FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Iran Nuclear Trigger Forgeries

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.

February 21, 2019
Nick Pemberton
Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era
Chris Orlet
The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour
Bruce E. Levine
“Heavy Drinking” and the NYT’s Offensive Obit on Herbert Fingarette
Lisi Krall
This Historical Moment Demands Transformation of Our Institutions. The Green New Deal Won’t Do That
Stephanie Savell
Mapping the American War on Terror: Now in 80 Countries
Daniel Warner
New York, New York: a Resounding Victory for New York Over Amazon
Russell Mokhiber
With Monsanto and Glyphosate on the Run AAAS Revokes Award to Scientists Whose Studies Led to Ban on Weedkiller in Sri Lanka and Other Countries
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Fake National Emergency Moves America Closer to an Autocracy
Alex Campbell
Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid
Jonah Raskin
Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer
Binoy Kampmark
Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380
Elliot Sperber
For Your Children (or: Dead Ahead)
February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail