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State of Denial By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 05, 2006

House intelligence committee chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R, Mi) has sent a scathing letter to IAEA Secretary General Mohammad ElBaradei, protesting an IAEA effort to discredit a report issued by Hoekstra’s staff on U.S. intelligence gaps on Iran.

Wait a minute. Why would the International Atomic Energy Agency even bother to get involved when a U.S. congressional committee decides to take a look at a domestic U.S. issue, to wit, the ability of our $44 billion/year intelligence community to assess Iran’s intentions and capabilities in its nuclear development programs?


Rep. Hoekstra called the IAEA move “particularly calculated to fit an agenda, possibly including interfering with the domestic political affairs of the United States.”


He’s right on that score 1000%. But it gets worse.


Here are the basic facts of this story.


On Aug. 23, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence subcommittee on Intelligence Policy released a staff report entitled “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States.” (A PDF file of the complete report can be downloaded here).


Research for the report was conducted primarily but not exclusively by Republican staff member Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA analyst detailed to the office of John Bolton when he was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control until his (still Senate-unconfirmed) appointment as US Ambassador to the United Nations last year.


The HPSCI report concluded that “American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” but that “based on what is known about Iranian behavior and Iranian deception efforts, the U.S. Intelligence Community assesses that Iran is intent on developing a nuclear weapons capability.”


Most informed readers will look at that and say, so what else is new? When Iranian leaders such as former president Hashemi-Rafsanjani speak openly of a nuclear weapons exchange between Iran and Israel, as he has done repeatedly, who can seriously doubt the nuclear intentions of the Islamic Republic of Iran?


Answer: the CIA, the State Department, and the IAEA.


It‘s called: State of Denial.


Within days of releasing the report, the CIA Rogue Weasels, led by former CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar, were telling Newsweek that this was Iraq all over again.


“When you have pressures coming from one place on the political spectrum--which seem to be pressures to come up with evidence to support a conclusion that is already there--I take that as a worrisome sign of the same sort of thing. The bright side here is that the unhappiness of Iraq is still fresh enough in all of our minds ... we will all be on our guard,” said Pillar.


Translated into Dem-speak: the HPSCI report was a product of the Neo-con “cabal,” intended to support yet another “rush to war.”


In fact, just the opposite is the case.


The HPSCI report details what we know about Iran’s declared nuclear programs, as established by Iran’s declarations to the IAEA. It urges the intelligence community to spend greater resources to ensure it gets it right this time.


It also points to troubling indicators of a parallel, clandestine nuclear weapons program in Iran, including:


* Two covert uranium enrichment programs, discovered belatedly by the IAEA.


* Iran’s extensive relationship to nuclear black market impresario Dr. A.Q. Khan, who provided uranium enrichment technology, equipment, and blueprints for the bomb to Iran.


* Documentation discovered in Iran by the IAEA of A.Q. Khan documents for “casting and machining enriched uranium hemispheres, which are directly related to the production of nuclear weapons components.”


The report notes that the IAEA discovered in September 2003 that Iran had “covertly produced” a short-lived radioisotope, polonium 210, which has only two known uses: satellite batteries, and nuclear weapons initiators.


This is just the beginning of the case any Iran expert who watches these things closely will make on why Iran’s nuclear program constitutes a breach of Iran’s NPT obligations and a clear threat to the region, the world, and to the non-proliferation regime.


The IAEA doesn’t like to accuse states such as Iran with violating their NPT obligations. And yet, the IAEA Board of Governors has done just that, as noted by Rep. Hoekstra’s report:


“Since 2002, the IAEA has issued a series of reports detailing how Iran has covertly engaged in dozens of nuclear-related activities that violate its treaty obligations to openly cooperate with the IAEA. These activities included false statements to IAEA inspectors, carrying out certain nuclear activities and experiments without notifying the IAEA, and numerous steps to deceive and mislead the IAEA.”


That brings us to the core of the issue.


On Sept 12, an IAEA underling, Vilmos Cserveny, penned a scurrilous letter to Hoekstra, taking “strong exception” to the HPSCI report on U.S. intelligence deficits on Iran.


Mr Cserveny claimed the report made an “outrageous and dishonest suggestion:” regarding that the removal of IAEA chief inspector on Iran, Christophe Charlier.


Here’s what the HPSCI report said:


“While not an instance of Iranian perfidy, the spring 2006 decision by IAEA Director General ElBaradei to remove Mr. Christopher Charlier, the chief IAEA Iran inspector, for allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program and concluding that the purpose of Iran's nuclear program is to construct weapons, should give U.S. policymakers great pause.”


Those are measured words that recall an earlier admonition to the IAEA by a U.S. Senate committee for firing an IAEA inspector of Iraqi nuclear sites in 1981, who had warned of weapons-related activity shortly before Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein’s French-built nuclear bomb plant at Thuwaitha in June 1981.


Note: The IAEA letter blasting the HPSCI report does not dispute the fact that the Agency fired Mr. Charlier as chief inspector in Iran. Instead, it tries to mislead the U.S. media (the IAEA’s real audience) by calling the HPSCI account “outrageous” and a “dishonest suggestion” that the “removal [of Mr. Charlier] might have been  for ‘not having adhered to an unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear program.’”


Here is the precise language of the HPSCI report:


“If Mr. Charlier was removed for not adhering to an unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear program, the United States and the international community have a serious problem on their hands.”


In his reply to these scurrilous accusations, which constitute an intrusion into U.S. domestic political affairs, Rep. Hoekstra noted that that the United States had “complained formally” about the decision to reassign Mr. Charlier as chief Iran weapons inspector.


“I believe it is fair to characterize that this IAEA action was undertaken quietly, and that there was an effort not to inform IAEA members,” Rep. Hoekstra wrote. “Further, I understand that you have omitted mentioning the Charlier reassignment in your reports to the IAEA Board of Governors. The Cserveny letter is apparently the first time the IAEA has publicly admitted that it reassigned Charlier at the request of Iran.”


Such blatant misrepresentation of facts comes from the IAEA, an agency the United States government depends for on-site inspections of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities.


If the IAEA can’t get it right, don’t expect the U.S. intelligence community to do better.


Is it any wonder that IAEA director Mohammad ElBardeli would send an underline to do the big boy’s bidding in such a scurrilous fight?

Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).

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