Foreign policy: make Iraq great again

                                                       image courtesy of dailysignal.com

The answer to the Syrian refugee crisis is Iraq. As Secretary of State Colin Powell famously warned President George W. Bush, “If you break it, you own it.” (Read that whole article, by the way, because Colin Powell is one of the great American Generals and he speaks the truth.) We have many allies in the region and they are doing everything they can to help us. Turkey is housing nearly 2 million refugees (half of whom are children.) That’s 10% of Syria’s pre-war population. Jordan has embraced almost 650,000, which means that 10% of Jordan’s total population is now Syrian refugees.

Lebanon (not an ally) has accepted 1.1 million refugees. Lebanon and Israel are in the midst of a Cold War. As a result, the United States offers Lebanon no assistance, even though 25% of their population is now Syrian refugees. The children keep coming, and Lebanon keeps housing, feeding, and sheltering them, even though their resources are well beyond the breaking point. Even Iran has been sending aid, as much as they are able, to fellow members of the Red Crescent Society (think Red Cross for Muslims.) Continue reading

Senator Schumer: Be a statesman.

iran-us-states-deal-sanctions

photo courtesy of rt.com

Senator Schumer,

I studied your position on the Iran Deal, which was posted on medium.com. It seems well reasoned and thorough, proceeding logically from point to point. However, there is one key flaw which runs through all the arguments. There is a false premise, an unstated assumption that Iran not only intends to build a nuclear weapon, but that they intend to use it. It is beginning from the position that we are and always shall be mortal enemies, that one of us must be destroyed. Continue reading

Iran Deal: open letter to Congress

Rail_map_of_China

image courtesy of wikipedia.org

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for your service to our country. As you know, President Obama’s historic peace accord with Iran is in jeopardy. Granted, we could smash Iran into little pieces without very much effort at all. However, to do so would precipitate a catastrophic descent into world war, destabilizing our military hegemony and costing millions or billions of lives. It would also place America firmly in the historical category of hubristic villain states, and could very well bring about our downfall, if not our complete destruction. A vote against the Iran deal is a vote for that second option. Continue reading

The 7 most incisive comments about the Iran nuclear deal

The Iran nuclear deal has generated an abundance of extraordinary insights. Here’s a sampling.

The Iran nuclear deal not only opened the door to improved relations with Iran, but to an outpouring of keen observations. Pictured: Lead U.S. nuclear negotiator Secretary of State John Kerry. (Photo: Ralph Alswang / Flickr Commons)

The Iran nuclear deal not only opened the door to improved relations with Iran, but to an outpouring of keen observations. Pictured: Lead U.S. nuclear negotiator Secretary of State John Kerry. (Photo: Ralph Alswang / Flickr Commons)

We shall start with a headline which, for me, sums up all the excruciating years of accusations, pre-negotiations, and negotiations, as well as the deal itself (which, as I observed yesterday, has no name, but which, I’ve since learned, goes by the singularly undistinctive name Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

Iran Won the Vienna Accords By Agreeing to Stop What It Never Was Doing

That the title of a piece at New American Media by William O. Beeman, who noted:

It was … easy for Iran to give up a nuclear weapons program that never existed, and that it never intended to implement. As a bargaining position this is unassailable as your counterpart at the table insists and insists on something that has no value, it is possible to use giving way on such an empty demand to extract other concessions. Continue reading

Jason Rezaian: Iran’s nuclear hostage?

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian’s trial may be an attempt by reactionary forces in Iran to upend the Iran nuclear deal.

From the warmth of its people to the oppression of its government, Iran is a nation of polarities. Pictured: the Holy Shrine of Abdulazim. (Photo: David Stanley / Flickr Commons)

From the warmth of its people to the oppression of its government, Iran is a nation of polarities. Pictured: the Holy Shrine of Abdulazim. (Photo: David Stanley / Flickr Commons)

Recently my wife and I were watching an old episode of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown in which, after years of trying, he managed to gain entry into Iran. As the show revealed, aside from the food (as heavily meat-based as any country’s), which he liked, Iran is a nation of huge dichotomies. Bourdain claimed the people were the most welcome he had ever met. But many Iranians filmed for the show, in interviews and in public spaces, seemed as if they were restraining themselves from demonstrating their love of life lest they catch of the Revolutionary Guard’s paramilitary basij forces.

At one point Bourdain conducted a lengthy interview with an Iran-American journalist for the Washington Post and his Iranian wife. They were both clearly in love with Iran. Wait, I thought, is that…? Yes, as Bourdain explained in a postscript at the end of the show, Jason Rezaian had since been arrested, along with his wife. Continue reading

The T word: Republican senators’ letter to Iran has some accusing them of treason

Many are aghast at the treasonous nature of the open letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican senators.

It’s astonishing that U.S. senators would try to pull the rug out from a presidency in the midst of sensitive negotiations with another state. (Photo: Mike Myers / Flickr Commons)

It’s astonishing that U.S. senators would try to pull the rug out from a presidency in the midst of sensitive negotiations with another state. (Photo: Mike Myers / Flickr Commons)

As you have no doubt heard by now, 47 Republican senators wrote an open letter directed at Iran’s leadership. Its main message:

We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. … The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of an agreement at any time. Continue reading

By pushing for more sanctions, U.S. hardliners play into hands of Iranian hardliners

New sanctions legislation against Iran would alienate Europe, Russia, and China.

Republican lawmakers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seek further sanctions against Iran. (Photo: Jeffrey Richardson / U.S. Navy / Flick Commons)

Republican lawmakers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seek further sanctions against Iran. (Photo: Jeffrey Richardson / U.S. Navy / Flick Commons)

“Buoyed by the failure of the US and five other powers to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear program,” writes Jim Lobe for Inter Press Service, “pro-Israel and Republican hawks are calling for Washington to ramp up economic pressure on Tehran even while talks continue, and to give Congress a veto on any final accord.” But, he continues,

Most Iran specialists here believe that any new sanctions legislation will likely sabotage the talks, fracture the P5+1, and thus undermine the international sanctions regime against Iran, strengthen hard-liners in Tehran who oppose accommodation and favour accelerating the nuclear programme.  Continue reading

Who is ISIS? Time for an airlift.

So picture this scenario. A leader in a fledgling democracy creates a space for himself, a perch above it all from which to tame the beast. Sounds reasonable? Except, wait. No it doesn’t. Remember when George Washington turned down the crown? Remember when he set the two term precedent? That’s a leader. What we’re dealing with is a king. Let’s hope he’s not a tyrant. Continue reading

Israel projects its own nuclear behavior on to Iran

Israel and Iran: It takes one to know one ― or think it knows one.

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel

Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel

In a story that seems to have gone unremarked upon by other journalists, on March 31 at Inter Press Service, Gareth Porter reported:

The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement. Continue reading

Five ways the myth that Iran was developing nuclear weapons was hyped

How an Iranian nuclear-weapons program became accepted wisdom.

Arak nuclear reactor in Iran

Arak nuclear reactor in Iran

More and more men and women are either born with a talent for, or are developing skill in, technical matters, especially computer hardware and software. With those capabilities now widespread, it’s odd that more people don’t take the time to acquaint themselves with the technical issues surrounding Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program. While the issues may be somewhat daunting to non-technical types such as this author ― though certainly not beyond our capacity to understand with a little effort ― they’re easy for the technically gifted. True, they’re on the dry side, but it can’t be any more tedious than trying to figure out how to draw more clicks to an ad. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

More sanctions on Iran = uranium enriched to a higher grade

Both U.S. members of Congress calling for new Iran sanctions and hard-liners in Iran assault President Rouhani from each side.

Arak heavy water plant in Iran

Arak heavy water plant in Iran

In light of how much it has invested in uranium enrichment, it’s unrealistic to expect Iran to abandon the process. At the National Interest, Colin Kahl explains.

Given the significant financial investment—estimated to be at least $100 billion—and political capital the regime has expended to master uranium enrichment, the supreme leader will not agree to completely dismantle Iran’s program as many in Congress demand. … If Khamenei senses [President] Rouhani and [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Zarif are headed in that direction, he will likely pull the rug out from under continued negotiations, regardless of U.S. threats to escalate the pressure further. Continue reading

U.S. determined to re-freeze thaw in relations with Iran

Iran's Arak nuclear enrichment facility

Iran’s Arak nuclear enrichment facility

It was only supposed to be Iran’s uranium enrichment progress that was frozen after talks with Iran last month. But now, acting in bad faith by violating the spirit of the Geneva deal between the G5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and Iran, the United States seems to be doing its level best to re-freeze the recent thaw in relations between the G5+1 and Iran. If you’ll bear with me for a final sub-Arctic-temperature metaphor, the United States has frozen the assets of (reports the Jerusalem Post) “companies and individuals engaged in transactions on behalf of other companies that the United States previously designated under the sanctions.” Continue reading

U.S. official propagates myths about Iran and nuclear energy

Memorial for assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Memorial for assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

At Going to Tehran, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett wrote about an appearance last month before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is also the senior U.S. representative in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran. What Ms. Sherman said not only calls into question her ability to perform that job, it begs the question of whether she’s even listening to herself. Ironically, it was in the cause of attempting to delay the implementation of further sanctions until the talks that she said of Iranians:

“We know that deception is part of the DNA.”

The Leveretts’ reaction:

This statement goes beyond orientalist stereotyping; it is, in the most literal sense, racist. And it evidently was not a mere “slip of the tongue”: a former Obama administration senior official told us that Sherman has used such language before about Iranians. Continue reading

Amir Hekmati: moral courage to burn

Hekmati,Amir

Imprisoned in Iran as a CIA spy, Amir Hekmati refuses to be ransomed.

Some background from CNN:

[Amir] Hekmati joined the Marines in 2001 out of high school. He finished his service four years later as a decorated combat veteran with tours in Iraq.

Afterward, he translated Arabic as a contractor and helped train troops in cultural sensitivity.

Hekmati’s family said he had gone to Iran to visit his grandmother but was arrested in August 2011, accused by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry of working as a CIA agent.

No doubt under severe psychological. and perhaps physical, duress

In December 2011, Hekmati appeared on Iranian state television maintaining that he had been sent to Iran by the CIA.

You’d have to be pretty heartless to blame someone in his situation for saying what he’s told to say. Since then, however, Hekmati has mined a vein of courage even deeper than that required just to survive in such a situation. Recently a letter he wrote was smuggled out of Iran and passed to Secretary of State John Kerry. It was apparently spurred because, CNN reports, “Iranian intelligence told his court-appointed lawyer that he could be released in exchange for two Iranians being held abroad.”

In the letter, as reproduced by CNN, he responds: “This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges.” Hekmati elaborates.

“For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. … I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition.”

By which he means the ransom. Hekmati adds:

“I do not wish to set a precedent for others that may be unlawfully (obtained) for political gain in the future. While my family and I have suffered greatly I will accept nothing but my unconditional release.”

Whither Moral Courage? asked author Salman Rushdie in a New York Times op-ed earlier this year. “We find it easier, in these confused times, to admire physical bravery than moral courage,” he wrote. “We no longer easily agree on what it means to be good, or principled, or brave.”

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, especially when it comes to keeping our families from harm. But I think we can all agree that by putting his body and soul on the line with a view towards helping to keep others from suffering as he has, Amir Hekmati demonstrates moral courage to burn.

Attacking Syria to Undermine Iran

Iran President Hassan Rouhani. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Kicking a leg out from under the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah tripod could also undermine Iran President Rouhani’s diplomatic initiatives.

As many have noted, launching missile strikes against Syria might once again harden the arteries that, since Hassan Rouhani was elected president, has been transporting fresh blood to Iran’s relationship with the West. Unfortunately, turning the relationship toxic again may be what the Washington and Israel wants.

At the Independent, Robert Fisk asks of the strikes, “But why now?” He attempts to answer his own question.

I think that Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless army might just be winning against the rebels whom we secretly arm. With the assistance of the Lebanese Hezbollah – Iran’s ally in Lebanon – the Damascus regime broke the rebels in Qusayr and may be in the process of breaking them north of Homs. Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West.

The Cruise missiles, Fisk writes

… are intended to strike at the Islamic republic now that it has a new and vibrant president  – as opposed to the crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and when it just might be a little more stable.

In the same vein, at Reuters, Yeganeh Torbati reports

A U.S. strike on Syria would spell “the end of a diplomacy aimed at reducing tensions with the West and reconciliation with the world,” wrote Sadeq Zibakalam, a professor at Tehran University, in Etemad, another reformist newspaper, last week.

“The atmosphere between Syria’s allies and the West, after a Western attack on Syria, will become so cold and dark that there would be practically no space for reducing tensions and improving relations … Iran will be forced to change its tone towards the West to a hostile one.”

In other words, the United States and Israel are concerned that Iran’s conciliatory new President Rouhani will render Iran too amenable to attack over the nuclear-weapons program they allege it’s developing. Weary of the ongoing anxiety of living under what it’s convinced itself is a sword of doom, Israel supports an attack on Syria because it will keep Iran from ingratiating itself with the West.

At Arms Control NOW, Greg Thielman reminds us of the chemical weapons that Iraq used on Iran during their eight-year war and how it is

… possible, if ironic, that some straight talk about the past could help limit the potential damage to six-power nuclear negotiations with Iran that may otherwise occur as a result of any U.S. military strikes. … For the United States Government to be willing to expand on the principles laid out in the recent remarks of both Obama and Kerry with an explicit statement about Iran’s experience could be beneficial. Understanding that national governments find it difficult to apologize for anything, a simple U.S. or multilateral statement of “regret” for the world’s silence when Iran was suffering so egregiously from CW attacks could open up new possibilities for U.S.-Iranian diplomatic dialogue.

In an even more ideal world

… acknowledging that this shameful tolerance of past CW use by Iraq may have contributed to the willingness of Assad to unleash these heinous weapons in the present would strengthen the credibility of the administration’s very specific justification for a military response. At the very least, it would better position the United States for withstanding the potentially negative effects internationally from whatever military action it ends up taking.

Would that President Obama and his advisors were able to manage the Syrian crisis with the ethics, empathy, and imagination of Greg Thielman.

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

The real reason Obama drew brakes on Syria attack

President Obama never gets tired of finding new ways to disappoint us.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, President Obama surprised the nation and the world when he announced that he would seek the approval of Congress before launching cruise (presumably called that because they fly far and at a constant speed) missiles at Syria. At the New York Times, Mark Landler reports (emphasis added):

He had several reasons, he told [his staff], including a sense of isolation after the terrible setback in the British Parliament. But the most compelling one may have been that acting alone would undercut him if in the next three years he needed Congressional authority for his next military confrontation in the Middle East, perhaps with Iran.

If he made the decision to strike Syria without Congress now, he said, would he get Congress when he really needed it?

“He can’t make these decisions divorced from the American public and from Congress,” said a senior aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “Who knows what we’re going to face in the next three and a half years in the Middle East?”

President Obama, who has spent his two terms in office redefining the meaning of the word “disheartening” has surpassed himself yet again. He agrees to stop playing – in a role made famous by George W. Bush –  the unitary executive for a day and seek Congressional approval for a strike on Syria. But, in possibly foregoing an attack on Syria, he’s saving his political capital for that rainy day he might seek to attack Iran.

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

Syria and chemical weapons attacks: “Just trust us,” says everybody.

Sarin

Today, as covered by nearly everyone, Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

Mr. Kerry alleges that the Assad regime destroyed evidence:

“Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Mr. Kerry said. “Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence.”

Evidence, of course, is forthcoming. Until then, just trust us.

 In the coming days, officials said, the nation’s intelligence agencies will disclose information to bolster their case that chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad’s forces. The information could include so-called signals intelligence — intercepted radio or telephone calls between Syrian military commanders.

Meanwhile, Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, presents some kind of evidence that it was the rebels that used the chemical weapons, not Assad. Was Shoebat a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? Confirmation is needed, but how rigorous would the confirmation need to be for it to be accepted as fact? Would it matter if he were? As for the evidence he presents, how good is it? Is it merely circumstantial? Taken out of context? Entirely fabricated? Who should judge?

Meanwhile, Russia, likely to veto any UN Security Council measures against Assad, claims that there is no evidence that Assad did use chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, Assad denies using chemical weapons.

The drums are beating for war, and all too many, some perhaps with dubious motives, are eager to get the jump on Assad. How about we wait until the UN inspectors actually have a chance to report on the evidence, if any is found?

Meanwhile, speaking of obscenities committed with chemical weapons:

“They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

And:

“The declassified CIA documents show that Casey and other top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. “If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border,” the CIA said in a top secret document.But it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost.”

Surprising no one, Mr. Kerry didn’t mention this bit of our history.

—-

Image credit: US Army Materiel Command http://www.flickr.com/photos/armymaterielcommand/877765649/sizes/m/in/photostream/. Licenced under Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

Iran’s election nuclear, but not nuked

Iran has to be the only country where one nuclear negotiator defeated another for the presidency.

RohaniIran’s new President Hassan Rohani/Rowhani/Rouhani* was Iran’s nuclear negotiator with Britain, France, and Germany between 2003 and 2005. One of his opponents and Supreme Leader Khameini’s candidate of choice, was Saeed Jalili, the current chief nuclear negotiator. In what other state, would you find two nuclear negotiators running against each other for president? Presumably it’s a sign of Iran’s priorities.  (No, not nuclear weapons, but nuclear energy.)

As far as the election itself, the first piece of good news is that there may not have been any “jiggery-pokery.” Say what? Reuters reports.

British former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who dealt with Rohani during nuclear negotiations between 2003 and 2005, called him a “very experienced diplomat and politician”.

“This is a remarkable and welcome result so far and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be no jiggery-pokery with the final result,” Straw told Reuters, alluding to accusations of widespread rigging in the 2009 election.

Regarding Straw’s kind words about him, at al-Sharq al-Awsat on Thursday (linked to by Juan Cole) Rohani extends olive branch.

“The Iran–US relationship is a complex and difficult issue. A bitter history, filled with mistrust and animosity, marks this relationship. It has become a chronic wound whose healing is difficult but possible, provided that good faith and mutual respect prevail. … As a moderate, I have a phased plan to deescalate hostility to a manageable state of tension and then engage in promotion of interactions and dialogue between the two peoples to achieve détente, and finally reach to the point of mutual respect that both peoples deserve.”

As for ye olde 800-pound gorilla …

Nuclear weapons have no role in Iran’s national security doctrine, and therefore Iran has nothing to conceal. But in order to move towards the resolution of Iran’s nuclear dossier, we need to build both domestic consensus and global convergence and understanding through dialogue.

He actually declares that

Iran should articulate its positions and policies in a more coherent and appreciable manner.

What about the disclaimer you always hear that Iranian presidents have little impact on foreign policy, ostensibly  Supreme Leader Khameini’s turf? Rohani was national security ddvisor for sixteen years during the administrations of Rafsanjani and Khatami (Ahmadinejad’s predecessors) and continued as one of Khameini’s two representative at the Supreme National Security Council. He maintains:

If elected, I expect to receive the same support and trust from the supreme leader on initiatives and measures I adopt to advance our foreign policy agenda.

Meanwhile, the ball, once again, is in the court of the United States and the West. I have no illusions about Rojani: he is, after all, an Iranian politician – or a politician, period. But it’s tough to disagree with him when he says:

Obama’s policy on Iran should be judged by his deeds, not by his words. His tactic, as he himself has indicated, is to speak softly but to act harshly. Sanctions adopted and implemented against Iran during the Obama administration are unprecedented in the history of bilateral relations between Iran and the US. … In my view, Obama’s policy toward Iran cannot lead to the improvement of the troubled bilateral relations as long as the US’s mischievous treatment of Iran continues to dictate the course. [Emphasis added.]

No need to pull punches, Hassan. A more fitting adjective than mischievous might be malevolent.

*Let’s try to get the spelling issue sorted out early to save us all some grief.

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

Latest smoking gun on Iran’s nuclear program just another misfire

Yousaf Butt lays waste to the magnetic-ring-sign-of-Iran-nuclear-expansion theory.

On February 13 Joby Warrick reported for the Washington Post that “Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.” More:

Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets — which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions — from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said. It is unclear whether the attempt succeeded.

Or as the ISIS report Institute for Science and International Security that Warrick sited concluded:

This large potential order by Iran in late 2011 for 100,000 ring magnets ready for use in IR-1 centrifuges implies an Iranian intention to greatly expand its number of these centrifuges.

Not so fast. Yousaf Butt of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies explains.

The magnets in question have many uses besides centrifuges and are not only, as Warrick describes them, “highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines.” … Why ISIS does not offer alternate and more plausible applications of these unspecialized magnets is a puzzle. … For instance, one vendor outlines some of the various possible uses in speakers, direct current brushless motors, and magnetic resonance imaging equipment.

Even more damning to the report…

As others have already noted, it seems to make little sense to order ceramic magnets that are, as ISIS describes, “almost exactly” the right dimensions. If one is intending to purchase 100,000 ceramic ring magnets for critical high-speed centrifuge applications, why not order them exactly the right size? Ceramics are almost impossible to machine due to their brittle nature and are generally ordered to the precise specifications.

Also fairly embarrassing…

The alleged inquiry states, “Dear Sir We are a great factory in south of Iran and for our new project we need 100.000 pcs Ferrite Barium strontium ring magnet . … we would like buy from you [sic] company. We should be glad if you supply this magnet for us.” Presumably, an attempt to source 100,000 parts related to Iran’s controversial and often secretive nuclear program would not be conducted quite so openly. [It’s] also at odds with procurement best-practices, for several reasons. First, such a large order would likely drive up the market price and perhaps even signal to the supplier to choke off the supply, in hopes of obtaining a better price later.

I’ve saved the worst for last…

The apparent manufacturer or supplier of the magnets in question, Ferrito Plastronics, is evidently a “tiny firm in a dark alley in Chennai’s electronic spare parts hub on Meeran Sahib Street.” According to the Times of India, “the Chennai firm does supply magnets. But these, avers company proprietor Bala Subramanian, are the ones used in loudspeakers, coils, and medical equipment. Besides these, there are decorative magnets for fridges.”

In other words, if you haven’t figured it out yet…

Such a firm would seem unlikely to be the optimal source for 100,000 high-quality centrifuge ring magnets.

We’ll give Professor Butt the final word.

… reporters and editors should raise the bar for the evidence underpinning stories of alleged Iranian nuclear weapons-related work.

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