Gareth Porter in Washington
Western diplomats have reportedly faulted Iran in recent weeks for failing to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information on experiments on high explosives intended to produce a nuclear weapon, according to an intelligence document the IAEA is investigating.
But the document not only remains unverified but can only be linked to Iran by a far-fetched official account marked by a series of coincidences related to a foreign scientist that that are highly suspicious.
The original appearance of the document in early 2008, moreover, was not only conveniently timed to support Israel’s attack on a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in December that was damaging to Israeli interests, but was leaked to the news media with a message that coincided with the current Israeli argument.
The IAEA has long touted the document, which came from an unidentified member state, as key evidence justifying suspicion that Iran has covered up past nuclear weapons work.
In its September 2008 report the IAEA said the document describes “experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device.”
But an official Iranian communication to the IAEA Secretariat challenged its authenticity, declaring, “There is no evidence or indication in this document regarding its linkage to Iran or its preparation by Iran.”
The IAEA has never responded to the Iranian communication.
The story of the high explosives document and related intelligence published in the November 2011 IAEA report raises more questions about the document than it answers.
The report said the document describes the experiments as being monitored with “large numbers of optical fiber cables” and cited intelligence that the experiments had been assisted by a foreign expert said to have worked in his home country’s nuclear weapons programme.
The individual to whom the report referred, Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko, was not a nuclear weapons expert, however, but a specialist on nanodiamond synthesis. Danilenko had lectured on that subject in Iran from 2000 to 2005 and had co-authored a professional paper on the use of fiber optic cables to monitor explosive shock waves in 1992, which was available online.
Those facts presented the opportunity for a foreign intelligence service to create a report on high explosives experiments that would suggest a link to nuclear weapons as well as to Danilenko. Danilenko’s open-source publication could help convince the IAEA Safeguards Department of the authenticity of the document, which would otherwise have been missing.
Even more suspicious, soon after the appearance of the high explosives document, the same state that had turned it over to the IAEA claimed to have intelligence on a large cylinder at Parchin suitable for carrying out the high explosives experiments described in the document, according to the 2011 IAEA report.
And it identified Danilenko as the designer of the cylinder, again basing the claim on an open-source publication that included a sketch of a cylinder he had designed in 1999-2000.
The whole story thus depended on two very convenient intelligence finds within a very short time, both of which were linked to a single individual and his open source publications.
Furthermore, the cylinder Danilenko sketched and discussed in the publication was explicitly designed for nanodiamonds production, not for bomb-making experiments.
Robert Kelley, who was the chief of IAEA teams in Iraq, has observed that the IAEA account of the installation of the cylinder at a site in Parchin by March 2000 is implausible, since Danilenko was on record as saying he was still in the process of designing it in 2000.
And Kelley, an expert on nuclear weapons, has pointed out that the cylinder would have been unnecessary for “multipoint initiation” experiments. “We’ve been taken for a ride on this whole thing,” Kelley told IPS.
The document surfaced in early 2008, under circumstances pointing to an Israeli role. An article in the May 2008 issue of Jane’s International Defence Review, dated Mar. 14, 2008, referred to, “documents shown exclusively to Jane’s” by a “source connected to a Western intelligence service”.
It said the documents showed that Iran had “actively pursued the development of a nuclear weapon system based on relatively advanced multipoint initiation (MPI) nuclear implosion detonation technology for some years….”
The article revealed the political agenda behind the leaking of the high explosives document. “The picture the papers paints,” he wrote, “starkly contradicts the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released in December 2007, which said Tehran had frozen its military nuclear programme in 2003.”
That was the argument that Israeli officials and supporters in the United States had been making in the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate, which Israel was eager to discredit.
The IAEA first mentioned the high explosives document in an annex to its May 2008 report, shortly after the document had been leaked to Janes.
David Albright, the director of the Institute for Science and International Security, who enjoyed a close relationship with the IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen, revealed in an interview with this writer in September 2008 that Heinonen had told him one document that he had obtained earlier that year had confirmed his trust in the earlier collection of intelligence documents. Albright said that document had “probably” come from Israel.
Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei was very sceptical about all the purported Iranian documents shared with the IAEA by the United States. Referring to those documents, he writes in his 2011 memoirs, “No one knew if any of this was real.”
ElBaradei recalls that the IAEA received still more purported Iranian documents directly from Israel in summer 2009. The new documents included a two-page document in Farsi describing a four-year programme to produce a neutron initiator for a fission chain reaction.
Kelley has said that ElBaradei found the document lacking credibility, because it had no chain of custody, no identifiable source, and no official markings or anything else that could establish its authenticity—the same objections Iran has raised about the high explosives document.
Meanwhile, ElBaradei resisted pressure from the United States and its European allies in 2009 to publish a report on that and other documents – including the high explosive document — as an annex to an IAEA report. ElBaradei’s successor as director general, Yukia Amano, published the annex the anti-Iran coalition had wanted earlier in the November 2011 report.
Amano later told colleagues at the agency that he had no choice, because he promised the United States to do so as part of the agreement by Washington to support his bid for the job within the Board of Governors, according to a former IAEA official who asked not to be identified.
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Jehan Perera in Colombo
The decision of the EU Court of Justice to remove the ban on the LTTE on technical grounds has come as the government and political parties are mobilizing for snap presidential elections likely to take place in January. The immediate response of the government to the EU decision has been to describe opposition politicians and civil society activists who travelled to the West in recent times as traitors who contributed to the decision to lift the ban on the LTTE. This message is being repeatedly taken to the people by the state media. While the decision is a legal one taken by the Court, and not a political decision by European governments, this is unlikely to impress most Sri Lankans who will tend to see the relationship between law and politics through their own local experience which is not at all positive.
The timing of the European Court’s verdict comes even as the government continues to be investigated for war crimes at the behest of the UN Human Rights Council. The EU legal decision in favour of the LTTE is likely to further strengthen the government’s case to the people in Sri Lanka that the war crimes investigation into it is biased and a threat to national security. The UN investigation into war crimes is described by the government as an international conspiracy to punish the country’s leaders who defeated the LTTE and is to eventually seek the division of the country. This has evoked sympathy and outrage amongst the majority of Sri Lankans. The timing of the EU verdict is fortuitous for the government. It will enable the government to mobilize the nationalism of the people to its advantage.
With it the main government theme of the forthcoming presidential election is becoming clear. It is to highlight the need to preserve the unity of the country by continuing to vest the leadership of the country in proven and trusted hands. The government’s decision to prohibit foreigners from travelling to the North without permission of the Ministry of Defence is being justified by the government as a measure to prevent foreign parties from stirring up communal discord. The ban on free movement of foreigners applies to tourists as well as to those who wish to travel there to engage in economic projects. It creates the impression that there is a major crisis brewing in the North which requires a strong government to deal with it.
If it was hoped that five years after the end of the war the focus of national politics would shift away from past war-related issues to matters of peacetime governance, the EU decision will work to shift the political debate back to the issue of national security and to the LTTE. The question once again, as it has been in all of the post-war elections, is whether nationalism will take priority over those other issues, such as over-centralisation, Rule of Law and corruption, at which the government is at a disadvantage. Although the masses of people are finding the cost of living unbearable and have little hope of its reduction, the government’s calculation is that when the people go the polls they will be tend to give priority to national security rather than to economic well being.
The voting electorate outside the North is being given the message that there is a renewed threat of a slide back to war due to the international support for the revival of the LTTE and the non-cooperation of the TNA in the North. This has been the government’s winning formula for several elections. But this time around there seems to be cracks appearing in the government coalition. Ironically, the first blow against the government strategy of making the ethnic conflict and national sovereignty the main issue has been struck by one of the key leaders of the government coalition’s nationalist parties. This occurred last week when Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thera, a government parliamentarian and the convener of the Pivithuru Hetak (Pure Tomorrow) National Movement, said that he would do everything to defeat incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa if he tried to hold Presidential election without amending the constitution.
Ven Rathana Thera, a member of the government coalition party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) said that it was a mistake of his party to vote for the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which paved way for third term election of a President and also abolished the independent commissions introduced by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and which were meant to guarantee non-politicisation of key state institutions, such as the police, judiciary and public service. In its place Ven Rathana proposed a 19th amendment to the constitution which calls for fundamental reforms to the presidency and other key institutions of governance, and which he insisted should be implemented prior to holding an election.
The meeting at which this announcement was made was attended by several hundred Buddhist monks and also by senior government and opposition members, including the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe and Economics Minister Basil Rajapaksa. What was most significant about the meeting, and the speeches made, was that the focus was entirely on issues of governance and not on the ethnic conflict or nationalism. At the national convention of the JHU that followed a few days later the party leadership reiterated the Ven Rathana’s stand.
The JHU of which Ven Rathana is a leading member is a political party that has espoused the cause of Sinhalese nationalism and the special place of Buddhism in the country’s history and ethos. As such it has been a strong supporter of the government in the past, and to date, in opposing demands by the ethnic minorities, which it sees as injurious to the country’s sovereignty and unity. At the party convention, the JHU called on the government to pass a constitutional amendment that made the Presidency accountable to Parliament and to the Judiciary, to limit the number of Cabinet Ministers to a maximum of 30 (as against nearly 60 as at present) and to depoliticize state institutions. Significantly, it did not call for the abolition of the provincial council system of devolved government, but limited the demand for repeal of land and police powers to them.
Post war reality in Sri Lanka is still connected deeply to the war period, with the large scale presence of the security forces in the North and East and surveillance machinery continuing to have a negative impact on life in all parts of the country. Governance and respect for human rights are arguably the weakest areas of the government. Its main strength in the minds of the general public continue to be the war victory that ended the terror of the LTTE and highly visible economic infrastructure projects in the form of excellent roads, rebuilt railway and the construction of ports and airports, even though these latter are yet to show economic viability.
The question whether the issues of governance can override those of nationalism will depend on the extent to which the Ven Rathana’s views are taken to the masses of the people. The government continues to have an advantage in this regard as it has control over the powerful state media that reaches every part of the country, and can put forward only the government view, unlike the private media which is weaker in this regard due to commercial considerations. The government’s effort continues to be one of bringing up issues of post-war national security and possible revival of the LTTE, which remains a significant fear amongst the Sinhalese population. But the issues of governance that the Ven Rathana articulated are those that are now an increasing part of the private discourse within the country’s intelligentsia, although still not so widely debated in the media or in public due to fear of the consequences.
The headline above is a quote from the well known Abdul Sattar Edhi, the most trusted philanthropist of Pakistan. Mr. Edhi is CEO of Edhi Foundation, that has branches spread over the world, including one in Bangladesh.
The story behind the quote: at about 10 morning on Sunday, eight or 10 armed dacoits entered Edhi’s home while the eminent philanthropist was still asleep. They pointed a pistol at his head, and asked for keys of several vaults where money and precious ornaments are kept.
According to reports, the goons had previous knowledge of what was stored in there. The offenders remained undisturbed for more than 30 minutes.
Some of them worked at breaking the vaults, and two stood guard outside, armed with guns. After they broke steel cupboards, where money and gold ornaments are kept, all 10 criminals decamped with more than 40 million worth of dollar notes and about five kilograms gold, These valuables were kept in safe to be returned on demand by sundry persons who trust Edhi implicitly.
Till the time of writing, police have been unable to find the bunch of thieves who committed the daring hold up. They said it could be an inside job. But the police is confident they would soon find the culprits.
A number of people in Pakistan cried after learning what Mr. Sattar Edhi had to go through at his home.
Mr.Edhi is considered as a very pious man , and also regarded as a saint for his deep humanism, and a god father figure to indigent and homeless people The Edhi Foundation runs the largest network of ambulances in the world, and Edhi is known to care for abandoned babies left on streets of Karachi.
Acting on a theory that someone from Edhi staff passed on information about the stored valuable, the police questioned a few members of Edhi staff and detained some few. Someone said that a maid did not report for duty that day. Probably she shared information and thus she became a prime suspect.
Prime Minister of Pakistan as well as Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has ordered an investigation but the money, or gold has not been recovered , not have the thieves been nabbed.
ATV channel relates a story of the police making a suggestion that may be Sattar Sahib should issue an appeal which may perhaps inspire the culprits to show up and return that they have stolen. Could one believe this narrative in the way it has been told.
We find Mr. Sattar heartbroken, as the above quote suggest. He made the remark while speaking to foreign media who have spread the report at Edhi’s home far and wide, once again an effort made to spread report of fragile law and order obtaining in this country.
The foreign media often speaks of Karachi, as a city where criminals one knows little about are busy killing political workers and/or those they consider as their enemy. These notorious gangs are also threatening wealthy people and collect ransom money from them.
Nearly the same time as this unhappy incident occurred, we had a group of Buddhist priests [and women priests] from Korea praying at Taxila for peace in Pakistan, but the foreign media did not notice this story, though it was important in the context of violence against Muslims going on in some Buddhist states.
It could be a mere coincidence. The colourful term, na Maloom afraad (criminals one knows little about) has been used by Mr. Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, at a public meeting in Karachi on an an evening prior to the incident at Edhi’s home.
The meeting addressed by young Bilawal was a sort of re- launch of Pakistan People’s Party, which many people say has lost the previous glamour and shine it enjoyed in the days of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Mohtrama Benazir.
In this mammoth public meeting Bilawal used strong vocabulary that did not go well with quite a few politicians, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Imran Khan.
However, in this season of big public meetings, PTI Chief Imran Khan asks his supporters to prepare for the mid-term election, which he expects to happen next year.
For all that, his political cousin Allama Tahirul Qadri wound up Tuesday his dharna (sit-in) opposite the Parliament House, after 69 days. He is now thinking of organising two-days’ sit ins in important cities and towns.