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Since 2007, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – with the support of the United States, Israel and European allies UK, France and Germany – has been demanding that Iran explain a set of purported internal documents portraying a covert Iranian military program of research and development of nuclear weapons. The “laptop documents,” supposedly obtained from a stolen Iranian computer by an unknown source and given to US intelligence in 2004, include a series of drawings of a missile re-entry vehicle that appears to be an effort to accommodate a nuclear weapon, as well as reports on high explosives testing for what appeared to be a detonator for a nuclear weapon.
In one report after another, the IAEA has suggested that Iran has failed to cooperate with its inquiry into that alleged research, and that the agency, therefore, cannot verify that it has not diverted nuclear material to military purposes.
That issue remains central to US policy toward Iran. The Obama administration says there can be no diplomatic negotiations with Iran unless Iran satisfies the IAEA fully in regard to the allegations derived from the documents that it had covert nuclear weapons program.
That position is based on the premise that the intelligence documents that Iran has been asked to explain are genuine. The evidence now available, however, indicates that they are fabrications.
The drawings of the Iranian missile warhead that were said by the IAEA to show an intent to accommodate a nuclear weapon actually depict a missile design that Iran is now known to have already abandoned in favor of an improved model by the time the technical drawings were allegedly made. And one of the major components of the purported Iranian military research program allegedly included a project labeled with a number that turns out to have been assigned by Iran’s civilian nuclear authority years before the covert program is said to have been initiated.
The former head of the agency’s safeguards department, Olli Heinonen, who shaped its approach to the issue of the intelligence documents from 2005 and 2010, has offered no real explanation for these anomalies in recent interviews with Truthout.
These telltale indicators of fraud bring into question the central pillar of the case against Iran and raise more fundamental questions about the handling of the Iranian nuclear issue by the IAEA, the United States and its key European allies.
Drawings of the Wrong Missile Warhead
In mid-July 2005, in an effort to get the IAEA fully behind the Bush administration’s effort to refer the Iranian nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council, Robert Joseph, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, made a formal presentation on the purported Iranian nuclear weapons program documents to the agency’s leading officials in Vienna. Joseph flashed excerpts from the documents on the screen, giving special attention to the series of technical drawings or “schematics” showing 18 different ways of fitting an unidentified payload into the re- entry vehicle or “warhead” of Iran’s medium-range ballistic missile, the Shahab-3.
When IAEA analysts were allowed to study the documents, however, they discovered that those schematics were based on a re-entry vehicle that the analysts knew had already been abandoned by the Iranian military in favor of a new, improved design. The warhead shown in the schematics had the familiar “dunce cap” shape of the original North Korean No Dong missile, which Iran had acquired in the mid-1990s, as former IAEA Safeguards Department Chief Olli Heinonen confirmed to this writer in an interview on November 5. But when Iran had flight tested a new missile in mid-2004, it did not have that dunce cap warhead, but a new “triconic” or “baby bottle” shape, which was more aerodynamic than the one on the original Iranian missile.