FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Iran Nuclear Trigger Forgeries

by GARETH PORTER

New revelations about two documents leaked to The Times of London to show that Iran is working on a “nuclear trigger” mechanism have further undermined the credibility of the document the newspaper had presented as evidence of a continuing Iranian nuclear weapons program.

A columnist for the Times has acknowledged that the two-page Persian language document published by The Times last month was not a photocopy of the original document but an expurgated and retyped version of the original.

A translation of a second Persian language document also published by The Times, moreover, contradicts the claim by The Times that it shows the “nuclear trigger” document was written within an organization run by an Iranian military scientist.

Former Central Intelligence Agency official Philip Giraldi has said U.S. intelligence judges the “nuclear trigger” document to be a forgery, as IPS reported last week. The IPS story also pointed out that the document lacked both security markings and identification of either the issuing organization or the recipient.

The new revelations point to additional reasons why intelligence analysts would have been suspicious of the “nuclear trigger” document.

On Dec. 14, The Times published what it explicitly represented as a photocopy of a complete Persian language document showing Iranian plans for testing a neutron initiator, a triggering device for a nuclear weapon, along with an English language translation.

But in response to a reader who noted the absence of crucial information from the document, including security markings, Oliver Kamm, an online columnist for The Times, admitted Jan. 3 that the Persian language document published by The Times was “a retyped version of the relevant parts of that original document”.

Kamm wrote that the original document had “contained a lot of classified information” and was not published “because of the danger that it would alert Iranian authorities to the source of the leak”.

In offering the explanation of the intelligence agency that leaked the document to The Times, Kamm was also damaging the credibility of the document. A document that had been both edited and retyped could obviously have been doctored by adding material on a neutron initiator.

The reason for such editing could not have been to excise “classified information”, because, if the document were genuine, the Iranian government would already have the information.

Furthermore there would have been ways of avoiding disclosure of the source of the leak that would not have required the release of an expurgated version of the document. The number of the copy of the document could have been blacked out, for example.

The Times claimed in a separate story that the “nuclear trigger” document was written within the military technology development organization run by Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

A second document, also published in Persian language by The Times, shows Fakhrizadeh’s signature under the title, “Chief, Department of Development and Deployment of Advanced Technology”, and includes a list of 12 “recipients” within that organisation, and is dated the Persian equivalent of Dec. 29, 2005 on the Western calendar, according to an English translation obtained by IPS.

The Times reporter, Catherine Philp, wrote that the neutron initiator document “was drawn up within the Centre for Preparedness at the Institute of Applied Physics”, which she identifies as “one of the organization’s 12 departments”.

But the reference to a “Centre for Preparedness at the Institute of Applied Physics” is an obvious misreading of a chart given to The Times by the intelligence agency but not published by The Times.

The chart, which can be found on the website of the Institute for Science and International Security, shows what are clearly two separate organizations relating to neutronics – a “Center for Preparedness” and an “Institute of Applied Physics” – under what the intelligence agency translated as the “Field for Expansion of Advance Technologies’ Deployment”.

But George Maschke, a Persian language expert and former U.S. military intelligence officer, provided IPS with a translation of the list of the 12 recipients on the cover page document showing that it includes a “Centre for Preparedness and New Defense Technology” but not an “Institute of Applied Physics”.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports have referred to the Institute of Applied Physics as a stand-alone institution rather than part of Fakhrizadeh’s organization.

The English translation of the document shows that none of the other five Centers and groups on the list of recipients is a plausible candidate to run a neutron-related experimentation program, either.

They include the chiefs of the Centre for Explosives and Impact Technology, the Centre for Manufacturing and Industrial Research, the Chemical and Metallurgical Groups of the Centre for Advanced Materials Research and Technology, and the Centre for New Aerospace Research and Design.

Contrary to The Times story, moreover, the other five recipients on the list of 12 are not heads of “departments” but deputies to the director for various cross-cutting themes: finance and budget, plans and programs, science, administration and human resources and audits and legal affairs.

The absence of any organization with an obvious expertise in atomic energy indicates Fakhrizadeh’s Department of Development and Deployment of Advanced Technology is not the locus of a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

The nuclear weapons programs of Israel, India and Pakistan prior to testing of an atomic bomb were all located within their respective atomic energy commissions. That organizational pattern reflects the fact that scientific expertise in nuclear physics and the different stages through which uranium must pass before being converted into a weapon is located overwhelmingly in the national atomic commissions.

The Times story claimed a consensus among “Western intelligence agencies” that Fakhrizadeh’s “Advanced Technology Development and Deployment Department” has inherited the same components as were present in the “Physics Research Centre” of the 1990s. It also asserts that the same components were present in the alleged nuclear weapons research program that the mysterious cache of intelligence documents now called the “alleged studies” documents portrayed as being under Fakhrizadeh’s control.

Those claims were taken from the chart given to The Times by the unidentified intelligence agency.

But the idea that Fakhrizadeh has been in charge of a covert nuclear weapons project can be traced directly to the fact that he helped procure or sought to procure dual-use items when he was head of the Physics Resource Center in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The items included vacuum equipment, magnets, a balancing machine, and a mass spectrometer, all of which might be used either in a nuclear programme or for non-nuclear and non-military purposes.

The IAEA suggested in reports beginning in 2004 that Fakhrizadeh’s interest in these dual-use items indicated a possible role in Iran’s nuclear program.

That same year someone concocted a collection of documents – later dubbed “the alleged studies” documents – showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons project, based on the premise that Fakhrizadeh was its chief.

Iran insisted, however, that Fakhrizadeh had procured the technologies in question for non-military uses by various components of the Imam Hussein University, where he was a lecturer.

And after reviewing documentation submitted by Iran and verifying some of its assertions by inspection on the spot, the IAEA concluded in its Feb. 22, 2008 report that Iran’s explanation for Fakhrizadeh’s role in obtaining the items had been truthful after all.

But instead of questioning the authenticity of the “alleged studies” documents, IAEA Deputy Director for Safeguards Olli Heinonen highlighted Fakhrizadeh’s role in Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons work in a briefing for member states just three days after the publication of that correction.

GARETH PORTER is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.

More articles by:

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail