At a Feb. 4 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, the ranking Republican on the Committee, Sen. Robert Corker, ranking Republican on the Committee, ripped into Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator in the nuclear talks with Iran.
After a highly distorted picture of Iran's readiness to build a nuclear weapon, Corker asked, "Why did you all not in this agreement in any way address the delivery mechanisms, the militarizing of nuclear arms? Why was that left off since they breached a threshold everyone acknowledges?"
But instead of correcting Corker's highly distorted characterisation of the situation, Sherman immediately reassured him that the administration would do just what he wanted them to do.
Sherman admitted that the November agreement covering the next months had not "shut down all the production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon." Then she added, "But that is indeed something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement."
Sherman also suggested at one point that there would be no real need to prohibit any Iranian missile if the negotiations on the nuclear program were successful. "Not having a nuclear weapon," she said, "makes delivery systems almost -- not wholly, but almost -- irrelevant."
That admission underlined the wholly political purpose of the administration's apparent embrace of the Israeli demand that Iran negotiate limits on its ballistic missiles.
The Obama administration may be seeking to take political credit for a hard line on Iranian missiles in the knowledge that it will not be able to get a consensus for that negotiating position among the group of six powers negotiating with Iran.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov clearly implied that Moscow would not support such a demand in a statement Thursday that Russia "considers that a comprehensive agreement must concern only and exclusively the restoration of trust in a purely peaceful intention of Iran's nuclear program."
Although U.S., European and Israeli officials have asserted consistently over the years that Iran's medium-range ballistic missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons, Israel's foremost expert on the Iranian nuclear program, Uzi Rubin, who managed Israel's missile defense program throughout the 1990s, has argued that the conventional analysis was wrong.
In an interview with the hard-line anti-Iran Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in September 2009, Rubin said, "The Iranians believe in conventional missiles. Not just for saturation but also to take out specific targets." Remember, they have practically no air force to do it. Their main striking power is based on missiles."
Since 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency has accused Iran of working on integrating a nuclear weapon into the Shahab-3 missile reentry vehicle in 2002-2003, based on a set of drawings in a set of purported Iranian documents. The documents were said by the George W. Bush administration to have come from the purloined laptop of a participant in an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research program.
But that account turned to be a falsehood, as were other variants on the origins of the document. The documents actually came from the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the anti-regime organization then listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, according to two German sources.
Karsten Voigt, who was the German foreign office coordinator, publicly warned about the MEK provenance of the papers in a November 2004 interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Voigt, who retired from the foreign office in 2010, recounted the story of how an MEK member delivered the papers to German intelligence in 2004 in an interview last year for a newly-published book by this writer.