Aletho News


The Iranian Threat That Never Was

By Sheldon Richman | Future of Freedom Foundation | March 26, 2014

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.

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Iranian Threat That Never Was

Iran and Pan Am 103/Lockerbie claims: the return of a serial fabricator

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | March 12, 2014

I am having a nice chuckle at the latest bit of rubbish promoted by the Telegraph which was recycled through al Jazeera about Iran: that Iran was secretly behind the Pan Am 103 downing, according to a “former Iranian intelligence official.” Of course, this is just a rehash of a claim that is 14 years old.

What the Telegraph — and all the news outlets that repeated the story, often adding their own bit of dramatic flourish to the tale — don’t mention is that the witness in question, Abolghasem Mesbahi, is considered to be a serial fabricator who has a long history of making outrageous claims about secret Iranian shenanigans, which never quite pan out.

This is the same ‘Witness C’ who claimed that Iran was behind the Mykonos assassinations, but then withdrew his testimony, then claimed that Iran was behind the Argentina bombings, and 9-11, and now Pan Am 103 too. I’m sure I forgot a few more in there.

Gareth Porter noted this about Mesbahi:

“But in a November 2006 interview, the former head of the FBI’s Hezbollah Office, James Bernazzani, said that U.S. intelligence officials had concluded Mesbahi did not have the access to Iranian intelligence officials that he had claimed in his affidavits to Argentine officials. Bernazzani said intelligence analysts regarded Mesbahi as someone who was desperate for money and ready to ‘provide testimony to any country on any case involving Iran’.”

Do you think it is entirely a coincidence that this assertion gets rehashed now, along with the capture of yet another “Iranian arms shipment”? I don’t.

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Comments Off on Iran and Pan Am 103/Lockerbie claims: the return of a serial fabricator

US Media rewriting history to blame Iran for nuclear standoff

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | February 10, 2014

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.

February 10, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Comments Off on US Media rewriting history to blame Iran for nuclear standoff

How Rotella Reported Another Dubious Iranian Bomb Plot

By Gareth Porter | LobeLog | August 20, 2013

Introduction by Jim Lobe

While the terrible events in Egypt have delayed my plans to reply to ProPublica’s response to my critique of Sebastian Rotella’s report on the alleged build-up of Iran’s terrorist infrastructure in the Americas, Gareth Porter has written the following essay on a 2009 article by Rotella for the Los Angeles Times about an alleged bomb plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2008. It offers a very good illustration of some of the problems raised in my original critique of Rotella’s most recent work, notably the virtually exclusive reliance on sources that are clearly hostile to Iran with an interest in depicting it in the most negative light possible. But you be the judge.

It happened in Baku, transforming the capital of Azerbaijan into a battleground in a global shadow war.

Police intercepted a fleeing car and captured two suspected Hezbollah militants from Lebanon. The car contained explosives, binoculars, cameras, pistols with silencers and reconnaissance photos. Raiding alleged safe houses, police foiled what authorities say was a plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic that borders Iran.

Thus begins the only detailed English-language press account of an alleged Iranian terror plot in Azerbaijan in 2008: a May 2009 article, written with a Paris dateline, by Sebastian Rotella for the Los Angeles Times.

But despite the sense of immediacy conveyed by his lede, Rotella’s sources for his account were not Azerbaijanis. Rather, the sources Rotella quoted on the details of the alleged plot, the investigation and apprehension of the suspects consisted of an unnamed “Israeli security official”, and Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow at the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) and the author of a constant stream of articles, op-eds, and Congressional testimony reflecting the Israeli government’s interest in promoting the perception of a growing Iranian terrorist threat around the world.[1]

It was Levitt who described the alleged plot in Baku to Rotella as having been “in the advanced stages” when it was supposedly broken up by Azerbaijani security forces, an assertion echoed by the anonymous Israeli security official cited in the article:

 ”[Iran] had reached the stage where they had a network in place to do an operation,” said an Israeli security official, who requested anonymity for safety reasons. “We are seeing it all over the world. They are working very hard at it.”

