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AP believes it found evidence of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

 

AP believes it found evidence of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons

A primitive graph provided by ‘a country critical of Iran’s atomic program’ indicts the news outlet more than Tehran

Iran Morsi

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi talks with Iranian officials at the 16th Non-aligned Movement summit in Tehran Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

 

(updated below – Update II)

Uncritical, fear-mongering media propaganda is far too common to take note of each time it appears, but sometimes, what is produced is so ludicrous that its illustrative value should not be ignored. Such is the case with a highly trumpeted Associated Press “exclusive” from Tuesday which claims in its red headline to have discovered evidence of “Iran Working on Bomb”.

What is this newly discovered, scary evidence? It is a “graph” which AP says was “leaked” to it by “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon” (how mysterious: the globe is gripped with befuddlement as it tries to guess which country that might be). Here’s how AP presents the graph in all its incriminating, frightening glory:

Iran ap This, says AP, shows that “Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.” Moreover, “an intelligence summary provided with the drawing” – provided, that is, by the mysterious “country critical of Iran’s atomic program” – “linked [the graph] to other alleged nuclear weapons work – significant because it would indicate that Iran is working not on isolated experiments, but rather on a single program aimed at mastering all aspects of nuclear arms development.”

Where to begin? First, note that AP granted anonymity here not merely to an individual but to an entire country. What’s the proffered justification for doing so? The officials wanted it, so AP gave it: “officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named.” That’s very accommodating of AP.

Binyamin Netanyahu UN with bomb Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a diagram illustrating Iran’s nuclear programme. Photograph: Jason Szenes/EPA Second, this graph – which is only slightly less hilariously primitive than the one Benjamin Netanyahu infamously touted with a straight face at the UN – has Farsi written under it to imbue it with that menacing Iranian-ish feel, but also helpfully uses English to ensure that US audiences can easily drink up its scariness. As The Atlantic’s Robert Wright noted: “How considerate of the Iranians to label their secret nefarious nuke graph in English!”. It’s certainly possible that Iranian scientists use English as a universal language of science, but the convenient mixing of Farsi and English should at least trigger some skepticism.

Third, even if one assumes that this graph is something other than a fraud, the very idea that computer simulations constitute “evidence” that Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon is self-evidently inane. As John Glaser extensively documents, “experts from across the spectrum have agreed with the military and intelligence consensus [from the US and Israel] that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and presents no imminent threat.” Buried in the AP article is a quote from David Albright explaining that though “the diagram looks genuine [it] seems to be designed more ‘to understand the process’ than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.”

The case for the attack on Iraq was driven, of course, by a mountain of fabricated documents and deliberately manipulated intelligence which western media outlets uncritically amplified. Yet again, any doubts that they are willing and eager to do exactly the same with regard to the equally fictitious Iranian Threat should be forever dispelled by behavior like this.

As always, the two key facts to note on Iran are these: 1) the desperation to prevent Iran from possessing a nuclear weapon has nothing to do with fear that they would commit national suicide by using it offensively, but rather has everything to do with the deterrent capability it would provide – i.e., nukes would prevent the US or Israel from attacking Iran at will or bullying it with threats of such an attack; and 2) the US-led sanctions regime now in place based on this fear-mongering continues to impose mass suffering and death on innocent Iranians. But as long as media outlets like AP continue to blindly trumpet whatever is shoveled to them by the shielded, unnamed “country critical of Iran’s atomic program”, these facts will be suppressed and fear levels kept sky-high, thus enabling the continuation and escalation of the hideous sanctions regime, if not an outright attack.

UPDATE

Compare the super-scary graph in the possession of the Tehran villains that was unveiled by the sleuths at AP to what one randomly finds on the Internet from a Google Images search of the phrase “normal distribution cumulative probability”, on a nice little website devoted to teaching people about how to use Excel documents (via @AtomTrigger):

Iran ap This means that not only Iran, but also aspiring Excel users on the Internet, are plotting to develop nuclear weapons.

UPDATE II

At the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress document that the graph trumpeted by AP “does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax”. That’s because, they explain, “the diagram features quite a massive error, which is unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level.”

Moreover, “the level of scientific sophistication needed to produce such a graph corresponds to that typically found in graduate- or advanced undergraduate-level nuclear physics courses.” And they echo what I documented in that prior update: “Graphs such as the one published by the Associated Press can be found in nuclear science textbooks and on the Internet.”

That this AP graph quite strongly appears to be a hoax seems a much more significant story than the discovery of the graph itself, given the ends toward which this was clearly being put, and given the way that the war in Iraq was sold to the public.

Iraq Redux?

Iran: the Neocons Are At It Again

by RALPH NADER

The same neocons who persuaded George W. Bush and crew to, in Ron Paul’s inimitable words, “lie their way into invading Iraq” in 2003, are beating the drums of war more loudly these days to attack Iran. It is remarkable how many of these war-mongers are former draft dodgers who wanted other Americans to fight the war in Vietnam.

With the exception of Ron Paul, who actually knows the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, the Republican presidential contenders have declared their belligerency toward Iranian officials who they accuse of moving toward nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime disputes that charge, claiming they are developing the technology for nuclear power and nuclear medicine.

The inspection teams of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) that monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran belongs, have entered Iran numerous times and, while remaining suspicious, have not been able to find that country on the direct road to the Bomb.

While many western and some Arab countries in the Gulf region have condemned Iran’s alleged nuclear arms quest, Israel maintains some 200 ready nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, thereby avoiding the IAEA inspectors.

Israelis in the know have much to say. Defense minister, Ehud Barak, responded to PBS’s Charlie Rose’s question “If you were Iran wouldn’t you want a nuclear weapon?” with these words:

“Probably, probably. I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They have their history of 4,000 years. They look around and they see the Indians are nuclear. The Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear as well as North Korea, not to mention the Russians.”

The Iranian regime, with a national GDP smaller than Massachusetts, is terrified. It is surrounded by powerful adversaries, including the U.S. military on three of its borders. President George W. Bush labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, one of the three “axis of evil,” and Teheran knows what happened to Iraq after that White House assertion. They also know that North Korea inoculated itself from invasion by testing nuclear bombs. And all Iranians remember that the U.S. overthrew their popular elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and installed the dictatorial Shah who ruled tyrannically for the next 27 years.

Recently, Iran has experienced mysterious cyber sabotage, drone violations of its air space, the slaying of its nuclear scientists and the blowing up of its military sites, including a major missile installation. Israeli and American officials are not trying too hard to conceal this low level warfare.

Israel military historian—strategist Martin van Creveld said in 2004, that Iranians “would be crazy not to build nuclear weapons considering the security threats they face.” Three years later he stated that “the world must now learn to live with a nuclear Iran the way we learned to live with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China….We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us…thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany.”

U.S. General John Abizaid is one of numerous military people who say that the world can tolerate a nuclear Iran—which, like other countries, does not wish to commit suicide.

Using the “Iranian threat,” served Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who on his first tour of duty back in 1996, speaking to a joint session of Congress, made a big point of the forthcoming Iranian bomb.

Somehow the Iranians, who were invaded in 1980 by a U.S.-backed Saddam Hussein, resulting in a million casualties, and who have not invaded anybody for 250 years, are taking a very long time to build a capability for atomic bomb production, much less the actual weapons.

In mid-2011, Meir Dagan, recently retired head of Israel’s “CIA,” repeated his opposition to a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, adding it would engulf the region in a conventional war.

He further took the Israeli government to task for failing “to put forth a vision,” noting that “Israel must present an initiative to the Palestinians and adopt the 2002 Saudi Arabia peace proposal, reiterated since, that would open full diplomatic relations with some two dozen Arab and Islamic countries in return for an Israeli pullback to the 1967 borders and recognition of a Palestinian state.

The war-mongers against Iran have often distorted Iranian statements to suit their purpose and kept in the shadows several friendly Iranian initiatives offered to the George W. Bush Administration.

Flynt L. Leverett, now with Brookings and before a State Department and CIA official, listed three initiatives that were rejected. Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, Iran offered to help Washington overthrow the Taliban. The U.S. declined the offer. Second, in the spring of 2003, top Iranian officials sent the White House a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve questions regarding its weapons programs, relations with Hezbollah and Hamas and a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel. This proposal was rebuffed and ignored.

Third, in October 2003, European officials secured an agreement from Iran to suspend Iranian uranium enrichment and to pursue talks that Mr. Leverett said “might lead to an economic, nuclear and strategic deal.” The Bush administration “refused to join the European initiative, ensuring that the talks failed,” he added.

A few days ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iran was developing a capability for making nuclear weapons someday but was not yet building a bomb. So why is the Obama Administration talking about a western boycott of Iran’s oil exports, so crucial to its faltering, sanctions-ridden economy? Is this latest sanction designed to squeeze Iranian civilians and lead to the overthrow of the regime? Arguably it may backfire and produce more support for the government.

Backing the Iranian regime into such a fateful corner risks counter-measures that may disrupt the gigantic flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Should that occur, watch the prices of your gasoline, heating bill and other related products go through the roof—among other consequences.

Isn’t it about time for the abdicatory Congress to reassert its constitutional responsibilities? It owes the American people comprehensive, public House and Senate hearings that produce knowledgeable testimony about these issues and all relevant history for wide media coverage.

The drums of war should not move our country into a propagandized media frenzy that preceded and helped cause the Iraq invasion with all the socio-cide in that country and all the costly blowbacks against U.S. national interests?

It is past time for the American citizenry to wake up and declare: Iran will not be an Iraq Redux!

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.

Avoiding Another Long War | Consortiumnews.

Avoiding Another Long War

January 4, 2012

Exaggerated coverage of a dubious report by the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program has spurred a rush toward a new war in the Middle East, but ex-U.S. intelligence officials urge President Obama to resist the pressures and examine the facts.

 

MEMORANDUM FOR:  The President

FROM:  Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT:  Avoiding Another Long War

As professionals with collectively hundreds of years of experience in intelligence, foreign policy, and counterterrorism, we are concerned about the gross misrepresentation of facts being bruited about to persuade you to start another war.

We have watched the militarists represent one Muslim country after another as major threats to U.S. security. In the past, they supported attacks on Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Afghanistan, as well as Israel’s attacks on Syria and Lebanon — nine Muslim countries – and Gaza.

This time, they are using a new IAEA report to assert categorically that Iran is building a nuclear weapon that allegedly poses a major threat to the U.S. Your intelligence and military advisors can certainly clarify what the report really says.

As you know, the IAEA makes regular inspection visits to Iran’s nuclear facilities and has TV cameras monitoring those facilities around the clock. While there is reason to question some of Iran’s actions, the situation is not as clear-cut as some allege.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former IAEA director-general, said recently, “I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.” He is not alone: All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded “with high confidence” in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons program as of 2003.

We are seeing a replay of the “Iraq WMD threat.” As Philip Zelikow, Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission said, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.”

Your military and intelligence experts can also provide information on unpublicized efforts to derail Iran’s nuclear program and on the futility of attempting to eliminate that program – which is dispersed and mostly underground – through aerial bombing.

Sen. Joe Lieberman

Defense Secretary [Leon] Panetta and other experts have stated that an air attack would only delay any weapons program for a year or two at most.

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan said that an air force strike against Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid thing,” a view endorsed in principle by two other past Mossad chiefs, Danny Yatom and Ephraim Halevy. Dagan added that “Any strike against [the civilian program] is an illegal act according to international law.”

Dagan pointed out another reality: bombing Iran would lead it to retaliate against Israel through Hezbollah, which has tens of thousands of Grad-type rockets and hundreds of Scuds and other long-range missiles, and through Hamas.

We are already spending as much as the rest of the world combined on National Security and $100 billion per year on a Long War in Afghanistan. The Israel lobby has been beating the drums for us to attack Iran for years, led by people with confused loyalties like Joe Lieberman, who once made the claim that it is unpatriotic for Americans not to support Israel.

Another Long War is not in America’s or Israel’s interests, whatever Israel’s apologists claim. Those are the same people who claim that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said he would “wipe Israel off the map.” Persian specialists have pointed out that the original statement in Persian actually said that Israel would collapse: “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.”

What we have is a situation where Israel’s actions, for example in sending 300,000 settlers into the West Bank and 200,000 settlers into East Jerusalem, are compromising U.S. security by putting us at risk for terrorist retaliation.

We have provided Israel with $100 billion in direct aid since 1975. Since this is fungible, how has funding settlements contributed to our security? You agreed to provide $3 billion in F-35s to Israel in exchange for a 90-day freeze on settlements. What you got was 90 days of stonewalling on the peace process and then more settlers. What more do we owe Israel?

Certainly not a rush to war. We have time to make diplomacy and sanctions work, to persuade Russia and China to make joint cause with us.

James Madison once wrote that “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded.… War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. …No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

We are currently winding down what you labeled a “dumb war;” we should not undertake another dumb war against a country almost three times larger than Iraq, that would set off a major regional war and create generations of jihadis. Such a war, contrary to what some argue, would not make Israel or the U.S. safer.

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Phil Giraldi, Directorate of Operations, CIA
Ray McGovern, US Army Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA
Coleen Rowley, Special Agent and Minneapolis Division Counsel, FBI
Ann Wright, Col., US Army Reserve (ret.), Foreign Service Officer, Department of State
Tom Maertens, Foreign Service Officer and NSC Director for Non-Proliferation under two presidents

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council
David MacMichael, former history professor and CIA and National Intelligence Council analyst

Iran’s nuclear ambitions have already started a war with west – a covert one

Iran’s nuclear ambitions have already started a war with west – a covert one

A secret campaign of surveillance, sabotage, cyberattacks and assassinations has slowed but not stopped Tehran’s programme

President George W Bush in 2007

Iran’s nuclear ambitions led then US president George W Bush to launch a covert war in 2007 to thwart the programme. Photograph: Jim Young/REUTERS

The covert war on Iran‘s nuclear programme was launched in earnest by George Bush in 2007. It is a fair assumption that the western powers had been trying their best to spy on the Islamic Republic since the 1979 Iranian revolution, but the 2007 “presidential finding” put those efforts on a new footing.

Bush asked Congress to approve $400m for a programme of support for rebel ethnic groups, as well as intelligence gathering and sabotage of the nuclear programme. Part of that effort involved slipping defective parts such as centrifuge components into the black market supply to Iran, designed to blow apart while in operation and in so doing bring down all the centrifuges in the vicinity. The UK, Germany, France and Israel are said to have been involved in similar efforts. Meanwhile, western intelligence agencies stepped up their attempt to infiltrate the programme, seeking to recruit Iranian scientists when they travelled abroad.

That espionage effort appears to have paid dividends. In 2009, the US, British and French intelligence agencies were able to confirm that extensive excavations at Fordow, a Revolutionary Guard base near the Shia theological centre of Qom, were a secret uranium enrichment plant under construction. The digging had been seen by satellites, but only human sources could identify its purpose. Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy were able to reveal Fordow’s existence at the UN general assembly in September 2009, a diplomatic setback to Iran. Russia, which had been Iran’s principal protector on the world stage, was furious with Tehran at having been taken by surprise.

It is harder to gauge the impact of sabotage. Olli Heinonen, the former chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said: “I never saw any direct evidence of sabotage. We could see that they had breakages but it was hard to say if those were the result of their own technical problems or sabotage. I suspect a little of both.”

Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, complained to the press in 2006 about sabotage but vowed that Iran would overcome the challenge by making more of the centrifuges and other components itself.

But it was impossible to make everything at home. The computer systems which run the centrifuge operations in Natanz, supplied by the German engineering firm Siemens, were targeted last year by a computer worm called Stuxnet, reportedly created as a joint venture by US and Israeli intelligence. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad conceded that Stuxnet had caused damage, and last November, Iranian scientists were forced to suspend enrichment to rectify the problem. A few days later, however, the centrifuges were working once more.

The black operations have not been confined to hardware and computer systems. They have also targeted Iran’s scientists. In July 2009, an Iranian nuclear expert called Shahram Amiri vanished while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. A year later, he surfaced in the US claiming he had been abducted by American agents, and in July 2010 he returned to a hero’s welcome in Tehran.

US officials said he had been a willing defector who had been paid $5m for his help, but who had since had a mysterious change of heart. There have since been claims Amiri had been an Iranian double agent all along. The truth is unclear.

Other attempts to remove Iran’s scientists have been blunter and bloodier.

Starting in January 2010, there were a series of attacks in Tehran on Iranian physicists with links to the nuclear programme. The first target was Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a physicist and lecturer at the Imam Hussein university, run by the Revolutionary Guards. He was on his way to work when a bomb fixed to a motorbike parked outside his house exploded and killed him instantly.

In November that year, assassins on motorbikes targeted two Iranian scientists simultaneously as they were stuck in morning traffic. In both cases, the killers drove up alongside their targets’ cars and stuck bombs to the side. Majid Shahriari, a scientist at the atomic energy organisation, who had co-authored a paper on neutron diffusion in a nuclear reactor, was killed.

The other target, Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani, suspected by western officials of being a central figure in experiments on building a nuclear warhead, was only injured. Three months later he was promoted to the leadership of the nuclear programme.

A third scientist, Darioush Rezaeinejad, was killed in an attack in July this year, when gunmen on motorbikes shot him in a street in east Tehran. He was initially described in the Iranian media as a “nuclear scientist”, but the government later denied he had any involvement in the programme.

Iran has blamed the attacks on the Israeli secret service, Mossad, and in August sentenced an Iranian, Majid Jamali-Fashi, to death for his alleged involvement in the Ali Mohammadi killing. He had confessed to being part of a hit-team trained in Israel, but it appeared likely he had made the confession under torture.

Despite the millions spent, stalled machines and deaths of leading scientists, Iran has steadily built up its stockpile of enriched uranium to 4.5 tonnes – enough for four nuclear bombs if it was further refined to weapons-grade purity. At most, the covert war has slowed the rate of progress, but it has not stopped it.