Gareth Porter has chased down a story that’s been bruited in the progressive web for the past 24 hours or so (his report is based in part on the stellar research of Moon of Alabama). It begins the process of unraveling at least one major element of the IAEA report. The UN document claims the Iranian race for nuclear weapons has been helped by a number of foreign scientists recruited by the regime for this purpose. Everyone already knows about the role played by the Pakistani Khan network in Iran’s and North Korea’s efforts. But a mysterious Russian scientist surfaced in a private briefing offered to the media by David Albright, a former U.S. nuclear inspector.
Albright claimed that Vyacheslav Danilenko was a Ukrainian (not Russian) nuclear scientist employed for five years by the Iranians to work on refining their nuclear designs. The only problem? Danilenko isn’t a nuclear scientist at all. In fact, he’s one of the world’s leading experts on producing industrial (nano) diamonds using sophisticated explosives technology. The reason why researchers or intelligence agencies may’ve thought the Russian was a nuclear scientist is that he trained at a Russian institute which does do research on nuclear warheads.
It is possible that Danilenko did help the Iranians with his own professional expertise because the country has a budding nanotechnology focus which includes an interest in nanodiamonds. That would explain why the Russian was in Iran. But it doesn’t in any way connect him specifically to Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA report does note the expert who helped the Iranians was using a cover as a nanodiamonds expert, but that his real purpose was to help with designing nukes:
The report states that the “foreign expert” was in Iran from 1996 to about 2002, “ostensibly to assist in the development of a facility and techniques for making ultra dispersed diamonds (UDDs) or nanodiamonds…” That wording suggests that nanodiamonds were merely a cover for his real purpose in Iran.
The report says the expert “also lectured on explosive physics and its applications”, without providing any further detail about what applications were involved.
Now, who might’ve offered this intelligence to the IAEA? I’ll hazard a guess based on a very similar error committed in the case of Dirar Abusisi. The Mossad offered the name of the alleged Ukrainian engineering professor who trained Abusisi in rocket technology. The only problem was the name Israeli intelligence offered was a full name as it didn’t include the professor’s last name. The actual faculty member Abusisi studied with had a different name and swore he never trained the Gazan in any other field than civil engineering (power plant technology). I’d wager that an intelligence agency which can’t keep the names straight of various culprits who it’s trying to implicate in skullduggery would make the same mistake twice.
Further, the Mossad argued that Abusisi’s civil engineering studies were a cover for his real missile research carried out at a military institute in Kharkov (does that sound familiar?). The only problem is that the military institute no longer existed by the time Abusisi arrived to study there. The Mossad was never able to prove Abusisi took any courses in any field other than power plant operations.
The Danilenko misidentification also reminds me a bit of Gholam Shukari, the alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard figure who supposedly conspired with Arbabsiar to kill the Saudi ambassador. Former senior MEK officials have in fact identified Shukari as an MEK leader and not affiliated with the IRG. Oops.
So I’m going to put my money on this information being offered by the Mossad. If I’m right, then this would be at least the second similar error of its kind by the agency. Which should, if there’s any justice in the world, torpedo their credibility along with the credibility of those in the IAEA who included such shoddy research in the final document.
An addendum: a few years ago the Mossad leaked a fraudulent Iranian research memo to the Times of London claiming to detail a nuclear trigger technology that would allow the Iranians to set off a nuclear device. The only problem was Israel received the purported memo from its friends in the MEK, who passed it off as authentic. It wasn’t. Now the IAEA report talks about the same development of nuclear trigger technology, though it no longer relies on the patent fraud offered by the Mossad.
If Israeli intelligence offered the world fraudulent documents about Iran then, why wouldn’t it do so again?
Porter confirms my hunch about the Mossad’s involvement:
The unnamed member state that informed the agency about Danilenko’s alleged experience as a Soviet nuclear weapons scientist is almost certainly Israel, which has been the source of virtually all the purported intelligence on Iranian work on nuclear weapons over the past decade.
Israel has made no secret of its determination to influence world opinion on the Iranian nuclear programme by disseminating information to governments and news media, including purported Iran government documents. Israeli foreign ministry and intelligence officials told journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins about the special unit of Mossad dedicated to that task at the very time the fraudulent documents were being produced.
One thing I like about the Jerusalem Post compared to Haaretz is that the former can’t help but brag about Israeli initiatives which Haaretz would be sensible enough to realize are embarrassing to Israel. So, for example, Haaretz reporting noted Israeli contributions to the IAEA final document but didn’t single it out for special attention. The Post is proud of Israel’s role in cooking the books so to speak and Porter quotes Yaakov Katz, it’s security correspondent spilling the beans:
The Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz reported Wednesday that Israeli intelligence agencies had “provided critical information used in the report“, the purpose of which was to “push through a new regime of sanctions against Tehran….”
While I’m not a fan of the Iranian regime by any stretch, their claims that the report is based on fraud and fabrications is bolstered by Porter’s important story. And by God, no one should allow Israel or anyone else to go to war on account of flagrant deception such as the Mossad has offered. In fact, we’ve seen this all before: anyone remember Niger yellowcake and the Iraqi mobile chemical warfare units Colin Powell displayed for all the world to see during his speech before the UN? All fake. And we went to war at least in part due to our credulousness about these lies. Let’s not let the Mossad’s lies lead us down the same road again.
Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein’s blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.