So readers of the LA Times received a version of the plot that was filtered primarily, if not exclusively, through an Israeli lens.[2] Relying on Israeli officials and a close ally at a pro-Israel US think tank for a story on an alleged Iranian bomb plot against an Israeli Embassy is bound to produce a predictable story line where the accuracy can hardly be assumed at face value. Indeed, in this case, there were and remain many reasons for skepticism.

Yet, three years later, in a July 2012 article for ProPublica, he referred to the plot as though it was established fact.

Had Rotella sought an independent source in Azerbaijan, he would have learned, for example, that such alleged plots had been a virtual perennial in Baku for years. That is what a leading scholar of Azerbaijan’s external relations, Anar Valiyev, told me in an interview last November. “It’s always the same plot year after year,” said Valiyev, Dean of the School of International Affairs of the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku.

In fact, security officials in Azerbaijan had claimed the existence of a similar plot in October 2007 and January 2012 and only two months later, authorities arrested Azerbaijani suspects in two different allegedly Iranian-initiated plots to carry out terrorist actions against Western embassies, the Israeli Embassy and/or Jewish targets. In early 2013, prison sentences were announced in yet another alleged terrorist plot to attack the Eurovision song contest in Baku in 2012. Valiyev told me that those detained by Azerbaijani security officials are always charged with wanting to kill Israeli or US officials and subsequently tried for plots to overthrow the government, which carries the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

In a 2007 article in Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus, Valiyev observed that plots, assassination and coup-attempts were “thwarted” with regularity in Azerbaijan. “Periodically the government finds a scapegoat,” he wrote, to justify attacks on domestic critics, including “Wahabbis”, followers of Kurdish-Sunni scholar Said Nursi and/or Shiite radicals. Valiyev suggested that security officials might be “trying to show that radical Islamists could come to power… should the incumbent government lose the election.”

The Azerbaijani government and its security forces are not known for their devotion to the rule of law. The current president, Ilham Aliyev, is the son of Azerbaijan’s first president, Heydar Aliyev, who, in turn, was the head of the Soviet KGB before Azerbaijan’s independence. According to Jim Lobe, who visited Baku last year, dissidents regard the first Aliyev’s tenure as relatively liberal compared that of his son. A 2009 State Department cable described Ilham Aliyev as a “mafia-like” figure, likening him to a combination of Michael and Sonny Corleone in the “The Godfather”.

Valiyev observed that virtually nothing about the alleged plot made sense, beginning with the targets. According to Rotella’s story, the alleged Hezbollah operatives and their Azerbaijani confederates had planned to set off three or four car bombs at the Israeli Embassy simultaneously, using explosives they “intended to accumulate” in addition to the “hundreds of pounds of explosives” they had allegedly already acquired from “Iranian spies.”

But the Israeli Embassy is located in the seven-story Hyatt Tower office complex along with other foreign embassies, and no automobiles are allowed to park in close proximity to the complex, according to Valiyev. So the alleged plotters would have needed a prodigious amount of explosives to accomplish such a plan.

For example, the bomb that destroyed the eight-story US Air Force barracks at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 was estimated at 23,000 pounds of explosives detonated less than 100 feet away from the building. Valiyev told me that it is “practically impossible to find such components in Azerbaijan” because “Even a few kilograms of explosives would be tracked down by the ministry of national security.”

In his article, Rotella also referred — though only in passing — to the prosecutor’s charge that the alleged conspirators were planning to attack a Russian radar installation at Gabala (sometimes spelled Qabala) in northern Azerbaijan. But that part of the plot was also highly suspect, according to Valiyev. No reason was ever given for such a target, and it would have made no sense for either Hezbollah’s or Iran’s interests.

Built in 1984, the Gabala radar station was leased to the Russians until 2012, and 900 troops from the Russian Space Forces were stationed there. An attack on the station by Hezbollah or its supposed proxies in Azerbaijan would have represented a major provocation against Russia by Iran and Hezbollah, and was therefore hard to believe, as Valiyev pointed out in a July 2009 report for the Jamestown Foundation. Valiyev said it was far more plausible that the alleged plotters were simply carrying out surveillance on the station which, according to some reports, was being considered for possible integration into a regional US missile defense system.

Rotella failed to mention yet another aspect of the prosecution’s case that should arouse additional skepticism. The indictment included the charge that the leader of the alleged terrorist cell plotting these attacks was working simultaneously for Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Even though it has been long been discredited, the idea of an Iran-al-Qaeda collaboration on terrorism has been a favorite Israeli theme for some time and one that continues to be propagated by Levitt.

Rotella’s account of how the suspects were apprehended also appears implausible. In May 2008, when the bombings were supposedly still weeks away, according to his story, the suspects realized they were under surveillance and tried to flee.

But instead of hiding or destroying incriminating evidence of their terrorist plot — such as the reconnaissance photos, the explosives, the cameras and the pistols with silencers — as might be expected under those circumstances, the two suspects allegedly packed all that equipment in their car and fled toward the border with Iran, whereupon they were intercepted, according to the official line reported by Rotella.

Somehow, despite the surveillance, according to anonymous “anti-terrorist officials” cited by Rotella, “a number of Lebanese, Iranian and Azerbaijani suspects escaped by car into Iran.” Only those with the incriminating evidence — including, most implausibly, hundreds of pounds of explosives — in their car were caught, according to the account given to Rotella.

Even Rotella’s description of the two Lebanese suspects, Ali Karaki and Ali Najem Aladine, as a veteran Hezbollah external operations officer and an explosives expert, respectively, should not be taken at face value, according to Valiyev. It is more likely, he said, that the two were simply spies working for Iranian intelligence.

Even the US Embassy report on the trial of the suspects suggested it also had doubts about the alleged plot. “In early October after a closed trial,” the reporting cable said, “an Azerbaijani court sentenced a group of alleged terrorists arrested the previous Spring and supposedly connected to Lebanese Hezbollah plot to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Baku AND the Qabala radar station in northern Azerbaijan” (emphasis in the original). It added, “In a public statement the state prosecutor repeated earlier claims that the entire plot was an operation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.”

Yet another striking anomaly about the alleged plot was the fact that nothing was published about it for an entire year. No explanation for the silence was ever made public. This silence is all the more significant because during 2009 and 2010, the Israeli government either publicly alleged or leaked stories of Iranian or Hezbollah plots in Turkey and Jordan about which the host country authorities either did not comment on or offered a different explanation. But despite the extremely close relationship between Azebaijani and Israeli intelligence services (confirmed by this US Embassy cable), neither the Israeli media nor foreign journalists were tipped off to the plot until the Israelis leaked the story to Rotella a year later.[3]

The complete absence of any leak by the Israelis for an entire year about an alleged Iranian plot to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Baku casts some circumstantial doubt on whether such a plot had indeed been uncovered in 2008, as claimed in the article.

Despite the multiple anomalies surrounding this story — the complete lack of any publicly available corroborating evidence; the well-established penchant for the Aliyev government for using such alleged plots to justify rounding up domestic critics; the US Embassy’s apparent skepticism, his failure to consult independent sources; and the 2009 publication by the Jamestown Foundation of Valiyev’s own critique of the “official” version of the case — Rotella has shown no interest in clarifying what actually happened. In fact, as noted above, he referred to the plot again in a July 2012 article for ProPublica as if there was not the slightest doubt with regard to its actual occurrence, identifying it, as he did in the original article, as an attempted retaliation for the assassination of a senior Hezbollah operative three months before:

Conflict with Israel intensified in February 2008 after a car bomb in the heart of Damascus killed Imad Mughniyah, a notorious Hezbollah military leader and ally of Iranian intelligence. Iranian Hezbollah publicly accused Israel and vowed revenge.

Within weeks, a plot was under way against the Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan. Police broke up the cell in May 2008. The suspects included Azeri accomplices, a senior Hezbollah field operative and a Hezbollah explosives expert. Police also arrested two Iranian spies, but they were released within weeks because of pressure from Tehran, Western anti-terror officials say.[4] The other suspects were convicted.

As narrowly sourced as it was, Rotella’s original 2009 story thus helped make a dubious tale of a bomb plot in Baku part of the media narrative. More recently, he continued that pattern by promoting the unsubstantiated charge by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman and various pro-Israel groups and right-wing members of Congress, such as Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, that Iran poses a growing terrorist threat to the US in the Americas. While Jim has helped deconstruct that story line, I have recently marshaled evidence showing that Nisman’s charges about alleged Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing and the 2007 JFK airport plot were tendentious and highly questionable.

[1] In one illustration of Rotella’s and Levitt’s long-time symbiosis, Levitt cited Rotella’s account of the alleged Baku plot as his main source about the incident in a 2013 article on alleged Hezbollah terrorism published by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC).

[2] Rotella referred twice to “anti-terrorism officials” as sources for describing the surveillance of the alleged perpetrators that preceded their arrest and past work for Hezbollah. Of course, the phrase “anti-terrorism officials” does not exclude the possibility that they, too, were Israeli.)

[3] The first time the alleged plot’s details appeared in the Anglophone Israeli press was when Haaretz published a several hundred-word piece based virtually exclusively on Rotella’s account with the added detail, citing “Israeli sources,” that the “plotters also planned to kidnap the Israeli ambassador in Baku…”

[4] This account, incidentally, was the first to report the arrest in the case of “two Iranian spies”, another anomaly that may be explained by a flurry of media reports in 2010 that it was the two Lebanese who were released as part of a larger prisoner exchange that also included an Azerbaijani nuclear scientist arrested as a spy by Iran.

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Comments Off on How Rotella Reported Another Dubious Iranian Bomb Plot

Fake AP Graph Exposes Israeli Fraud and IAEA Credulity

That Associated Press story displaying a graph alleged to be part of an Iranian computer simulation of a nuclear explosion — likely leaked by Israel with the intention of reinforcing the media narrative of covert Iranian work on nuclear weapons – raises serious questions about the International Atomic Energy Association’s (IAEA) claim that it has credible evidence of such modeling work by Iran.

The graph of the relationship between energy and power shown in the AP story has now been revealed to contain absurdly large errors indicating its fraudulence.

Those revelations indicate, in turn, that the IAEA based its publication of detailed allegations of nuclear weapons-related Iranian computer modeling on evidence that should have been rejected as having no credibility.

Former senior IAEA inspector Robert Kelley, who has challenged the accuracy of IAEA reporting on Iran, told Lobe Log in an e-mail that “It’s clear the graph has nothing to do with a nuclear bomb.”

“The pretty, symmetrical bell shaped curve at the bottom is not typical of a nuclear explosion but of some more idealized natural phenomena or mathematical equation,” he said. “Clearly it is a student example of how to perform integrals to which someone has attached some meaningless numbers.”

Nuclear physicists Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress also pointed out that the graph depicted by AP is not only so rudimentary and crude that it could have been done by an undergraduate student, but is based on a fundamental error of mind-numbing proportions.

The graph shown in the AP story plots two curves, one of energy versus time, the other of power output versus time. But Butt and Dalnoki-Veress noted that the two curves are inconsistent. The peak level of power shown in the graph, they said, is nearly a million times too high.

After a quick look at the graph, the head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Cal State Sacramento, Dr. Hossein Partovi, observed, “[T]he total energy is more than four orders of magnitude (forty thousand times) smaller than the total integrated power that it must equal!” Essentially, the mismatch between the level of total energy and total power on the graph is “more than four orders of magnitude”, which Partovi explained means that the level of energy is 40,000 times too small in relation to the level of power.

One alert reader of the account of the debunking of the graph at the Mondoweiss blog cited further evidence supporting Kelley’s observation that the graph shown by AP was based on an another graph that had nothing to do with nuclear explosions.

The reader noted that the notation “kT” shown after “energy” on the right hand scale of the graph does not stand for “kilotons” as Jahn suggested, but “Boltzmann constant” (k) multiplied by temperature (T). The unit of tons, on the other hand, is always abbreviated with a lower case “t”, he pointed out, so kilotons would be denoted as “kt”.

The reader also stated that the “kT” product is used in physics as a scaling factor for energy values in molecular-scale systems, such as a microsecond laser pulse.

The evidence thus suggests that someone took a graph related to an entirely different problem and made changes to show a computer simulation of a 50 kiloton explosion. The dotted line on the graph leads the eye directly to the number 50 on the right-hand energy scale, which would lead most viewers to believe that it is the result of modeling a 50 kiloton nuclear explosion.

The graph was obviously not done by a real Iranian scientist — much less someone working in a top secret nuclear weapons research program — but by an amateur trying to simulate a graph that would be viewed, at least by non-specialists, as something a scientist might have drawn.

Although AP reporter George Jahn wrote that officials who provided the diagram did so “only on condition that they and their country not be named”, the country behind the graph is not much of a mystery.

Blogger Richard Silverstein has reported that a “highly-placed Israeli source” told him the diagram “was stolen by the Mossad from an Iranian computer” using one of the various malware programs deployed against Iran.

Whether one chooses to rely on Silverstein’s reporting or not, it is clear that the graph is part of a longer stream of suspicious documents supposedly obtained by Israeli intelligence from inside Iran’s nuclear program and then given to the IAEA over the past few years.

Former IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei refers in his memoirs to documents provided by Israel in 2009 “purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007.” ElBaradei adds that the Agency’s “technical experts” had “raised numerous questions about the documents’ authenticity”, and suggested that US intelligence “did not buy the “evidence” put forward by Israel” in its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.

Jahn’s story indicates that this and similar graphs were the basis for the IAEA’s publishing charges by two unnamed states that Iran had done computer modeling that the agency said could only have been about nuclear weapons.

Jahn cites a “senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue” as confirming that the graph accompanying his story was one of “a series of Iranian computer-generated models provided to the IAEA by the intelligences services of member nations.”

Those “computer generated models” were discussed in the November 2011 report, which referred to “[i]nformation provided to the Agency by two Member States relating to modelling [sic] studies alleged to have been conducted in 2008 and 2009 by Iran….”  The unnamed member states were alleging that the Iranian studies “involved the modelling [sic] of spherical geometries, consisting of components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression, for their neutronic behaviour at high density, and a determination of the subsequent nuclear explosive yield.”

Nothing in that description of the alleged modeling is documented by the type of graph shown by the AP story.

The IAEA report concludes by saying, “The information also identifies models said to have been used in those studies and the results of these calculations, which the Agency has seen.”

In other words, the only evidence that the IAEA had actually seen was the graphs of the alleged computer modeling, of which the graph shown in the AP story is alleged to be an example. But the fact that data on that graph has been credibly shown to be off by four orders of magnitude suggests that the Israeli claim of Iranian computer modeling of “components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression” was completely fabricated.

Former IAEA Inspector Kelley also told Lobe Log that “We can only hope that the claim that the IAEA has relied on this crude hoax is false. Otherwise their credibility has been shattered.”

– 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.

December 1, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fake AP Graph Exposes Israeli Fraud and IAEA Credulity

Why the Buenos Aires Bombing is a False Indicator on Burgas

By Gareth Porter | Dissident Voice | July 22nd, 2012

Immediately after the terror bombing of a busload of Israeli youth in Burgas, Bulgaria, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a “senior U.S. official” expressed certainty about Iran’s responsibility. Since then, the White House has backed away from that position, after Bulgarian investigators warned against that assumption before the investigation is complete.

Similary, it is generally assumed that Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for the terrorist bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, because US and Israeli officials, journalists and commentators have repeated that conclusion so often. It was the first reference made by those who were most eager to blame the Burgas bombing on Iran, such as Matthew Levitt and Jeffrey Goldberg.

But that terrorist bombing 18 years ago was not what it has come to appear by the constant drip of unsubstantiated journalistic and political references to it. The identification of that bombing as an Iranian operation should be regarded as a cautionary tale about the consequences of politics determining the results of a terrorist investigation.

The case made by the Argentine prosecutors that Iran and Hezbollah committed that 1994 terrorist bombing has long been cited as evidence that Iran is the world’s premier terrorist state.

But the Argentine case was fraudulent in its origins and produced a trail of false evidence in service of a frame-up. There is every reason to believe that the entire Argentine investigation was essentially a cover-up that protected the real perpetrators.

That is what I learned from my ten-month investigation in 2006-07 of the case, the results of which were published in early 2008.

William Brencick, who was then chief of the political section at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires and the primary Embassy contact for the investigation of the AMIA bombing, told me in an interview in June 2007 that the US conviction about Iranian culpability was based on what he called a “wall of assumptions” — a wall that obstructed an objective analysis of the case. The first assumption was that it was a suicide bombing, and that such an operation pointed to Hezbollah, and therefore Iran.

But the evidence produced to support that assumption was highly suspect. Of 200 initial eyewitnesses to the bombing, only one claimed to have seen the white Renault van that was supposed to have been the suicide car. And the testimony of that lone witness was contradicted by her sister, who said that she had seen only a black and yellow taxicab.

That is only the first of many indications that the official version of how the bombing went down was a tissue of lies. For example:

  • The US explosives expert sent soon after the bombing to analyze the crime scene found evidence suggesting that at least some of the explosives had been placed inside the community center, not in a car outside.
  • The engine block of the alleged suicide car which Police said led them to the arrest of the Shi’a used car salesman and chop shop owner who sold the car, was supposedly found in the rubble with its identification number clearly visible — something any serious bombing team, including Hezbollah, would have erased, unless it was intentionally left to lead to the desired result.
  • Representatives of the Menem government twice offered large bribes to the used car dealer in custody to get him to finger others, including three police officials linked to a political rival of Menem. The judge whose bribe was videotaped and shown on Argentine television was eventually impeached.

Apart from an Argentine investigation that led down a false trail, there were serious problems with the motives attributed to Iran and Hezbollah for killing large numbers of Jewish citizens of Argentina. The official explanation was that Iran was taking revenge on the Menem government for having reneged, under pressure from the Clinton administration, on its agreements with Iran on nuclear cooperation.

But in fact, Argentina had only halted two of the three agreements reached in 1987 and 1988, as was revealed, ironically, in documents cited by the Argentine prosecutor’s report on the arrest warrant for Iranian officials dated October 2006 (unfortunately never made available in electronic form). The documents showed that the Menem government was continuing to send 20 percent enriched uranium to Iran under the third agreement, and there were negotiations continuing both before and after the bombing to resume full nuclear cooperation.

As for Hezbollah, it was generally assumed that it wanted to avenge the Israeli killing of its “ally” Mustafa Dirani in May 1994. But when Hezbollah really wanted to take revenge against Israel, as it did after the Israeli massacre in Qana in 1996, it did not target civilians in a distant country with no relationship to the conflict with Israel; it openly attacked Israel with Katyusha rockets.

It is not clear yet who committed the latest terrorist bombing against Jewish civilians in Burgas, Bulgaria. But the sorry history of that Buenos Aires investigation should not be used to draw a premature conclusion about this matter or any other terrorist action.


Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Comments Off on Why the Buenos Aires Bombing is a False Indicator on Burgas

Objective of US and Israeli Policy is Economic Warfare Against Iran

| June 6, 2012 

Gareth Porter: IAEA keeps Iran in “dock of global public opinion” while sanctions aim to weaken Iran as a regional power

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Comments Off on Objective of US and Israeli Policy is Economic Warfare Against Iran

Iranian Diplomat Says IAEA Undermined Recent Talks to Satisfy Israel and West

| April 3, 2012

Gareth Porter: IAEA demanded to see Parchin on recent visit ahead of schedule to make Iran look uncooperative

April 3, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Video | , , , | 1 Comment

How the Media Got the Parchin Access Story Wrong

By Gareth Porter | Dissident Voice | March 1st, 2012

News media reported last week that Iran had flatly refused the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its Parchin military test facility, based on a statement to reporters by IAEA Deputy Director General, Herman Nackaerts, that “We could not get access”.

Now, however, explicit statements on the issue by the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA and the language of the new IAEA report indicate that Iran did not reject an IAEA visit to the base per se but was only refusing access as long as no agreement had been reached with the IAEA governing the modalities of cooperation.

That new and clarifying information confirms what I reported February 23. Based on the history of Iranian negotiations with the IAEA and its agreement to allow two separate IAEA visits to Parchin in 2005, the Parchin access issue is a bargaining chip that Iran is using to get the IAEA to moderate its demands on Iran in forging an agreement on how to resolve the years-long IAEA investigation into the “Possible Military Dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear program.

In an email to me and in interviews with Russia Today, Reuters, and the Fars News Agency, the Iranian Permanent Representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Iran told the high-level IAEA mission that it would allow access to Parchin once modalities of Iran-IAEA cooperation had been agreed on.

“We declared that, upon finalization of the modality, we will give access [to Parchin],” Soltanieh wrote in an email to me.

In the Russia Today interview on February 27, reported by Israel’s Haaretz and The Hindu in India but not by western news media, Soltanieh referred to two IAEA inspection visits to Parchin in January and November 2005 and said Iran needs to have “assurances” that it would not “repeat the same bitter experience, when they just come and ask for the access.” There should be a “modality” and a “frame of reference, of what exactly they are looking for, they have to provide the documents and exactly where they want [to go],” he said.

But Soltanieh also indicated that such an inspection visit is conditional on agreement about the broader framework for cooperation on clearing up suspicions of a past nuclear weapons program. “[I]n principle we have already accepted that when this text is concluded we will take these steps,” Soltanieh said.

The actual text of the IAEA report, dated February 24, provides crucial information about the Iranian position in the talks that is consistent with what Soltanieh is saying.

In its account of the first round of talks in late January on what the IAEA is calling a “structured approach to the clarification of all outstanding issues”, the report states: “The Agency requested access to the Parchin site, but Iran did not grant access to the site at that time [emphasis added].” That wording obviously implies that Iran was willing to grant access to Parchin if certain conditions were met.

On the February 20-21 meetings, the agency said that Iran “stated that it was still not able to grant access to that site.” There was likely a more complex negotiating situation behind the lack of agreement on a Parchin visit than had been suggested by Nackaerts and reported in western news media.

But not a single major news media report has reported the significant difference between initial media coverage on the Parchin access issue and the information now available from the initial IAEA report and Soltanieh. None have reported the language of the report indicating that Iran’s refusal to approve a Parchin visit in January was qualified by “at that time”.

Only AFP and Reuters quoted Soltanieh at all. Reuters, which actually interviewed Soltanieh, quoted him saying, “It was assumed that after we agreed on the modality, then access would be given.” But that quote only appears in the very last sentence of the article, several paragraphs after the reiteration of the charge that Iran “refused to grant [the IAEA] access” to Parchin.

The day after that story was published, Reuters ran another story focusing on the IAEA report without referring either to its language on Parchin or to Soltanieh’s clarification.

The Los Angeles Times ignored the new information and simply repeated the charge that Iran “refused to allow IAEA inspectors to visit Parchin military base”. Then it added its own broad interpretation that Iran “has refused to answer key questions about its nuclear development program”. Iran’s repeated assertions that the documents used to pose questions to it are fabricated and were thus dismissed as non-qualified answers.

The Parchin access story entered a new phase today with a Reuters story quoting Deputy Director General Nackaerts in a briefing for diplomats that there “may be some ongoing activities at Parchin which add urgency to why we want to go”. Nackaerts attributed that idea to an unnamed “Member State”, which is apparently suggesting that the site in question is being “cleaned up”.

The identity of that “Member State”, which the IAEA continues to go out of its way to conceal, is important, because if it is Israel, it reflects an obvious interest in convincing the world that Iran is working on nuclear weapons. As former IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei recounts on p. 291 of his memoirs, “In the late summer of 2009, the Israelis provided the IAEA with documents of their own, purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapon studies until at least 2007.”

The news media should be including cautionary language any time information from an unnamed “Member State” is cited as the source for allegations about covert Iranian nuclear weapons work. It could very likely be coming from a State with a political agenda. But the unwritten guidelines for news media coverage of the IAEA and Iran, as we have seen in recent days, are obviously very different.


Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

March 1, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Comments Off on How the Media Got the Parchin Access Story Wrong