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How Syrian-Nuke Evidence Was Faked

By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | November 19, 2017

When Yousry Abushady studied the highly unusual May 2008 CIA video on a Syrian nuclear reactor that was allegedly under construction when an Israeli jet destroyed it seven months earlier, the senior specialist on North Korean nuclear reactors on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s staff knew that something was very wrong.

Abushady quickly determined that the CIA had been seriously misled by Israeli intelligence and immediately informed the two highest officials of the Vienna-based IAEA, Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and Deputy Director for Safeguards, Olli Heinonen, that the CIA’s conclusions were not consistent with the most basic technical requirements for such a reactor.

But it did not take long for Abushady to realize that the top IAEA officials were not interested in drawing on his expertise in regard to the alleged Syrian reactor. In fact, the IAEA cited nonexistent evidence linking the site to a Syrian nuclear program while covering up real evidence that would have clearly refuted such a claim, according to Abushady and other former senior IAEA officials.

When Abudhsady met with Heinonen to discuss his analysis of the CIA’s case in May 2008, Abushady asked to be included on the team for the anticipated inspection of the al-Kibar site because of his unique knowledge of that type reactor.

But Heinonen refused his request, citing an unwritten IAEA rule that inspectors are not allowed to carry out inspections in their countries of origin. Abushady objected, pointing out that he is Egyptian, not Syrian, to which Heinonen responded, “But you are an Arab and a Muslim!” according to Abushady.

Heinonen has declined a request for his comment on Abushady’s account of the conversation.

A Curious Inspection

In June 2008, an IAEA team consisting of Heinonen and two other inspectors took environmental samples at the al-Kibar site. In November 2008, the IAEA issued a report saying that laboratory analysis of a number of natural uranium particles collected at the site “indicates that the uranium is anthropogenic,” meaning that it had been processed by humans.

The implication was clearly that this was a reason to believe that the site had been connected with a nuclear program. But former IAEA officials have raised serious questions about Heinonen’s handling of the physical evidence gathered from the Syrian site as well as his characterization of the evidence in that and other IAEA reports.

Tariq Rauf who headed the IAEA’s Verification and Security Policy Coordination Office until 2011, has pointed out that one of the IAEA protocols applicable to these environmental samples is that “the results from all three or four labs to have analyzed the sample must match to give a positive or negative finding on the presence and isotopics or uranium and/or plutonium.”

However, in the Syrian case the laboratories to which the samples had been sent had found no evidence of such man-made uranium in the samples they had tested. ElBaradei himself had announced in late September, three months after the samples had originally been taken but weeks before the report was issued, “So far, we have found no indication of any nuclear material.” So the November 2008 IAEA report claiming a positive finding was not consistent with its protocols.

But the samples had been sent to yet another laboratory, which had come up with a positive test result for a sample, which had then been touted as evidence that the site had held a nuclear reactor. That in itself is an indication that a fundamental IAEA protocol had been violated in the handling of the samples from Syria.

One of the inspectors involved in the IAEA inspection at al-Kibar later revealed to a fellow IAEA inspector what actually happened in the sample collection there. Former senior IAEA inspector Robert Kelley recalled in an interview that, after the last results of the samples from the al-Kibar inspection had come back from all the laboratories, the inspector, Mongolian national Orlokh Dorjkhaidav, came to see him because he was troubled by the results and wanted to tell someone he trusted.

Negative Results

Dorjkhaidav told Kelley that all the samples taken from the ground in the vicinity of the bombed building had tested negative for man-made uranium and that the only sample that had tested positive had been taken in the toilet of the support building.

Dorjkhaidav later left the IAEA and returned to Mongolia, where he died in December 2015. A video obituary for Dorjkhaidav confirmed his participation in the inspection in Syria. Kelley revealed the former inspector’s account to this writer only after Dorjkhaidav’s death.

In an e-mail response to a request for his comment on Kelley’s account of the Syrian environmental samples, Heinonen would neither confirm nor deny that the swipe sample described by Dorjkhaidav had been taken inside the support building. But in January 2013, David Albright, Director of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C., who has co-authored several articles with Heinonen, acknowledged in a commentary on his think tank’s website that the al-Kibar uranium particles had been “found in a changing room in a building associated with the reactor.”

Given the dispersal of any nuclear material around the site by the Israeli bombing, if man-made uranium was present at the site, it should not have shown up only inside the support facility but should have been present in the samples taken from the ground outside.

Former IAEA senior inspector Kelley said in an e-mail that a “very likely explanation” for this anomaly is that it was a case of “cross contamination’ from the inspector’s own clothing. Such cross contamination had occurred in IAEA inspections on a number of occasions, according to both Kelley and Rauf.

Kelley, who had been in charge of inspections in Iraq in the early 1990s, recalled that a set of environmental swipes taken from nuclear facilities that the United States had bombed in Iraq had appeared to show that that Iraq had enriched uranium to 90 percent. But it turned out that they had been taken with swipe paper that had been contaminated accidentally by particles from the IAEA laboratory.

But what bothered Abushady the most was that the IAEA report on Syria had remained silent on the crucial fact that none of the sample results had shown any trace of nuclear-grade graphite.

Abushady recalled that when he challenged Heinonen on the absence of any mention of the nuclear graphite issue in the draft report in a Nov. 13, 2008 meeting, Heinonen said the inspectors had found evidence of graphite but added, “We haven’t confirmed that it was nuclear-grade.”

Abushady retorted, “Do you know what nuclear-grade graphite is? If you found it you would know it immediately.”

Heinonen was invited to comment on Abushady’s account of that meeting for this article but declined to do so.

After learning that the report scheduled to be released in November would be silent on the absence of nuclear graphite, Abushady sent a letter to ElBaradei asking him not to release the report on Syria as it was currently written. Abushady protested the report’s presentation of the environmental sampling results, especially in regard to nuclear-grade graphite.

“In my technical view,” Abushady wrote, “these results are the basis to confirm the contrary, that the site cannot [have been] actually a nuclear reactor.”

But the report was published anyway, and a few days later, ElBaradei’s Special Assistant Graham Andrew responded to Abushady’s message by ordering him to “stop sending e-mails on this subject” and to “respect established lines of responsibility, management and communication.”

A Clear Message

The message was clear: the agency was not interested in his information despite the fact that he knew more about the issue than anyone else in the organization.

At a briefing for Member States on the Syria reactor issue on Feb. 26, 2009, the Egyptian representative to the IAEA confronted Heinonen on the absence of nuclear-grade graphite in the environmental samples. This time, Heinonen had a different explanation for the failure to find any such graphite. He responded that it was “not known whether the graphite was in the building at the time of the destruction,” according to the diplomatic cable reporting on the briefing that was later released by WikiLeaks.

But that response, too, was disingenuous, according to Abushady. “Graphite is a structural part of the reactor core in the gas-cooled reactor,” he explained. “It is not something you add at the end.”

The IAEA remained silent on the question of graphite in nine more reports issued over more than two years. When the IAEA finally mentioned the issue for the first time officially in a May 2011 report, it claimed that the graphite particles were “too small to permit an analysis of the purity compared to that normally required for use in a reactor.”

But American nuclear engineer Behrad Nakhai, who worked at Oak National Laboratories for many years, said in an interview that the laboratories definitely have the ability to determine whether the particles were nuclear grade or not, so the claim “doesn’t make sense.”

News outlets have never reported on the IAEA’s role in helping to cover up the false CIA claim of a North-Korean-style nuclear reactor in the desert by a misleading portrayal of the physical evidence collected in Syria and suppressing the evidence that would have made that role clear.

Heinonen, who was directly responsible for the IAEA’s role in the Syria cover-up, left the IAEA in August 2010 and within a month was given a position at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He has continued to take positions on the Iran nuclear negotiations that were indistinguishable from those of the Netanyahu government. And he is now senior adviser on science and non-proliferation at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank whose positions on the Iran nuclear issues have closely followed those of the Likud governments in Israel.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian on U.S. national security policy and the recipient of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published in 2014.

[For a previous segment of this two-part series, see https://consortiumnews.com/2017/11/18/israels-ploy-selling-a-syrian-nuke-strike/]

November 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Albright: Congress’ Favorite Fear-Monger

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep In America | August 5, 2015

This just in! David Albright of the Washington-based propaganda factory Institute for Science and International Security is making predictions about

Iran’s nuclear program again.

After years and years of his utter nonsense, how can anyone take this guy and his ridiculous analysis seriously?

Here’s a quick trip – just using his own reports, not his endless appearances spouting disingenuous garbage in the media – down memory hole lane:

But don’t worry, Albright will never pay any professional price for his endless, agenda-driven drivel. And he’ll surely be back soon with more scary predictions and alarming speculation. We won’t have to wait long.

August 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

What is the Quality of Scientific Evidence Against Iran?

Although the legal debates about Iran are not taking place in an international court – at least not yet – the veracity of the scientific evidence espoused by all sides to support their legal arguments is nevertheless an extremely important matter, particularly in light of the debacle of the 2003 Iraq war having been based, at least in part, on bad technical and scientific analysis of intelligence information on similar questions. – Dan Joyner

By Yousaf Butt | Arms Control Law | June 18, 2014

This week the P5+1 and Iranian officials meet again to try to narrow differences over a comprehensive nuclear deal, which is to last for an as-yet unknown duration. Reaching an agreement will be a challenging task because Iran and P5+1 seem to disagree – among other things – about the enrichment capacity Iran should be allowed during the (unknown) term of the comprehensive deal.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity are important because they would lengthen the time needed for Iran to “breakout” and quickly enrich uranium to weapons-grade in any hypothetical race to a uranium-based device.

But Jeffrey Lewis of the Monterey Institute has suggested that such limits are meaningless, saying, “This is completely wrong. Breakout is precisely the wrong measure of whether a deal is successful,” because the Iranians – goes the argument – could use a covert facility to breakout if they wanted to do that.

Instead, intensive verification and intrusive inspections above and beyond what is codified in international law by the so-called “Additional Protocol” have been suggested to try to address this fear.

Amid this debate within the nonproliferation community, Gareth Porter last week poked a hornet’s nest by suggesting that key evidence against Iran was fabricated and distributed by Iran’s adversaries Israel and the MEK group.

This is not the first time someone has claimed that forged evidence was being used by the IAEA in its case against Iran: highly respected experts have warned about this before.

In a separate report last week, Mr. Porter assesses that David Albright, the founder and executive director of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, DC, a prominent commentator on nonproliferation and Iran’s nuclear program has embraced an alarmist line on the Iran issue – despite his knowledge that there were serious problems with the evidence on which it was based.

My intention here isn’t to evaluate the specific items of evidence presented in Mr. Porter’s reports but to weigh in with my own expert analysis –  some of it done in collaboration with Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress of the Monterey Institute – of the quality of the evidence against Iran.

By way of context, Iran has never been formally accused of manufacturing nuclear weapons. The IAEA did determine that Iran was in “non-compliance” with its safeguards agreement in 2005. But this had to do with technical nuclear material accountancy matters — “non-compliance” does not mean Iran was making nuclear weapons. For example, South Korea and Egypt both violated their safeguards agreements in 2004 and 2005. But these U.S. allies were never even referred to the UN Security Council — let alone targeted for sanctions. Pierre Goldschmidt, a former deputy director of safeguards at the IAEA, has noted the “danger of setting bad precedents based on arbitrary criteria or judgments informed by political considerations” at the IAEA.

It is not always easy to obtain access to the actual evidence being used against Iran, but occasionally some is leaked to the press and is amenable to scientific scrutiny. Below, I list some of this evidence being used against Iran, as well some historical record of the group(s) making the allegations:

[1]. An indication into the quality – or, rather, lack thereof – of the evidence against Iran comes from my analysis (done with another physicist, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress of the Monterey Institute) of the graphs published by the Associated Press purporting to show an Iranian interest in modeling a nuclear explosion. Aside from the fact that there is nothing illegal with doing such theoretical modeling, our analysis showed that there was a large numerical error in the graph and that the time-scale of the explosion was wrong.

We concluded that the AP graphs were either shoddy science and/or simply amateurish forgeries.

[2]. In February 2013, the Washington Post published a story that “purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 … ring-shaped magnets” and that such “highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines … [are] a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program.” As evidence, the Post’s Joby Warrick cited a report authored by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

As I outlined in the The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the time, the ring-magnet story was exaggerated and inaccurate.

The Washington Post’s ombudsman eventually got involved and his report is appended below (the cc field has been x’ed out as it mentions the emails of editors & others):

From: Patrick Pexton [pextonp@washpost.com]

Sent: Monday, February 25, 2013 2:25 PM

To: Butt, Yousaf Mahmood

Cc: xxxx,xxxx,xxxx,xxxx

Subject: RE: Response from ombudsman

Hello everyone.

I’ve read everything that Mr. Butt referred me to, and Joby’s story.

A couple of things trouble me. Language like “place the order” doesn’t seem borne out by the nature of those notes that ISIS included copies of in the PDF. It certainly looks like that Iranian company is looking to buy magnets, but I’m not sure I would say “place the order” or “new orders” based on that evidence. And that there is no evidence that a purchase actually went through, as Joby wrote, correct? And there is no date, other than mentioned in the story “about a year ago.” That’s pretty vague, and Iran since then has made some moves, as Joby reported, such as converting some  enriched uranium into metal, that suggest it might be listening to international concerns.

Is Joby persuaded that these magnets could only be used for centrifuges? Could Mr. Butt be correct that they could be used for other things and Iran would have the industrial and economic demand for them as speaker magnets or what have you? And how would these magnets, if they were intended for use in centrifuges, play in to the damage caused by stuxnet, in which many of the first generation Iranian centrifuges were damaged?

Just before nuclear talks get underway I am always suspicious of stories that suddenly surface that seem to reinforce the narrative that Iran is building nuclear weapons.

Last July, Joby had the story on the potential increasing threat of the Iranian Navy against the U.S. Navy. Nowhere in that story was there anything about the economic sanctions that many defense experts say are hurting the Iranian military deeply.

I’ve been on some 60 U.S. Navy ships, including five or six carrier battle groups underway. The planes and helicopters that circle in the air above battle groups have considerable surveillance- and fire power. So do U.S. attack submarines who patrol with the battle groups. The new littoral combat ships have plenty of ability to attack shoreline installations in minutes. That is a formidable array of offensive capability.

Of course we should always be vigilant and pay attention to information that comes to us, and report it out. But neither do we want to overstate any threat from any enemy, real or potential.

Thanks for your time.

__________________________________

Patrick B. Pexton

Ombudsman

The Washington Post

202-334-7521

cell 202 738-3672

Lastly, LobeLog requested a Q&A on the subject which was published and stands as the final word on the matter of the alleged ring magnet web-inquiry.

[3]. A lot has been written about the Parchin military base in Iran by David Albright’s and his group at ISIS. However, SIPRI published an expert report by Robert Kelley contesting almost everything asserted by ISIS regarding the Parchin base.

Kelley is a true authority on such matters, being a nuclear engineer and a veteran of over 35 years in the US nuclear weapons complex, most recently at Los Alamos. He managed the centrifuge and plutonium metallurgy programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and was seconded by the US DOE to the IAEA where he served twice as a Director in the nuclear inspections in Iraq, in 1992-1993 and 2002-2003. He is currently an Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Most importantly, the SIPRI report says that the paving work at Parchin would not completely hide any alleged contamination because there is an area west of the building of interest that remains untouched. And, in any case, the important samples in such a test would come from within buildings not outside on the ground.

Let’s also recall that the IAEA has already visited Parchin twice in 2005 and found nothing – although they did not go to the specific area they are now interested in. However, the IAEA could have gone to that area even in 2005 – they simply chose to go to other sites on the military base. As the IAEA report at the time summarized:

“The Agency was given free access to those buildings and their surroundings and was allowed to take environmental samples, the results of which did not indicate the presence of nuclear material, nor did the Agency see any relevant dual use equipment or materials in the locations visited.”

When the IAEA last went to Parchin, Olli Heinonen was head of IAEA safeguards and led the inspections – the methodology for choosing which buildings to inspect is described in an excellent Christian Science Monitor article which is worth reading in its entirety, but I quote the relevant bits:

“At the time, it[Parchin] was divided into four geographical sectors by the Iranians. Using satellite and other data, inspectors were allowed by the Iranians to choose any sector, and then to visit any building inside that sector. Those 2005 inspections included more than five buildings each, and soil and environmental sampling. They yielded nothing suspicious, but did not include the building now of interest to the IAEA.

“The selection [of target buildings] did not take place in advance, it took place just when we arrived, so all of Parchin was available,” recalls Heinonen, who led those past inspections. “When we drove there and arrived, we told them which building.”

In the same article Heinonen also explains why the current IAEA approach is deeply, logically flawed:

“Also unusual is how open and specific the IAEA has been about what exactly it wants to see, which could yield doubts about the credibility of any eventual inspection.

“I’m puzzled that the IAEA wants to in this case specify the building in advance, because you end up with this awkward situation,” says Olli Heinonen, the IAEA’s head of safeguards until mid-2010.

“First of all, if it gets delayed it can be sanitized. And it’s not very good for Iran. Let’s assume [inspectors] finally get there and they find nothing. People will say, ‘Oh, it’s because Iran has sanitized it,’” says Mr. Heinonen, who is now at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. “But in reality it may have not been sanitized. Iran is also a loser in that case. I don’t know why [the IAEA] approach it this way, which was not a standard practice…”

Hans Blix, former chief of the IAEA and later of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, has also expressed surprise at the focus on Parchin, as a military base that inspectors had been to before.

“Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site,” Mr. Blix told Al Jazeera English… “In a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be.”

One of the reasons that Mr. Blix says that is because normally the IAEA does not have the legal authority to inspect undeclared non-nuclear-materials related facilities, in a nation – like Iran — that has not ratified the Additional Protocol.

The IAEA can call for “special inspections” but they have not done so. They can also choose arbitration, as specified in the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, but again they have not done that.

So Iran has been more cooperative than they have needed to be in already allowing inspections of Parchin.

Regarding reports (e.g. from the ISIS group ) that Iran may be sanitizing the site, perhaps to prevent the IAEA from detecting uranium contamination, Kelley explicitly states in the SIPRI report mentioned above:

“Iran has engaged in large-scale bulldozing operations on about 25 hectares near the Parchin building. This includes the bulldozing of old dirt piles to level a field 500 metres north of the building of interest. However, there has been no such activity in the area west of the building, except for removing some parking pads within about 10 m of it. The fact that the building’s immediate vicinity has been largely untouched on the west side strongly suggests that the purpose of the earth-moving operations was for construction and renovation work and not for ‘sanitizing’ the site by covering up contamination.”

In another article Kelley has stated:

“Some of the experiments described by the IAEA do not and cannot use uranium. The results would be inconclusive if they did. So the basis for the IAEA’s requests continues to be opaque. The timeline for the alleged experiments is also highly suspect, with claims that massive experimental facilities had been fabricated even before they had been designed, according to the available information. The IAEA work to date, including the mischaracterization of satellite images of Parchin, is more consistent with an IAEA agenda to target Iran than of technical analysis.”  [Emphasis added]

[4]. The biased analysis of Parchin is, unfortunately, part of a longstanding pattern at ISIS. David Albright co-authored a Sept. 10, 2002, article – entitled “Is the Activity at Al Qaim Related to Nuclear Efforts?” – which declared:

“High-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq’s al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility (Unit-340), located in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border. This site was where Iraq extracted uranium for its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. …

“This image raises questions about whether Iraq has rebuilt a uranium extraction facility at the site, possibly even underground. … Unless inspectors go to the site and investigate all activities, the international community cannot exclude the possibility that Iraq is secretly producing a stockpile of uranium in violation of its commitments under Security Council resolutions. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.”

