Two Angles on Iran by Gareth Porter

http://www.counterpunch.org/porter07062010.html

Olli Heinonen, the Finnish nuclear engineer who resigned Thursday after five years as deputy director for safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was the driving force in turning that agency into a mechanism to support U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran.

Heinonen was instrumental in making a collection of intelligence documents showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research programme the central focus of the IAEA’s work on Iran. The result was to shift opinion among Western publics to the view that Iran had been pursuing a covert nuclear weapons programme.

But his embrace of the intelligence documents provoked a fierce political struggle within the Secretariat of the IAEA, because other officials believed the documents were fraudulent.

Heinonen took over the Safeguards Department in July 2005 – the same month that the George W. Bush administration first briefed top IAEA officials on the intelligence collection.

The documents portrayed a purported nuclear weapons research programme, originally called the “Green Salt” project, that included efforts to redesign the nosecone of the Shahab-3 missile, high explosives apparently for the purpose of triggering a nuclear weapon and designs for a uranium conversion facility. Later the IAEA referred to the purported Iranian activities simply as the “alleged studies”.

The Bush administration was pushing the IAEA to use the documents to accuse Iran of having had a covert nuclear weapons programme. The administration was determined to ensure that the IAEA Governing Board would support referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for action on sanctions, as part of a larger strategy to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme.

Long-time IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and other officials involved in investigating and reporting on Iran’s nuclear programme were immediately sceptical about the authenticity of the documents. According to two Israeli authors, Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar, several IAEA officials told them in interviews in 2005 and 2006 that senior officials of the agency believed the documents had been “fabricated by a Western intelligence organisation”.

Heinonen, on the other hand, supported the strategy of exploiting the collection of intelligence documents to put Iran on the defensive. His approach was not to claim that the documents’ authenticity had been proven but to shift the burden of proof to Iran, demanding that it provide concrete evidence that it had not carried out the activities portrayed in the documents.

From the beginning, Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, denounced the documents as fabrications. In Governing Board meetings and interviews, Soltanieh pointed to several indicators, including the absence of official stamps showing receipt of the document by a government office and the absence of any security markings.

The tensions between Heinonen and the senior officials over the intelligence documents intensified in early 2008, when Iran provided detailed documentation to the agency disproving a key premise of the intelligence documents.

Kimia Maadan, a private Iranian company, was shown in the intelligence documents as having designed a uranium conversion facility as part of the alleged military nuclear weapons research programme. Iran proved to the satisfaction of those investigating the issue, however, that Kimia Maadan had been created by Iran’s civilian atomic energy agency solely to carry out a uranium ore processing project and had gone out of business before it fulfilled the contract.

Senior IAEA officials then demanded that Heinonen distance the organisation from the documents by inserting a disclaimer in future agency reports on Iran that it could not vouch for the authenticity of the documents.

Instead Heinonen gave a “technical briefing” for IAEA member countries in February 2008 featuring a diagram on which the ore processing project and the uranium processing project were both carried out by the firm and shared the same military numbering system.

The IAEA report published just three days earlier established, however, that the ore processing project number — 5/15 — had been assigned to it not by the military but by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran. And the date on which it was assigned was August 1999 – many months before the purported nuclear weapons programme was shown to have been organised.

Heinonen carefully avoided endorsing the documents as authentic. He even acknowledged that Iran had spotted technical errors in the one-page design for a small-scale facility for uranium conversion, and that there were indeed “technical inconsistencies” in the diagram.

He also admitted Iran had provided open source publications showing spherical firing systems similar to the one depicted in the intelligence documents on alleged tests of high explosives.

Heinonen suggested in his presentation that the agency did not yet have sufficient information to come to any firm conclusions about those documents. In the May 2008 IAEA report, however, there was no mention of any such caveats about the documents.

Instead, the report used language that was clearly intended to indicate that the agency had confidence in the intelligence documents: “The documentation presented to Iran appears to have been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, is detailed in content and appears to be generally consistent.”

That language, on which Heino{n}en evidently insisted, did not represent a consensus among senior IAEA officials. One senior official suggested to IPS in September 2009 that the idea that documents came from different sources was not completely honest.

“There are intelligence-sharing networks,” said the official. It was possible that one intelligence organisation could have shared the documents with others, he explained.

“That gives us multiple sources consistent over time,” said the official.

The same official said of the collection of intelligence documents, “It’s not difficult to cook up.”

Nevertheless, Heinonen’s position had clearly prevailed. And in the final year of ElBaradei’s leadership of the agency, the Safeguards Department became an instrument for member states – especially France, Britain, Germany and Israel – to put pressure on ElBaradei to publish summaries of intelligence reports portraying Iran as actively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

The active pressure of the United States and its allies on behalf of the hard line toward Iran was the main source of Heinonen’s power on the issue. Those states have been feeding intelligence on alleged covert Iranian nuclear activities to the Safeguards Division for years, and Heinonen knew that ElBaradei could not afford to confront the U.S.-led coalition openly over the issue.

The Bush administration had threatened to replace ElBaradei in 2004 and had reluctantly accepted his reelection as director-general in 2005. ElBaradei was not strong enough to threaten to fire the main antagonist over the issue of alleged studies.

ElBaradei’s successor Yukio Amano is even less capable of adopting an independent position on the issues surrounding the documents. The political dynamics of the IAEA ensure that Heinonen’s successor is certain to continue the same line on the Iran nuclear issue and intelligence documents as Heinonen’s.

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/07/02/rupert-murdoch’s-london-times-published-forged-iran-nuke-document-u-s-intelligence-concludes/

WASHINGTON (IPS) – U.S. intelligence has concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London, which purportedly describes an Iranian plan to do experiments on what the newspaper described as a “neutron initiator” for an atomic weapon, is a fabrication, according to a former Central Intelligence Agency official.
Philip Giraldi, who was a CIA counterterrorism official from 1976 to 1992, told IPS that intelligence sources say that the United States had nothing to do with forging the document, and that Israel is the primary suspect. The sources do not rule out a British role in the fabrication, however.
The Times of London story published Dec. 14 did not identify the source of the document. But it quoted “an Asian intelligence source” – a term some news media have used for Israeli intelligence officials – as confirming that his government claims Iran was working on a neutron initiator as recently as 2007.
The story of the purported Iranian document prompted a new round of expressions of U.S. and European support for tougher sanctions against Iran.
U.S. news media reporting has left the impression that U.S. intelligence analysts have not made up their mind about the document’s authenticity, although it has been widely reported that they have now had a full year to assess the issue.
Giraldi’s intelligence sources did not reveal all the reasons that led analysts to conclude that the purported Iran document had been fabricated by a foreign intelligence agency. But their suspicions of fraud were prompted in part by the source of the story, according to Giraldi.
“The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government,” Giraldi said.
The Times is part of a Murdoch publishing empire that includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post. All Murdoch-owned news media report on Iran with an aggressively pro-Israeli slant.
The document itself also had a number of red flags suggesting possible or likely fraud.
The subject of the two-page document which the Times published in English translation would be highly classified under any state’s security system. Yet there is no confidentiality marking on the document, as can be seen from the photograph of the Farsi-language original published by the Times.
The absence of security markings has been cited by the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as evidence that the “alleged studies” documents, which were supposedly purloined from an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons-related program early in this decade, are forgeries.
The document also lacks any information identifying either the issuing office or the intended recipients. The document refers cryptically to “the Centre”, “the Institute”, “the Committee”, and the “neutron group”.
The document’s extreme vagueness about the institutions does not appear to match the concreteness of the plans, which call for hiring eight individuals for different tasks for very specific numbers of hours for a four-year time frame.
Including security markings and such identifying information in a document increases the likelihood of errors that would give the fraud away.
The absence of any date on the document also conflicts with the specificity of much of the information. The Times reported that unidentified “foreign intelligence agencies” had dated the document to early 2007, but gave no reason for that judgment.
An obvious motive for suggesting the early 2007 date is that it would discredit the U.S. intelligence community’s November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran had no nuclear weapons program.
Discrediting the NIE has been a major objective of the Israeli government for the past two years, and the British and French governments have supported the Israeli effort.
The biggest reason for suspecting that the document is a fraud is its obvious effort to suggest past Iranian experiments related to a neutron initiator. After proposing experiments on detecting pulsed neutrons, the document refers to “locations where such experiments used to be conducted”.
That reference plays to the widespread assumption, which has been embraced by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran had carried out experiments with Polonium-210 in the late 1980s, indicating an interest in neutron initiators. The IAEA referred in reports from 2004 through 2007 to its belief that the experiment with Polonium-210 had potential relevance to making “a neutron initiator in some designs of nuclear weapons”.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the terrorist organization Mujahedeen-e Khalq, claimed in February 2005 that Iran’s research with Polonium-210 was continuing and that it was now close to producing a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon.
Sanger and Broad were so convinced that the Polonium-210 experiments proved Iran’s interest in a neutron initiator that they referred in their story on the leaked document to both the IAEA reports on the experiments in the late 1980s and the claim by NCRI of continuing Iranian work on such a nuclear trigger.
What Sanger and Broad failed to report, however, is that the IAEA has acknowledged that it was mistaken in its earlier assessment that the Polonium-210 experiments were related to a neutron initiator.
After seeing the complete documentation on the original project, including complete copies of the reactor logbook for the entire period, the IAEA concluded in its Feb. 22, 2008 report that Iran’s explanations that the Polonium-210 project was fundamental research with the eventual aim of possible application to radio isotope batteries was “consistent with the Agency’s findings and with other information available to it”.
The IAEA report said the issue of Polonium-210 – and thus the earlier suspicion of an Iranian interest in using it as a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon – was now considered “no longer outstanding”.
New York Times reporters David Sanger and William J. Broad reported U.S. intelligence officials as saying the intelligence analysts “have yet to authenticate the document”. Sanger and Broad explained the failure to do so, however, as a result of excessive caution left over from the CIA’s having failed to brand as a fabrication the document purporting to show an Iraqi effort to buy uranium in Niger.
The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick dismissed the possibility that the document might be found to be fraudulent. “There is no way to establish the authenticity or original source of the document…,” wrote Warrick.
But the line that the intelligence community had authenticated it evidently reflected the Barack Obama administration’s desire to avoid undercutting a story that supports its efforts to get Russian and Chinese support for tougher sanctions against Iran.
This is not the first time that Giraldi has been tipped off by his intelligence sources on forged documents. Giraldi identified the individual or office responsible for creating the two most notorious forged documents in recent U.S. intelligence history.
In 2005, Giraldi identified Michael Ledeen, the extreme right-wing former consultant to the National Security Council and the Pentagon, as an author of the fabricated letter purporting to show Iraqi interest in purchasing uranium from Niger. That letter was used by the George W. Bush administration to bolster its false case that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons program.
Giraldi also identified officials in the “Office of Special Plans” who worked under Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith as having forged a letter purportedly written by Hussein’s intelligence director, Tahir Jalail Habbush al-Tikriti, to Hussein himself referring to an Iraqi intelligence operation to arrange for an unidentified shipment from Niger.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: