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18-11-11 Iran and the IAEA

18-11-11 Iran and the IAEA

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Published by William J Greenberg
..hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a single source: a laptop computer, allegedly supplied to the I.A.E.A. by a Western intelligence agency, whose provenance could not be established. Those materials, and others, “were old news,” Kelley said, and known to many journalists. “I wonder why this same stuff is now considered ‘new information’ by the same reporters.
..hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a single source: a laptop computer, allegedly supplied to the I.A.E.A. by a Western intelligence agency, whose provenance could not be established. Those materials, and others, “were old news,” Kelley said, and known to many journalists. “I wonder why this same stuff is now considered ‘new information’ by the same reporters.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Nov 21, 2011
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11/21/2011

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IRAN AND THE I.A.E.A.Posted bySeymour M. Hersh The first question in last Saturday night’s Republican debate onforeign policy dealt with Iran, and a newly published report by theInternational Atomic Energy Agency. The report, which raisedrenewed concern about the “possible existence of undeclarednuclear facilities and material in Iran,” struck a darker tone thanprevious assessments. But it was carefully hedged. On the debateplatform, however, any ambiguity was lost. One of themoderators said that the I.A.E.A. report had provided “additionalcredible evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon” andasked what various candidates, upon winning the Presidency,would do to stop Iran. Herman Cain said he would assist thosewho are trying to overthrow the government. Newt Gingrich saidhe would coördinate with the Israeli government and maximizecovert operations to block the Iranian weapons program. MittRomney called the state of Iran’s nuclear program Obama’s“greatest failing, from a foreign-policy standpoint” and added,“Look, one thing you can know … and that is if we reëlect Barack
 
Obama Iran will have a nuclear weapon.” The Iranian bomb was asure thing Saturday night.I’ve been reporting on Iran and the bomb for
The New Yorker 
forthe past decade, with a focus on the repeated inability of the bestand the brightest of the Joint Special Operations Command to finddefinitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons production program inIran. The goal of the high-risk American covert operations was tofind something physical—a “smoking calutron,” as aknowledgeable officialonce told me—to show the world that Iranwas working on warheads at an undisclosed site, to make theevidence public, and then to attack and destroy the site. The
Times
reported, in itslead storythe day after the report cameout, that I.A.E.A. investigators “have amassed a trove of newevidence that, they say, makes a ‘credible’ case” that Iran maybe carrying out nuclear-weapons activities. The newspaperquoted a Western diplomat as declaring that “the level of detail isunbelievable…. The report describes virtually all the steps tomake a nuclear warhead and the progress Iran has achieved ineach of those steps. It reads likes a menu.” The
Times
set thetone for much of the coverage. (Asecond
storythat day onthe I.A.E.A. report noted, more cautiously, that “it is true that thebasic allegations in the report are not substantially new, and havebeen discussed by experts for years.”)But how definitive, or transformative, were the findings? TheI.A.E.A. said it had continued in recent years “to receive, collectand evaluate information relevant to possible military dimensionsof Iran’s nuclear program” and, as a result, it has been able “torefine its analysis.” The net effect has been to create “moreconcern.” But Robert Kelley, a retired I.A.E.A. director and nuclearengineer who previously spent more than thirty years with theDepartment of Energy’s nuclear-weapons program, told me thathe could find very little new information in the I.A.E.A. report. Henoted that hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a
 
single source: a laptop computer, allegedly supplied to the I.A.E.A.by a Western intelligence agency, whose provenance could not beestablished. Those materials, and others, “were old news,” Kelleysaid, and known to many journalists. “I wonder why this samestuff is now considered ‘new information’ by the same reporters.”A nuanced assessment of the I.A.E.A. report was published by theArms Control Association (A.C.A.), a nonprofit whose mission is toencourage public support for effective arms control. The A.C.A.noted that the I.A.E.A. did “reinforce what the nonproliferationcommunity has recognized for some times: that Iran engaged invarious nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, thenstopped many of them, but continued others.” (The Americanintelligence community reached the same conclusion in a stillclassified 2007 estimate.) The I.A.E.A.’s report “suggests,” theA.C.A. paper said, that Iran “is working to shorten the timeframeto build the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But itremains apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminentnor is it inevitable.” Greg Thielmann, a former State Departmentand Senate Intelligence Committee analyst who was one of theauthors of the A.C.A. assessment, told me, “There is troublingevidence suggesting that studies are still going on, but there isnothing that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb.” Headded, “Those who want to drum up support for a bombing attackon Iran sort of aggressively misrepresented the report.” Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshare Fund, adisarmament group, who serves on Hillary Clinton’s InternationalSecurity Advisory Board, said, “I was briefed on most of this stuff several years ago at the I.A.E.A. headquarters in Vienna. There’slittle new in the report. Most of this information is well known toexperts who follow the issue.” Cirincione noted that “post-2003,the report only cites computer modelling and a few otherexperiments.” (A senior I.A.E.A. official similarly told me, “I wasunderwhelmed by the information.”)

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