Of course the passage is evasive and does not make any definitive claim. But its suggestive and misleading rhetoric implying a possible nuclear weapon program in Iraq turned out to be wrong.

However, ISIS has written almost identical slippery rhetorical statements about various facilities in Iran. There is no end to such “possible facilities” in any country. The point to take home from the erroneous (suggestive) interpretation of the satellite images of facilities in Iraq is that it is very difficult to be sure of what one is seeing in satellite imagery.

[5]. The Exploding Bridgewire Detonators (EBWs) issue is among other pieces of circumstantial evidence publicized by Albright’s ISIS group as possibly implicating Iran. But there are many non-nuclear weapons uses for EBWs, especially for an oil-rich nation like Iran. One manufacturer of EBWs explains that these have “… applications in explosive welding of piping and tubing, seismic studies, oil well perforating & hard rock mining.”

The manufacturer is explicit that EBWs “… have found a wide range of applications within the mining, explosive metal welding and energy exploration field. Many of these uses could not be accomplished using conventional blasting equipment without a compromise of safety.”

Furthermore, Iran was not secretive about its work on EBWs. As the November 2011 IAEA report states: Iran “provided the Agency with a copy of a paper relating to EBW development work presented by two Iranian researchers at a conference held in Iran in 2005. A similar paper was published by the two researchers at an international conference later in 2005.”

The Agency, however, noted, “Iran’s development of such detonators and equipment is a matter of concern…” It really is not given its other civilian (and conventional military) uses, and Iran’s relative openness in pursuing the technology.

The expert Atomic Reporters have weighed in: “While the IAEA reported in 2011 that there are ‘limited civilian and conventional military applications’ for exploding bridge wire detonators, the open source literature shows the technology is widely used in the mining, aerospace and defense industries.”

Again, as long ago as 2011 Robert Kelley, a former IAEA inspector, stated: “The Agency is wrong. There are lots of applications for EBWs… To be wrong on this point, and then to try to misdirect opinion shows a bias towards their desired outcome… That is unprofessional.”

[6]. Other technical experts have also weighed in on Albright’s and ISIS’ track-record. For instance, in a long-running argument with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) over the capability of Iran’s centrifuges at the Fordow facility, ISIS consistently exaggerated their capability.  Ivanka Barzashka and Dr. Ivan Oelrich explained how ISIS generated the wrong numbers:

When given the choice between a higher value attributed to unnamed sources and values he calculates himself, Albright consistently chooses the higher values. This is especially misleading when dealing with weapon production scenarios, which evaluate what Iran can currently achieve.”  [emphasis added]

[7]. In a separate long-running argument with a scientist, Dr. Thomas Cochran, at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) over the plutonium production capability of the Khushab II reactor in Pakistan it took David Albright years to admit that he and Paul Brannan over-estimated the capability of the reactor by a factor of 10 to 25. This is not a minor error.

Thus, the pattern that emerges of the “evidence” against Iran (and other nations) is of consistent bias, exaggeration and unprofessionalism by some independent nonproliferation security analysts, as well as by the IAEA itself.

The IAEA under Director General Amano has been particularly unprofessional. Robert Kelley has outlined how:

“What about the three indications that the arms project may have been reactivated?

Two of the three are attributed only to two member states, so the sourcing is impossible to evaluate. In addition, their validity is called into question by the agency’s handling of the third piece of evidence.

That 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.

In 2009, the IAEA received a two-page document, purporting to come from Iran, describing this same alleged work. 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. What’s more, the document contained style errors, suggesting the author was not a native Farsi speaker. It appeared to have been typed using an Arabic, rather than a Farsi, word-processing program. When ElBaradei put the document in the trash heap, the U.K.’s Times newspaper published it.

This episode had suspicious similarities to a previous case that proved definitively to be a hoax. In 1995, the IAEA received several documents from the Sunday Times, a sister paper to the Times, purporting to show that Iraq had resumed its nuclear-weapons program in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The IAEA quickly determined that the documents were elaborate forgeries. There were mistakes in formatting the documents’ markings, classification and dates, and many errors in language and style indicated the author’s first language was something other than Arabic or Farsi. Inspections in Iraq later in 1995 confirmed incontrovertibly that there had been no reconstitution of the Iraqi nuclear program.”

The words of well-connected and informed senior ex-IAEA officials are worth heeding: Dr. Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, has stated: “So far, Iran has not violated the NPT,” adding, “and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons.” And Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing the bomb. “All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran,” he concluded.

The maximalist approach to non-proliferation advocated by ISIS and other groups may be seen as useful but it is inconsistent with existing international law, as codified in the safeguards agreements. In fact, IAEA records show that all substantial safeguards issues raised in 2005 had been resolved in Iran’s favor by 2008. So Iran was again in compliance with its safeguards agreement at that date. All UN Security Council sanctions ought to have been dropped at that point. Yet Iran’s nuclear file still remains tied up at the Security Council due mainly to the IAEA and Security Council’s flawed handling of the case.

Out of all the countries it inspects, the IAEA spends the second-highest amount on Iran’s nuclear inspections— only Japan, with a vastly greater nuclear infrastructure, accounts for a bigger chunk. About 12 percent of the IAEA’s $164 million inspections budget is spent just on Iran. This is now increased to about 17% during the period of the interim deal because of the even more intrusive—and thus expensive—inspections being carried out now.

On a “per nuclear facility” basis the IAEA spends – by far – the largest amount of its inspections budget on Iran. Comprehensive deal or not, the IAEA will continue to conduct in Iran one of the most thorough and intrusive inspections it carries out anywhere.

However, achieving a deal is in everyone’s favor.  It will be made easier by rejecting any flawed (or exaggerated) evidence or analysis being used against Iran – especially by individuals or groups who have a track-record of bias, exaggeration or erroneous scientific analysis.

Dr. Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, is director of the Emerging Technologies Program at the Cultural Intelligence Institute, a non-profit dedicated to promoting fact-based cultural awareness among individuals, institutions, and governments. The views expressed here are his own.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The false conventional wisdom about the Iran nuclear talks

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | February 27, 2014

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.

February 27, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Misread Telexes Led Analysts to See Iran Nuclear Arms Programme

By Gareth Porter | IPS | February 5, 2014

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.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spinning Iran’s Centrifuges: A Quick Lesson in Alarmism

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Alseep in America | December 14, 2013

On December 12, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing on last month’s interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, which means there was a tremendous amount of ignorant bluster, conventional wisdom, wishful thinking, staggering ignorance, and shameless posturing for lobbyist money on display. In other words, Congress members were speaking about Iran.

