I have little doubt that long term Iran wants a nuclear weapons program. By knocking Iraq out of the equation, America has removed one of the chief ‘balancers’ of power in the region, and Iran’s security and regional pretensions are going to fill that void. Balancing Israel is a long-term strategic objective of Iran.
But certain players in the American policy establishment — in this case John Bolton (no surprise) — just play loose and reckless with facts and evidence and undermine American credibility so that when we must marshall a coalition against a state’s misbehavior, it is increasingly hard to do.
I am going to post a rather large segment of Linzer’s piece in the Post today. It is important and reads just like a replay of our foray into Iraq:
Traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists has determined.
“The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions,” said a senior official who discussed the still-confidential findings on the condition of anonymity.
Scientists from the United States, France, Japan, Britain and Russia met in secret during the past nine months to pore over data collected by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to U.S. and foreign officials. Recently, the group, whose existence had not been previously reported, definitively matched samples of the highly enriched uranium — a key ingredient for a nuclear weapon — with centrifuge equipment turned over by the government of Pakistan.
Iran has long contended that the uranium traces were the result of contaminated equipment bought years ago from Pakistan. But the Bush administration had pointed to the material as evidence that Iran was making bomb-grade ingredients.
The conclusions will be shared with IAEA board members in a report due out the first week in September, according to U.S. and European officials who agreed to discuss details of the investigation on the condition of anonymity. The report “will say the contamination issue is resolved,” a Western diplomat said.
U.S. officials have privately acknowledged for months that they were losing confidence that the uranium traces would turn out to be evidence of a nuclear weapons program. A recent U.S. intelligence estimate found that Iran is further away from making bomb-grade uranium than previously thought, according to U.S. officials.
The IAEA findings come as European efforts to negotiate with Iran on the future of its nuclear program have faltered, and could complicate a renewed push by the Bush administration to increase international pressure on Tehran.
U.S. officials, eager to move the Iran issue to the U.N. Security Council — which has the authority to impose sanctions — have begun a new round of briefings for allies designed to convince them that Iran’s real intention is to use its energy program as a cover for bomb building. The briefings will focus on the White House’s belief that a country with as much oil as Iran would not need an energy program on the scale it is planning, according to two officials.
France, Britain and Germany have been trying for two years to convince Iran that it could avoid Security Council action if it gives up sensitive aspects of its nuclear energy program that could be diverted for weapons work. Iran has said it has no intention of making nuclear weapons and will not give up its right to nuclear energy. Iran has offered to put the entire program under IAEA monitoring as a way of alleviating international concerns. But European and U.S. officials have rejected that offer because it would still allow Iran access to bomb-making capabilities.
Iran built its nuclear program in secret over 18 years with the help of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a top Pakistani official and nuclear scientist who sold spare parts from his country’s own weapons program to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Khan’s black-market dealings were uncovered in 2003. He confessed on national television, was swiftly pardoned by Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and is now under house arrest.
Pakistan has denied IAEA inspectors access to Khan and to the country’s nuclear facilities, but earlier this year it agreed to share data and some equipment with the inspectors to expedite the Iran investigation. Among the equipment were discarded centrifuge parts that match those Khan sold to Iran.
John R. Bolton, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, served as the administration’s point man on nuclear issuesduring President Bush’s first term. He suggested during congressional testimony in June 2004 that the Iranians were lying about the contamination.
“Another unmistakable indicator of Iran’s intentions is the pattern of repeatedly lying to and providing false and incomplete reports to the IAEA,” Bolton said. “For example, Iran first denied it had enriched any uranium. Then it said it had not enriched uranium more than 1.2 percent. Later, when evidence of uranium enriched to 36 percent was found, it attributed this to contamination from imported centrifuge parts.”
The IAEA, in its third year of an investigation in Iran, has not found proof of a weapons program. But a few serious questions, some connected to Iran’s involvement with Khan, remain unanswered. While the investigation has been underway, Iran and the three European countries have been trying to reach a diplomatic accommodation. Their negotiations fell apart this month and Iran resumed some nuclear work it put on hold during the talks.
We need to compel John Bolton and others like him to spend a week in the home of a soldier killed in Iraq…and better yet, send him to Iraq and have him spend a week with one of the families who lost one or more innocent family members because of this conflict. He should get a sense of the “consequences” of the games he and others are playing with evidence.
When we are right, it’s one thing; but when are wrong — lots and lots of innocent people die. It’s not what this country is about.
— Steve Clemons