Thursday, June 04, 2009

Iran nuclear leaks 'linked to Israeli intelligence ruse....'

Iran nuclear leaks 'linked to Israeli intelligence ruse....'

WASHINGTON - A report on Iran's nuclear program issued by the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month generated news stories publicizing an incendiary charge that US intelligence is underestimating Iran's progress in designing a "nuclear warhead" before the halt in nuclear weapons-related research in 2003.

That false and misleading charge from an intelligence official of a foreign country, who was not identified but was clearly Israeli, reinforces two of Israel's key themes on Iran - that the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran is wrong, and that Tehran is poised to build nuclear weapons as soon as possible.

But it also provides new evidence that Israeli intelligence was the source of the collection of intelligence documents which have been used to accuse Iran of hiding nuclear weapons research.

The committee report, dated May 4, cited unnamed "foreign analysts" as claiming intelligence that Iran ended its nuclear weapons-related work in 2003 because it had mastered the design and tested components of a nuclear weapon and thus didn't need to work on it further until it had produced enough sufficient material.

That conclusion, which implies that Iran has already decided to build nuclear weapons, contradicts both the 2007 NIE on Iran, and current intelligence analysis. The NIE concluded that Iran had ended nuclear weapons-related work in 2003 because of increased international scrutiny, and that it was "less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005".

The report included what appears to be a spectacular revelation from "a senior allied intelligence official" that a collection of intelligence documents supposedly obtained by US intelligence in 2004 from an Iranian laptop computer included "blueprints for a nuclear warhead".

It quotes the unnamed official as saying that the blueprints "precisely matched" similar blueprints the official's own agency "had obtained from other sources inside Iran".

No US or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official have ever claimed that the so-called laptop documents included designs for a "nuclear warhead". The detailed list in a May 26, 2008, IAEA report of the contents of what have been called the "alleged studies" - intelligence documents on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons work - made no mention of any such blueprints.

In using the phrase "blueprints for a nuclear warhead", the unnamed official was evidently seeking to conflate blueprints for the re-entry vehicle of the Iranian Shehab missile, which were among the alleged Iranian documents, with blueprints for nuclear weapons.

When New York Times reporters William J Broad and David E Sanger used the term "nuclear warhead" to refer to a re-entry vehicle in a November 13, 2005, story on the intelligence documents on the Iranian nuclear program, it brought sharp criticism from David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

"This distinction is not minor," Albright observed, "and Broad should understand the differences between the two objects, particularly when the information does not contain any words such as nuclear or nuclear warhead."

The Senate report does not identify the country for which the analyst in question works, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff refused to respond to questions about the report from Inter Press Service (IPS), including the reason why the report concealed the identity of the country for which the unidentified "senior allied intelligence official" works.

Reached later in May, the author of the report, Douglas Frantz, said he was under strict instructions not to speak with the news media.

After a briefing on the report for selected news media immediately after its release, however, the Associated Press reported May 6 that interviews were conducted in Israel. Frantz was apparently forbidden by Israeli officials from revealing their national affiliation as a condition for the interviews.

Frantz, a former journalist for the Los Angeles Times, had extensive contacts with high-ranking Israeli military, intelligence and Foreign Ministry officials before joining the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff. He and co-author Catherine Collins conducted interviews with those Israeli officials for The Nuclear Jihadist, published in 2007. The interviews were all conducted under rules prohibiting disclosure of their identities, according to the book.

The unnamed Israeli intelligence officer's statement that the "blueprints for a nuclear warhead" - meaning specifications for a missile re-entry vehicle - were identical to "designs his agency had obtained from other sources in Iran" suggests that the documents collection which the IAEA has called "alleged studies" actually originated in Israel.

A US-based nuclear weapons analyst who has followed the "alleged studies" intelligence documents closely says he understands that the documents obtained by US intelligence in 2004 were not originally stored on the laptop on which they were located when they were brought in by an unidentified Iranian source, as US officials have claimed to US journalists.

The analyst, who insists on not being identified, says the documents were collected by an intelligence network and then assembled on a single laptop.

The anonymous Israeli intelligence official's claim, cited in the committee report, that the "blueprints" in the "alleged studies" collection matched documents his agency had gotten from its own source seems to confirm the analyst's finding that Israeli intelligence assembled the documents.

German officials have said that the Mujahedin E Khalq (MEK), the Iranian resistance organization, brought the laptop documents collection to the attention of US intelligence, as reported by IPS in February 2008. Israeli ties with the political arm of the MEK, the National Committee of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), go back to the early 1990s and include assistance to the organization in broadcasting into Iran from Paris.

The NCRI publicly revealed the existence of the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility in August 2002. However, that and other intelligence apparently came from Israeli intelligence. The Israeli co-authors of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran, Yossi Melman and Meir Javeanfar, revealed that "Western" intelligence was "laundered" to hide its actual provenance by providing it to Iranian opposition groups, especially NCRI, in order to get it to the IAEA.

They cite US, British and Israeli officials as sources for the revelation.

New Yorker writer Connie Bruck wrote in a March 2006 article that an Israeli diplomat confirmed to her that Israel had found the MEK "useful" but declined to elaborate.

Israeli intelligence is also known to have been actively seeking to use alleged Iranian documents to prove that Iran had an active nuclear weapons program just at the time the intelligence documents which eventually surfaced in 2004 would have been put together.

The most revealing glimpse of Israeli use of such documents to influence international opinion on Iran's nuclear program comes from the book by Frantz and Collins. They report that Israel's international intelligence agency Mossad created a special unit in the summer of 2003 to carry out a campaign to provide secret briefings on the Iranian nuclear program, which sometimes included "documents from inside Iran and elsewhere".

The "alleged studies" collection of documents has never been verified as genuine by either the IAEA or by intelligence analysts. The Senate report said senior United Nations officials and foreign intelligence officials who had seen "many of the documents" in the collection of alleged Iranian military documents had told committee staff "it is impossible to rule out an elaborate intelligence ruse ......"

The New Republic’s website published a remarkable but thus far little-noticed article by Michael Makovsky and Ed Morse. Makovsky is an alumnus of Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans and younger brother of former Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) director David Makovsky, while Morse is a former energy analyst for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers. More to the point, both were key players behind last year’s ultra-hawkish Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) report on Iran’s nuclear program, which Makovsky wrote with Michael Rubin and which was characterized here as a “roadmap to war”. Perhaps even more disconcerting than the report’s actual recommendations was the fact that one of the task force members was Dennis Ross, who is now the State Department’s special envoy in charge of Iran. The fact that Ross signed off on the report, which seemed to take for granted the necessity of military action against Iran, was yet another indication that he was a poor choice to facilitate the Obama administration’s diplomatic outreach to Tehran.

Makovsky and Morse’s new TNR article, however, is notable because it topples one of the pillars on which Iran hawks in the U.S. have based their arguments: the notion that targeted sanctions on the Iranian energy sector would cause serious damage to Iran’s economy and coerce Tehran into abandoning its nuclear program. Read the rest of this entry »

It is becoming ever clearer that Obama (with SecDef Gates as his main pillar of support) is the one person who can deflect (maybe) the push for war over the Iranian nuclear program. Such a course may eventually put the president in harm’s way politically, and perhaps even physically.

It is all but certain that Iran will not renounce its nuclear ambitions. Pakistan, with a 60-year history, has a nuclear arsenal; the Persians, with a 2,500-year old civilization, feel themselves more than entitled to join the nuclear club. Does this present a mortal danger to nuclear Israel? Not really. The mortal danger is that in 10 years there will be about 500 million Arabs living in the Middle East, including perhaps 80 or 100 million young men without jobs or prospects, and that one Arab nation or another will by then have a nuclear weapon or weapons in its possession. Additionally, by 2020 or 2030 Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel itself. The Iranians are almost the last thing Israel should be worrying about.

I predict that before 2048 Israel, as a Jewish state, will have ceased to exist. And unless the Israelis develop better social skills really soon, they are going to pay a terrible price for their actions since the ‘67 war.

What really worries me is how much America will suffer from the Israeli albatross around its neck. If bad things happen to us — militarily, economically, and in terms of terrorism — because of our unqualified support for that country, we may very well see a violent reaction against Israel and, I fear, American Jews as well. We are heading toward a train wreck that could be very bloody indeed. I’m sorry for the doomsday vision, but I don’t think my concern is overstated.

As so often in history, the impending tragedy could be averted if only people thought a little harder, saw a little farther. But I don’t see reason prevailing on this one....

To say there is no evidence that Iran is after a nuclear weapon is incorrect. It is known that Iran obtained nuclear expertise from Pakistan in the past. Further, it can be inferred from what is known about the Iranian program that a bomb is at least one of its goals. The Iranians are not going to come out and say so, for obvious reasons. But an objective examination of the situation leaves no real doubt that their program has a military component.

Unlike some people, I do not find this particularly alarming. I am 100% in favor of doing everything possible to achieve a U.S.-Iran rapprochement. Friendship with Iran, rather than Israel, is the key to advancing U.S. interests in the Middle East generally (where it would serve as a counterweight to U.S. dependence/reliance on Saudi Arabia), and specifically in the Persian Gulf (through which something like 25% of world oil flows). U.S. policy goals in Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and Central Asia are probably achievable only with a friendly Iran.....

Aside from the necessity of diversifying its energy resources, and including nuclear energy in the mix (which I explained in an article in Harvard International Review, Winter 2005), Iran is after the Japan model, namely, having the complete domestic industry for producing low-enriched uranium for its nuclear reactors, but also putting it in a position that would enable it to break out on a short notice, if a national emergency arises.

Who can blame Iran? Regardless of how we view its regime, Iran is in one of the worst neighborhoods in the world, with an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan on the east (from which the Jundallah terrorists attack Iran), a constantly threatening nuclear-armed Israel on the West, and claims to its territorial integrity by the United Arab Emirate in the south which are supported by the U.S., not to mention a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan (and even in Pakistan).

At this point it seems fairly clear that Obama is clueless with respect to foreign policy. At best he is ambivalent. Given that his entire foreign policy team is right of center, it seems doubtful that we will avoid more war, Admiral Mullen not withstanding. AIPAC’s control of Congress remains as firm as ever, Obama fans the flames of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. His lawyers continue to successfully invoke the government’s “right” to state secrets against hapless and unwitting prisoners of war (a.k.a. “terrorists”). Probably in the end, Obama will regret his decisions and/or lack of them with respect to foreign policy and his inability to stand up to Israel. But by then it will be too late....

First, I want to point out that we are awash in oil right now. This means that gasoline demand is down, reserves are at 98% of capacity, we have filled tankers sitting off-shore. We are in another oil bubble. The last time this drew to a contango mess was on the eve of the Israel/Lebanon war of ‘06. I believe we may have allowed Israel to go ahead with it’s attack after saber rattling failed to reach the needed $77/barrel. The war with Lebanese got the price to $75 which was less than what they wanted but forestalled a contango crisis.

(Contango is when the spot price is far below the futures price, this means the investor overbid the oil price and will have to sell for far less than he bought it for. Since so much of this is the low interest gov’t loans that bailed out these manipulators we’re paying for the gas manipulation 4-5 times over now. One more bubble pop and our enfeebled economy could collapse–at least the financiers.)

This next contango bubble could see the same convergence of foreign policy at the service of market manipulation. If this sounds a bit conspiratorial I’d direct you to Smedley Butler’s “War Is a Racket,” ask you to reflect on South America and the Middle East. I don’t see these as sole or even primary reasons for this action–hell, when is it a bad time to kill brown people? We have many Machiavellian if myopic reasons to proceed with the status quo, but this market imbalance must be kept in perspective.

While Iran has been under crippling sanctions for some time, the oil glut has no doubt hurt Iran. Sales at the well head are down, as are revenues. And, much of this bubble goes to the financiers not to the producers. After all, the producers are still having to subsidize the gas for domestic consumption.

I also want to point out that Saudi Arabia already likely has nukes though this is not widely discussed. It seems only sensible that Iran get them as well. I don’t know how much longer this country can continue to bully the world. Are we China’s unwitting terrier? How much can we do for Israel, how much more militarism can we afford?

This country can’t afford to run the deficits we’re running. We can’t fight China as they could dump our dollars and cripple us instantly. The Fed had to bail out the 10yr Treasury note when it found few buyers. What I am trying to discern is how much of a bang and puff of smoke will we leave as the American empire succumbs to entropy and Hoyle and finds it’s own reasonable limits.

This will seem very painful here. We will slowly slide a bit while the rest of the world gains and improves. This is a good thing. The best thing would be for us to hold only a Navy, patrol the seas for a tribute and develop our own manufacturing base. We’d benefit from fair trade and real competition. But, these would help us over the long term.

Over the short run our myopic ministers will support what’s most advantageous right now. Increasingly, the advantage is going to political supporters rather than the American people. We are being fleeced. I would like to see liberals engage libertarians and vice versa. They agree on retiring the American empire, sadly we’re represented by the lackeys of the War machine in both parties. The longer we allow this, the further we will descend. When the fight is over, it doesn’t really serve one well to continue the bellicose overtures. Our ugliness (and hypocrisy) is evident to all but ourselves.....