The Iran nuclear intelligence well was poisoned from the start

Gareth Porter reveals how Western intelligence believed the procurements of an Iranian university were proof of nuclear-weapons research.

Arak nuclear facility. Image Wikimedia Commons

Arak nuclear facility. Image Wikimedia Commons

The sources of enmity between Iran and the United States are legion. In 1953, when Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh (also spelled Mossadegh) sought to make Iran a democracy and nationalize the oil industry, which was owned by British corporations, the United States helped plan and execute a coup. Then, in 1979, when President Jimmy Carter allowed the just-deposed Shah into the United States for medical treatment, Iranian revolutionaries took U.S. embassy staff hostage. But, after 9/11, in a gesture of good will, Iran collected hundreds of Arabs who crossed the border from Afghanistan, deported them, and supplied copies of their passports to the United States. Iran also provided assistance overthrowing the Taliban and establishing the Karzai government in Afghanistan.

Yet, in his 2002 State of the Union address, George W. Bush saw fit to include Iran in his infamous “axis of evil.” It was all downhill from there. Since then, of course, the United States and the West has been subject to the idée fixe that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But the origins of the possession were earlier. On February 5, at IPS News, Gareth Porter reported:

When Western intelligence agencies began in the early 1990s to intercept telexes from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms, intelligence analysts believed they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme. That suspicion led to U.S. intelligence assessments over the next decade that Iran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

The alleged evidence

… of military efforts to procure uranium enrichment equipment shown in the telexes was … the main premise of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear programme from 2003 through 2007.


Iran produced voluminous evidence to support its explanation for each of the procurement efforts the IAEA had questioned. … The IAEA report on February 2008 … declared the issue “no longer outstanding at this stage”, despite U.S. pressure on ElBaradei to avoid closing that or any other issue in the work programme, as reported in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

In short

The IAEA report showed that the primary intelligence basis for the U.S. charge of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme for more than a decade had been erroneous.

As you can see, the well of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program was poisoned from the start. It’s been only recently, with expectations the P5+1 will reach a nuclear deal with Iran, that the toxins have even begun to work their way through the groundwater.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

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