While nearly every single word uttered by the Treasury Department’s David Cohen and Undersecretary Wendy Sherman – the State Department’s number three and lead U.S. negotiator in Geneva – and her Senatorial inquisitors could (and should) be fact-checked and debunked, in the interest of time and sanity, I will address only a single statement that cried out for correction (and will maybe get to more at another time).

Midway through the hearing, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee claimed Iran is “wreaking havoc” in the Middle East, lamented that the United States is “ceding much of Middle Eastern activities to them,” and expressed his frustration with the recent deal and any prospect of alleviating sanctions for fear that Iran may not be seen as a “rogue nation,” but rather “part of the international community.”

Corker further opined that the P5+1 deal has “no sacrifice on their part whatsoever, none. They’re still spinning 19,000 centrifuges every single day.”

This has recently become a canard in mainstream, usually hawkish, discourse on Iran’s nuclear program.

In October, Joel Rubin of the Ploughshares Fund, who is described by Voice of America as an “Iran expert,” said that Iran “does have 19,000 centrifuges spinning.”

Following the release of yet another speculative study by career alarmist David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and an error-riddled USA Today article noting that Iran currently has “19,000 centrifuges” installed in its two enrichment facilities, this talking point gained even more traction.

On October 29, neoconservative operative Kenneth Timmerman wrote in The Washington Times that “the [Iranian] regime now has 19,000 centrifuges, including several thousand high-performance, new-generation machines they are still testing,” and has already amassed a stockpile of uranium that, “with further enrichment… is enough for roughly 10 bombs.”

In late November, Sarah Stern – head of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), an extreme right-wing Zionist messaging organization that proudly describes itself as an “unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank,” and who serves as an advisor to the creepy propaganda outfit The Clarion Fundclaimed that, for Iran, the interim accord “keeps every one of its 19,000 centrifuges spinning.” A graphic on the EMET website states that, as part of the deal, “Iran gets… 19,000 cylinders spinning enriching uranium.”

On December 1, Senator Jim Inhofe called the deal a “reckless gamble” that, among other things he doesn’t like, “allows [Iran] to keep its nearly 19,000 centrifuges spinning.”

The very next day, KT McFarland, a Fox News contributor and former aide to Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan, declared, “It’s just crazy, there are 19,000 centrifuges spinning in Iran, that’s twice as many centrifuges in Iran as there are Starbucks in America.”

Spooky, right? Well, they’re wrong.

According to the most recent assessment – from mid-November – by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which conducts routine inspections of its nuclear program, Iran is reported to have installed roughly 19,000 centrifuges in its two enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow.

But they’re not all spinning. Not even close.

The IAEA even provided a handy little graph along with its report showing the difference between what Iran has installed and what is actually operational. At most, Iran has about 10,000 operable centrifuges, all of which produce enriched uranium far below levels required for a nuclear weapon.

Furthermore, the IAEA notes, “Not all of the centrifuges fed with UF6[feedstock] may have been working.”

Moreover, Iran’s Natanz facility is designed for a fully operational capacity of 50,000 centrifuges.  So far, fewer than 15,500 centrifuges have been installed and fewer than 9,000 are actually functional.  Of the 2,710 centrifuges installed at the Fordow site, only about 700 are operational.

Roughly 1,000 second-generation centrifuges have also been installed, but not a single one has yet been used.

So, while Bob Corker and the rest sound pretty serious when they fret about Iran’s 19,000 “spinning” centrifuges, they’re overselling what Iran is actually doing in order to gin up their required hysteria.

What a surprise.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David ‘Curveball’ Albright Is Back With More ‘Scary Iran Stories’

By Daniel McAdams | Ron Paul Institute | October 25, 2013

David Albright of ISIS (AKA the “Institute for Scary Iran Stories“) has never seen an alarmist allegation about Iran that he did not amplify in another somber “Iran is weeks (days, minutes, seconds) away from a nuclear weapon and must be stopped NOW” report.

Four and a half years ago, Albright’s over-active imagination led him to somberly assert that:

Iran continues to move forward on developing its nuclear capabilities, and it is close to having what we would call a ‘nuclear breakout capability.’ That’s a problem because once Iran reaches that state then it could make a decision to get nuclear weapons pretty rapidly. In as quickly as a few months, Iran would be able to have enough weapons-grade uranium for nuclear weapons.

Nothing came of his assertions.

In December, 2009, an “alarming secret document” emerged that purported to show Iran’s secret nuclear goals. Again David Albright was trotted out to opine that the document was a smoking gun:

The only realistic use of this is in a nuclear weapon. It shows that either Iran is developing the capability [to build nuclear weapons] or it is moving to implement a bomb program — and either one is bad.

Nothing came of his assertions.

In early 2010 Albright gave an interview with CFR’s Bernard Gwertzman in which he claimed that Iran was…six months away from a nuclear weapon!

In October, 2012 Albright asserted that Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb in just two to four months!

Albright was not always so obsessed with Iran. He used to be in charge of spreading “Scary Iraq Stories” before the US invasion in 2003. For example, on Sept. 10, 2002, he wrote in  “Is the Activity at Al Qaim Related to Nuclear Efforts?” that:

“High-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq’s al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility (Unit-340), located in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border. This site was where Iraq extracted uranium for its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. …

[Without inspections] he international community cannot exclude the possibility that Iraq is secretly producing a stockpile of uranium in violation of its commitments under Security Council resolutions. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.”

Oops!

But now David Albright is back!

In a article in the October 24th issue of USA Today, Albright is more alarmist than ever! He now opines that Iran may be one month away from a nuclear bomb! Half of Iran’s centrifuges must be destroyed to even give us a six-month lead time until the Iranian bomb, asserts “expert” Albright.

Worse even, Albright yesterday asserted in the USA Today article that:

if Iran decided to build a covert enrichment plant like it has under a mountain in Fordow, near the city of Qom, that was designed for optimal efficiency and minimal time to enrich enough uranium for bomb making. Such a facility built with current Iranian technology could produce enough material for a bomb in a week, according to the ISIS report.”If they did that and they were caught it would be a smoking gun of a nuclear weapons program,” Albright said.

On no! Only a week! We should believe him this time. Never mind that he has never been right! He is an expert! Bombs away!

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran Alarmism and the “Time is Running Out” Canard

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | July 31, 2013

The following is the 76th update to my comprehensive, ongoing compendium of constant predictions and prognostications regarding the supposed inevitability and imminence of an alleged Iranian nuclear weapon, hysterical allegations that have been made repeatedly for the past three decades.

Citing the latest hysterical analysis of Iran’s nuclear program by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), David Albright’s Washington D.C.-based propaganda outfit, the Jerusalem Post exclaims that “Iran is expected to achieve a ‘critical capability’ to produce sufficient weapon-grade uranium by mid-2014, without being detected.”

While pretending to advocate merely for a stricter IAEA inspection regime and the limiting of the number of centrifuges Iran is allowed to install and operate, Albright & Co. cry that Iranian progress “is unlikely to be prevented simply by instituting better inspections, whether through increased inspection frequency, remote monitoring, or even implementation of the the Additional Protocol.” The report laments that, if the United States and Israel don’t launch an illegal, unprovoked military assault on Iran “out of fear of facing international opposition,” consequently “Iran could have time to make enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear weapons.”

Thus, the alarmists of ISIS conclude that “IAEA inaction or caution could make an international response all but impossible before Iran has produced enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear weapon.”

Meanwhile, a recent Al Monitor report exposes the agenda dripping from ISIS’ analysis. Earlier this month, IAEA Deputy Director Herman Nackaerts explained to reporter Barbara Slavin that “‘we would know within a week’ whether Iran was diverting uranium from declared sites and seeking to enrich it to weapons grade level.”

Nackaerts, who is also head of the IAEA’s Department of Safeguards, said that “[t]here are two to six IAEA inspectors on the ground in Iran every day…covering 16 Iranian facilities. On average, he said, that means that an inspector visits Iran’s enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow once a week. If there are suspicions about any improper activities, they can go more often, he added.

In order to sufficiently hand-wring about the Iranian program, “ISIS has recommended that inspections should increase to at least twice per week at Iran’s enrichment facilities.”

Evelyn Gordon. Yes, really.

As expected, neoconservative Likudnik warmongers over at Commentary Magazine are licking their lips and using Albright’s nonsense to bolster their calls for mass murder and war crimes. Writing today, contributing blogger Evelyn Gordon calls the ISIS report the “best argument I’ve yet seen for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities imminently.” Gordon is an American émigré to Israel, former Jerusalem Post reporter and current Visiting Fellow at the extreme right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

“Time is running out,” Gordon declares, echoing so many uninformed voices before her. In March 2006, NPR‘s national security correspondent Mara Liasson insisted on Fox News that “time is running out. Pretty soon, Iran is going to have the bomb.” By early 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed, “We have time, but not a lot of time.” The following year, a Weekly Standard opinion piece co-authored by Kristol declared, “Time is running out” and called “for Congress to seriously explore an Authorization of Military Force to halt Iran’s nuclear program.” Soon thereafter, Commentary Magazine‘s Jonathan Tobin warned that, without the United States issuing an explicit military threat, “time may soon run out on any chance for the West to stop Iran,” while this past March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eloquently stated that “whatever time is left, there’s not a lot of time.”

“In short,” Gordon concludes, “either military action is taken in the coming months, or a nuclear Iran will be inevitable. There is no more time to waste.”

In truth, it’s time to hit the snooze button.

August 1, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Logical Fallacies: The Financial Times on Syria and Uranium Stockpiles

News Unspun | January 10, 2013

On 8 January the Financial Times published an article by James Blitz, entitled ‘Fears raised over Syria uranium stockpile’, premised primarily on the ‘fears’ and otherwise subjective ruminations of unnamed ‘official’ and ‘expert’ sources, one the two named sources being former weapons inspector David Albright (discussed further below).

The claims of Blitz’s sources rest on the argument that, because we lack proof that something is false, it must be true (an ad ignorantiam argument). For example, Blitz states that, ‘Three satellite pictures of the Marj al-Sultan site taken in October, November and December of 2012 and shown to the FT […] appear to show the gradual clearance of a large orchard there, for no apparent reason’. And so, the clearance has triggered fears that (a) the site is ‘a secret uranium conversion facility’, and (b) that tonnes of uranium have been transferred to the site. Because we do not have proof that the orchard has not been cleared for the transfer of uranium, this is cause for concern that this may be the case, according to the article.

Blitz’s sources claim that they have legitimate concerns about a uranium stockpile in Syria, enough uranium they say ‘to provide weapons-grade fuel for five atomic devices’, which could then be transferred ‘from Syria to Iran by air’.

The overarching concern of the article is that Iran would be provided with ‘a “vital resource” [which could] possibly be used to build a bomb’. This depends on a series of speculative claims made by Blitz’s sources turning out to be simultaneously true, with the addition of Iran ‘attempt[ing] to build another secret uranium plant’ (Blitz doesn’t expand on the meaning of ‘another’). To reach this conclusion, the following must all occur:

1. Syria must be in possession of 50 tonnes of unenriched uranium. (Blitz plainly states, in the opening paragraph, that cause for concern lies with ‘up to 50 tonnes of unenriched uranium’ – the implication being that such a thing actually exists – before later backtracking to suggest uncertainty with the inclusion of the clause ‘if it exists’ in reference to the uranium.)

2. The Marj al-Sultan site must actually be a uranium conversion facility. (The report notes that such claims are alleged: ‘what [the experts] allege is a secret uranium conversion facility that the Syrian regime built at the town of Marj al-Sultan near Damascus’.)

3. The uranium must be at the site. (‘Whether the uranium is at the site is unclear, the officials conceded’.)

4. Iran must be trying to ‘seize’ the uranium. (‘Iran, which is closely allied to the Syrian regime and urgently needs uranium for its nuclear programme, might be trying to seize such a stockpile’.)

Given that the above scenarios are at best uncertain and at worst hypothetical, the credibility given to the argument that this might result in Iran ‘building the bomb’ is questionable.

One of Blitz’s two named sources is David Albright, former weapons inspector and head of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). Put forward as a ‘leading expert’ on the Iranian nuclear programme, he is quoted as having concerns about the ‘whereabouts of this uranium’, which Blitz concedes may or may not exist. Albright’s past speculations on states he supposed had been hiding nuclear weapons is worth considering. In August 2002, eight months before the US-led invasion of Iraq, he was interviewed by The Guardian in an article entitled ‘Does Iraq have a nuclear weapon?’ Below are three quotes from the article, which highlight to some degree the lack of substance to his arguments:

‘People have argued that you could find nuclear facilities quickly as they are big, but Iraq knows how to make them small…The clock is ticking’.

‘You would think that if Iraq had a nuclear weapon, it would have done something to show it. But then you can’t be certain’.

‘Once it gets the gas-centrifuge programme, you have to assume that it could make [a bomb] in half a year’.

More recently, Albright has been the co-author of a report from ISIS entitled ‘New Satellite Image Shows Activity at Parchin Site in Iran’. The introduction to the report discusses a satellite image which ‘shows what appears to be a stream of water that emanates from or near the building’ that ‘raises concerns that Iran may have been washing inside the building, or perhaps washing the items outside the building’. This and other activities at the Parchin site that have been seen in the last year on satellite images, such as the movement of lorries, and the demolishing of a building, provide the sole basis for Albright’s argument that there has been a nuclear cover-up. In the Financial Times article, Blitz’s reference to ‘the gradual clearance of a large orchard’ is in a similar vein to the speculations that ISIS have made in the past about Iran.

As Albright’s targets are generally the official ‘enemies’ of the west, he receives respectful attention from the UK media, despite an absence of any factual substance to his work.

The ‘concerns’ Blitz reports on belong to his sources, so it is their judgement, and not just his, which is premised on fallacy. Blitz, however, has based his entire argument, without criticism, on the opinions of these officials, and has further developed them into a foretelling narrative, one which doesn’t stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.

January 11, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On U.S. Efforts to Take Away Iran’s Rights by (Unilaterally) Rewriting the NPT: And the Complicity of America’s Iran “Experts” in the Charade

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | The Race for Iran | October 14th, 2012

One of the more striking passages in President Obama’s address to the United Nations General Assembly last month presented Obama’s view of Iran’s nuclear rights.  Specifically, the President noted, “We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United States is to see that we harness that power for peace.”

This is a more restrictive formulation than Obama and senior officials in his administration have deployed in previous statements, which emphasized that Iran has a right to “pursue peaceful nuclear energy.”  In normal English usage, the verb “to pursue” implies that, in the official American view, Iran might at least have a right to generate its own “peaceful nuclear energy.”  By contrast, Obama’s more recent phrasing implies that, in Washington’s current reading, Iran does not even have a right to generate its own nuclear power, but may have to content itself with trying to “access to peaceful nuclear power” that is generated by others.

Needless to say, all of this is far removed from Iran’s longstanding insistence on its right to enrich uranium if it chooses to do so.  And, of course, Iran has long recognized that, as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), it must exercise that right under international monitoring.

Initially, even the George W. Bush administration acknowledged that there was, somewhere in a vague legal ether, an Iranian right to enrich—but it argued that Tehran had somehow managed to “forfeit” this right.  Such an argument did not persuade most of the lawyers working on the issue in the Bush administration, much less most of the other nations of the world.  Eventually, the Bush administration retreated to a rigid demand that the Islamic Republic obey Security Council resolutions calling on it to suspend enrichment before the United States would negotiate with Tehran—and without ever stipulating that a negotiated settlement would include an explicit recognition of Iran’s nuclear rights.  Predictably, this stance was diplomatically dysfunctional.

When the Obama administration came in, it dropped the Bush administration’s insistence on suspension as a precondition for negotiations.  But it has been even less willing than the Bush administration to acknowledge Iran’s nuclear rights—and it, too, has the diplomatic (non)results to show for its obtuseness.

From a global perspective, the positions of the Bush and Obama administrations on Iran’s right to develop indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capabilities and to pursue internationally safeguarded enrichment of uranium on its own territory make the United States a real outlier.  This reality was underscored in August at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, convened in Tehran, where NAM members—including the vast majority of the world’s nation-states—strongly endorsed the Islamic Republic’s right to pursue uranium enrichment.  Although hardly covered in the American media, the NAM summit marked a significant international repudiation of U.S. policy regarding the nuclear rights of Iran and, by extension, other non-Western NPT signatories.

In the United States, this prompted defenders of the Bush/Obama line to spring into action.  One of them, David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, co-wrote a piece for the U.S. government-sponsored Iran Primer last month, see here, which argued that the NAM communique “misconstrues the NPT.”  This sparked a vigorous online exchange between Albright—who is not a lawyer or student of international legal regimes—and Daniel Joyner, professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Law and one of the legal academy’s most accomplished scholars of the NPT.  That exchange reveals much about the contribution of many Western Iran “experts” to America’s Iran debate.

According to Albright and his co-author,

“Under Article IV [of the NPT], Iran cannot claim the right to nuclear energy production—or a right to enrich at all—while under investigation for possible non-peaceful uses of these capabilities.  Iran’s right to nuclear energy is qualified—a long as there are no major lapses in its Article II obligations…the NAM communique failed to acknowledge the need for Iran to fully comply with the international treaty on nuclear weapons.  Iran tried to portray that the final communique represented a diplomatic victory for Tehran and its controversial nuclear program.  But the summit’s resolution instead undermined the Non-Aligned Movement’s credibility, since it demonstrated that developing nations cannot be counted on to deal seriously with nuclear nonproliferation issues.”

Leaving aside the patronizing tone of the last sentence—in effect, Albright and his co-author are positing that responsible Americans and Europeans (the rightful masters of the universe) cannot possibly think non-Westerners are “dealing seriously” with important international issues unless those non-Westerners simply accept, uncritically, the views advanced by their Western superiors—this statement is wrong on several substantive points.  Among other things, it is wrong as an interpretation of the NPT and in its assertion that there have been “major lapses” in Iran’s Article II obligations.  These features prompted Daniel Joyner to offer the following observations on his blog, Arms Control Law, see here:

“Why is it that in the nonproliferation area everyone, including engineers, physicists, chemists and general policy wonks, think they can do legal interpretation?  You won’t find me writing articles about the technical aspects of missile capabilities, or the internal physics of a warhead core. I know these things are outside of my training and qualification to do. But apparently everyone thinks they can do legal analysis. With respect, I think David should stick to obsessing over satellite pictures of tarps at random military bases in Iran.”

On our own, we found Joyner’s comment mildly amusing.  But it clearly touched a nerve in David Albright, see here, who responded with a remarkable broadside characterized by ad hominem invective and fallacious arguments from authority:

“I have belatedly read Joyner’s rant about our Iran Primer article with amusement and likewise find his chorus of lackeys a pathetic bunch. Now I understand that Joyner’s blogging is supposed to be an ego trip for him and a safe haven for commentators, but Joyner’s blogging is particularly egotistical and, with respect, off-the-wall.  In the comments and in Joyner’s writings, I can see the deep ignorance of the NPT.  I certainly see no need to revise our analysis and statements in our Iran Primer article. We have consulted with many lawyers who find Joyner’s analysis deeply flawed and agenda driven… I would recommend that Joyner have his work reviewed by competent lawyers.  He would need to revise most of his work.”

Joyner responded vigorously, see here, making the point, among his other rejoinders, that he has published two peer-reviewed books, with Oxford University Press, on interpreting the NPT.  But, for our purposes, the most important part of his response concerns the public posture adopted by too many Washington, DC-based policy “experts” and the motives for their adoption of such a posture.  Joyner’s analysis focuses on nonproliferation specialists, but, in our view, it also applies very well to many who claim expertise on other Iran-related issues:

”A colleague in D.C. once said this to me about the U.S. nonproliferation epistemic community—and by this community we both meant the entirety of the various NGOs and think tanks and the few University based centers that focus on nonproliferation studies in the U.S.:  that the community is very D.C. centric, cliquish, incestuous and self-referential, to its detriment. These words have really stuck with me, because I find them to be absolutely true, and both insightful and parsimonious as I’ve observed the community over the years.

I would take it even further and say that in addition, in my opinion, the whole U.S. based nonproliferation experts community—with few exception—is systematically biased toward support of USG positions on all the top nonproliferation issues.  They maintain an essentially common narrative and set of emphases that is in line with, and that provides support for, the narrative and emphases of the USG, with only the smallest amounts of quibbling around the edges (Albright will talk all day long about his “aluminum tubes” work).  I think that there is in the work of the U.S. nonproliferation epistemic community far too little real, independent evaluation and criticism of USG positions.  As I see it, the U.S. nonproliferation community almost acts as a second wave of apologists for U.S. policy, after the USG itself—though it sometimes shrouds this effort in a lot of technical and sometimes academic-looking jargon.  But in the end what the U.S. nonproliferation community ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT DO is serve in the role of an independent, rigorous, analytical check on USG nonproliferation positions, as it could and should do, and as the nongovernmental nonproliferation community in other countries does.  And I think there are some clear reasons for this.  Much more so than in other countries, the members of the U.S. based nonproliferation community tend, with very few exceptions, to

1)  have been employed by the USG in the past;

2) want to be employed by the USG in the future;

3) be funded by or hope to be funded by the USG; and/or

4) want to maintain the access and good favor they have with USG officials, for the sake of information and for the sake of invitations to cool events, etc.

Basically what I’m saying is that they are biased towards the positions of the USG, because of their overly close personal and institutional associations with the USG, and because they see their own professional success as being tied to the favor of the USG.

I think there’s also a significant degree of media whorishness at work here as well.  As a colleague once wrote to me while we were discussing this topic: ‘I think there is another—very important—aspect you may be missing that may even over-ride the ones you mention:  aside from taking USG positions, the non-proliferation community likes the high-media profile allotted it, when it loudly tut-tuts 3rd world nuclear arms capacities (or enemies of the west’s nuclear arms capacities), whether or not such capacities are consistent w/ NPT and/or CSAs.  People like being quoted, appearing on TV, and generally feeling important.  The Non-proliferation community “loves” the attention and basks in this glow, and though they would “privately” acknowledge that Iran is not so far outside bounds (if at all), they nonetheless pass on statements and innuendo to media indicating the alleged dangers and thus wittingly or not, fan the flames.  Others like ISIS simply pass on opinions dressed as expert findings.  It just would not do for Non-proliferation types to tell the media:  “well, no, Iran’s program is actually not a threat to world peace yet” like the DNI did.’”

Not surprisingly, Joyner sees David Albright as embodying this description, as he points out in criticizing some of Albright’s analysis on Iran’s nuclear activities:

“All [Albright] really does is make provocative speculations about what “could” be happening at locations in Iran, and what “maybe” Iran will do in the future.  And it’s so clear that he’s working on the basis of a set of unproven, but firmly held assumptions about Iran—the same assumptions he had about Iraq, for which his work has been widely discredited—that they have a nuclear weapons program, and he is ginning up all the evidence he can that might support that assumption, speculating about what that evidence may mean, but only in a direction that would tend to support his preexisting assumption.  There’s no rigor here in thoroughly considering and evaluating other possible explanations for the same observations—like a real academic or even a real, quality NGO analysis would.  Maybe it’s because David has never done PhD level academic work, and so he doesn’t understand what is expected of quality scientific analysis. But this is an assumption-driven piece of provocative speculation that serves only to provide support for the USG’s contentions about Iran’s nuclear program. That’s just what he infamously did in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq war too. That’s not rigorous and independent analysis. That’s biased and low quality work…

I know very well how the D.C. nonproliferation crowd feels about me… They think my work is pro-Iranian and generally pro-developing country, and anti-U.S.  They say I’m biased and agenda driven… Am I personally sympathetic to or biased towards the policies of the Iranian government? Absolutely not… However, do I think that the legal arguments of the current government of Iran deserve a fair and independent and rigorous hearing and analysis by the international community, just as the legal arguments of any other government do?  Yes I do, for many reasons, not least of which is the prevention of unnecessary and unjust economic sanctions and possibly war against the Iranian people, and the fairness and perceived legitimacy and relevance of international law.  I don’t see anyone else stepping up to make these arguments, and make sure that they are taken seriously in the West, and that’s why I keep doing it.

Am I sympathetic to developing countries’ positions in the nuclear energy area generally?  Yes I am.  I admit that freely.  And it’s because I genuinely think that they are bullied by the West in the nuclear area, as in many other areas, for a whole range of political and economic reasons, and that the legal advisors of Western governments have concocted erroneous legal arguments to give perceived credibility to these policies.  I can’t change the policies and the politics they’re based on, but I think there is a real need to lend whatever professional abilities I have to making sure that their legal arguments are made at a high level of competence and sophistication, and are given due consideration by the international community.  Again, no one else seems to be doing this in the West, and so I keep doing it.  But I maintain that my legal analysis is independent and essentially objective, and that I follow the proper analysis of a legal source to its most persuasively correct conclusion, no matter what that conclusion is.

I think that the U.S. nonproliferation community, linked so closely as it is to the USG itself, generally takes a negative view of my work for a number of reasons.  One of the primary reasons is that they are so used to being able to effectively tell the rest of the world what to think about the NPT regime, and how to interpret the law associated with it, that when someone independent comes along and poses a genuine intellectual challenge to the warped and USG driven legal views of the NPT regime that they’ve been spouting for decades, they genuinely don’t know what to do about it.  With the errors and intellectual bankruptcy of their legal arguments laid bare, they make only feeble attempts to defend themselves substantively because, honestly, they don’t have very good substantive arguments to make and they never have.  The only argument they have left to make is to argue in desperation that the challenger is biased and agenda driven—which is in the end the ultimate irony, because it’s precisely their own bias and USG-centric agenda that has made their arguments so weak, and has provided the legal errors that the challenger now corrects, to the persuasion of everyone else in the world.”

Our compliments to Prof. Joyner.

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment