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December 8, 2007

Smoking Laptop Follies


by Gordon Prather

Well, there's some semi-good news. Our courageous National Intelligence Council has just judged [.pdf] "with a high degree of confidence" that Iranian authorities had already halted, way back in 2003, what the NIC inexplicably still characterizes as a covert "nuclear weapons program." Some details of that alleged program, obtained from the hard-drive of a laptop computer, allegedly stolen in Iran in 2004, had been supplied to us a few months later, apparently by the same wonderful folks who had earlier supplied us the "intelligence" on Iraq, obtained by them from "Curveball."

Now, a cynic, like Ebenezer Scrooge, might be forgiven for wondering who had provided us that "smoking laptop" – containing details of what we now are told were already abandoned activities – and why.

After all, a couple of years ago the Washington Post noted, that the smoking laptop did not even suggest that any chronicled activity was in any way related to – much less constituted – a nuclear weapons program.

According to the Post, the only laptop chronicled activity that was clearly nuclear related was the Green Salt Project.

"In the spring of 2001, a small design firm opened shop on the outskirts of Tehran to begin work for what appears to have been its only client – the Iranian Republican Guard. Over the next two years, the staff at Kimeya Madon completed a set of technical drawings for a small uranium-conversion facility, according to four officials who reviewed the documents.

"Several sources with firsthand knowledge of the original documents said the facility, if constructed, would give Iran additional capabilities to produce a substance known as UF4, or "green salt," an intermediate product in the conversion of uranium to a gas."

That's it?

For years, now, the neocrazies have been running around in circles of diminishing radii, hysterically demanding that we nuke Iran, all because the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards asked a small Iranian design firm way back in 2001 to produce a set of technical drawings for a small facility to convert Iranian yellowcake – even then all subject to Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency – into uranium-tetrafluoride?

Well, they don't call them "neocrazies" for nuttin.

In 2001, the Iranians still had under construction – but had already made subject to IAEA Safeguards – a large facility at Esfahan, to convert (safeguarded) Iranian yellowcake into (safeguarded) Uranium-tetrafluoride and then into (safeguarded) Uranium-hexafluoride, to serve as feedstock for the Iranian gas-centrifuge cascades then under construction at the (safeguarded) uranium-enrichment pilot plant at Natanz.

The Esfahan facility was completed and commenced initial (safeguarded) semi-successful operations in 2003.

But, in the summer of 2003 Iran began negotiations with the IAEA on an Additional Protocol to Iran's basic Safeguards Agreement and in December not only signed the Additional Protocol, but volunteered to immediately adhere to it in advance of its ratification by the Iranian Parliament.

Now, according to the IAEA Statute, even under a basic Safeguards Agreement, the Director-General and his designated inspectors "shall have access at all times to all places" in an IAEA member state as necessary "to account for [Safeguarded] source and special fissionable materials" and "to determine whether there is compliance with the undertaking against use in furtherance of any military purpose."

And, under an Additional Protocol, the authorities of IAEA inspectors are considerably enhanced, to go anywhere – effectively without advance notice – they have good reason to believe they need to go and to interview anyone they have good reason to believe they need to interview.

And when IAEA inspectors do determine that safeguarded materials have been used "in furtherance of any military purpose," they "shall" report such "non-compliance" to the Director-General, who "shall" thereupon transmit the report to the Board of Governors, the UN General Assembly and to the UN Security Council.

As of this writing, IAEA inspectors have made no such report to ElBaradei about Iran. In fact, ElBaradei consistently reports to the Board that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

ElBaradei says he frequently asks himself these questions; "Have we seen any proof of a weapons program? Have we seen undeclared [uranium] enrichment?"

ElBaradei's answer, then and now, is "There is none of that."

In November 2004, Iran had entered into the Paris Agreement with the French-Brits-Germans, with the explicit expectation that the French-Brits-Germans would "provide [Iran] firm guarantees on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation and firm commitments [to Iran] on security issues."

On 23 March 2005, the Iranians confidentially offered to give-up, indefinitely, many of those "inalienable" rights, but thanks to "diplomatic" intervention by Bush-Cheney meanies, the French-Brits-Germans were not even allowed to acknowledge the Iranian confidential offer, much less make a corresponding offer of "security guarantees" against Bush-Cheney attacks – or threats of attacks – on Iran, using nukes should Bush-Cheney deem it necessary.

So, on 1 August 2005, Iran informed [.pdf] the IAEA General Conference that the French-Brits-Germans had failed to negotiate in good faith and so the Iranians were breaking off the negotiations. Furthermore, the Iranian Parliament had decided to not ratify the Additional Protocol and had basically directed the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency to cease voluntarily complying with it.

Accordingly, Iran announced it was resuming [subject to IAEA safeguards] some of the uranium-enrichment related activities – including those uranium-conversion activities at Esfahan – it had voluntarily suspended almost two years earlier.

Now, how's that for a resounding triumph by the Bush-Cheney diplomatic weenies?

So, someone in possession of the "smoking laptop" was hurriedly rushed to Vienna to share some of the mind-boggling "intelligence" on it with Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei and his IAEA Secretariat experts.

The NIC had just issued a National Intelligence Estimate – largely based, as we now know, on that mind-boggling "intelligence" – that assessed "with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons."

But the IAEA experts were not boggled, dismissing most of the "intelligence" as unconvincing and, in any case, irrelevant.

Far from immediately demanding the Iranians explain the smoking laptop "intelligence," as of this writing ElBaradei has not even shared it with them.

So, in the summer of 2005, the Bush-Cheney diplomatic weenies proceeded to launch their so-far largely successful campaign to corrupt, first, the IAEA Board, and then the Security Council, getting them to require Iran – in violation of the IAEA Statute, the NPT and the UN Charter – to give-up all inalienable rights guaranteed them by the IAEA Statute, the NPT, and the UN Charter.

Why is the news arising from the courageous issuance by the NIC of the 2007 NIE on Iran only semi-good?

Well, on the basis of "intelligence" that may well turn out to be bogus about Iranian activities that were in no sense illegal or prohibited, Bush-Cheney diplomatic weenies have inflicted irreparable – perhaps fatal – damage to the international regime whose first duty was to facilitate the fullest possible transfer of the benefits of nuclear energy to all members of the United Nations, and whose collateral duty was to ensure "to the extent possible," that no diversion took place of certain proscribed materials to a military purpose.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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