the apparent role of a military-related institution meant that the military was behind the procurement requests.
In 2007-08, Iran provided hard evidence that the technologies had actually been sought by university teachers and researchers.
The intercepted telexes that set in train the series of U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was working on nuclear weapons were sent from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran beginning in late 1990 and continued through 1992. The dates of the telexes, their specific procurement requests and the telex number of PHRC were all revealed in a February 2012 paper by David Albright, the executive director of the Institute for Science and International Security, and two co-authors.
The telexes that interested intelligence agencies following them all pertained to dual-use technologies, meaning that they were consistent with work on uranium conversion and enrichment but could also be used for non-nuclear applications.
But what raised acute suspicions on the part of intelligence analysts was the fact that those procurement requests bore the telex number of the Physics Research Center (PHRC), which was known to have contracts with the Iranian military.
U.S., British, German and Israeli foreign intelligence agencies were sharing raw intelligence on Iranian efforts to procure technology for its nuclear programme, according to published sources. The telexes included requests for “high-vacuum” equipment, “ring” magnets, a balancing machine and cylinders of fluorine gas, all of which were viewed as useful for a programme of uranium conversion and enrichment.
The Schenck balancing machine ordered in late 1990 or early 1991 provoked interest among proliferation analysts, because it could be used to balance the rotor assembly parts on the P1 centrifuge for uranium enrichment. The “ring” magnets sought by the university were believed to be appropriate for centrifuge production.
The request for 45 cylinders of fluorine gas was considered suspicious, because fluorine is combined with uranium to produce uranium hexafluoride, the form of uranium that is used for enrichment.
The first indirect allusion to evidence from the telexes in the news came in late 1992, when an official of the George H. W. Bush administration told The Washington Post that the administration had pushed for a complete cutoff of all nuclear-related technology to Iran, because of what was called “a suspicious procurement pattern”.
Then the Iranian efforts to obtain those specific technologies from major foreign suppliers were reported, without mentioning the intercepted telexes, in a Public Broadcasting System “Frontline” documentary called “Iran and the Bomb” broadcast in April 1993, which portrayed them as clear indications of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.
The producer of the documentary, Herbert Krosney, described the Iranian procurement efforts in similar terms in his book “Deadly Business” published the same year.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s CIA Director John Deutch declared, “A wide variety of data indicate that Tehran has assigned civilian and military organisations to support the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.”
For the next decade, the CIA’s non-proliferation specialists continued to rely on their analysis of the telexes to buttress their assessment that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. The top-secret 2001 National Intelligence Estimate bore the title “Iran Nuclear Weapons Program: Multifaceted and Poised to Succeed, but When?”
Former IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen recalled in a May 2012 article that the IAEA had obtained a “set of procurement information about the PHRC” – an obvious reference to the collection of telexes – which led him to launch an investigation in 2004 of what the IAEA later called the “Procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC”.
But after an August 2007 agreement between Iran and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on a timetable for the resolution of “all remaining issues”, Iran provided full information on all the procurement issues the IAEA had raised.
That information revealed that the former PHRC head, Sayyed Abbas Shahmoradi-Zavareh, who had been a professor at Sharif University at the time, had been asked by several faculty departments to help procure equipment or material for teaching and research.
Iran produced voluminous evidence to support its explanation for each of the procurement efforts the IAEA had questioned. It showed that the high vacuum equipment had been requested by the Physics Department for student experiments in evaporation and vacuum techniques for producing thin coatings by providing instruction manuals on the experiments, internal communications and even the shipping documents on the procurement.
The Physics Department had also requested the magnets for students to carry out “Lenz-Faraday experiments”, according to the evidence provided, including the instruction manuals, the original requests for funding and the invoice for cash sales from the supplier. The balancing machine was for the Mechanical Engineering Department, as was supported by similar documentation turned over to the IAEA. IAEA inspectors had also found that the machine was indeed located at the department.
The 45 cylinders of fluorine that Shahmoradi-Zavareh had tried to procure had been requested by the Office of Industrial Relations for research on the chemical stability of polymeric vessels, as shown by the original request letter and communications between the former PHRC head and the president of the university.
The IAEA report on February 2008 recorded the detailed documentation provided by Iran on each of the issues, none of which was challenged by the IAEA. The report declared the issue “no longer outstanding at this stage”, despite U.S. pressure on ElBaradei to avoid closing that or any other issue in the work programme, as reported in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
The IAEA report showed that the primary intelligence basis for the U.S. charge of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme for more than a decade had been erroneous.
That dramatic development in the Iran nuclear story went unnoticed in news media reporting on the IAEA report, however. By then the U.S. government, the IAEA and the news media had raised other evidence that was more dramatic – a set of documents supposedly purloined from an Iran laptop computer associated with an alleged covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme from 2001 to 2003. And the November 2007 NIE had concluded that Iran had been running such a programme but had halted it in 2003.
Despite the clear acceptance of the Iranian explanation by the IAEA, David Albright of ISIS has continued to argue that the telexes support suspicions that Iran’s Defence Ministry was involved in the nuclear programme.
In his February 2012 paper, Albright discusses the procurement requests documented in the telexes as though the IAEA investigation had been left without any resolution. Albright makes no reference to the detailed documentation provided by Iran in each case or to the IAEA’s determination that the issue was “no longer outstanding”.
Ten days later, the Washington Post published a news article reflecting Albright’s claim that the telexes proved that the PHRC had been guiding Iran’s secret uranium enrichment programme during the 1990s. The writer was evidently unaware that the February 2008 IAEA report had provided convincing evidence that the intelligence analyst’s interpretations had been fundamentally wrong.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have neither the right nor any duty to inspect Iran’s military and missile sites, a senior Iranian official says.
“The agency’s inspectors have no right and [no] responsibility to do it. There is no authority in the world [responsible] for inspecting such facilities, and there is no treaty in that regard, either,” Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday.
“The IAEA is not in a position to conduct such inspections,” he underscored, dismissing certain media reports which quoted him as saying that the agency’s inspectors will visit Iran’s missile industries for more transparency.
In November, Iran and the IAEA agreed on a road map based on which Iran would, on a voluntary basis, allow IAEA inspectors to visit the Arak heavy water plant and the Gachin uranium mine in Bandar Abbas, in southern Iran, despite the fact that Tehran is under no such obligation to do so under the Safeguards Agreement.
The voluntary move is a goodwill gesture on the part of Iran to clear up ambiguities over the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy program.
Salehi further denied charges leveled by certain Western countries suggesting a diversion in Iran’s civilian atomic work.
“Such accusations are unfounded given the IAEA’s inspections and [Iran’s] broad transparency moves and cooperation,” the AEOI head said.
The United States, Israel, and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.