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Iran's Nuclear Status - Where Lies the Truth?

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Flash fires on Iran's nuclear status and capability are back in the news. From google images of an alleged underground nuclear site to a seemingly endless supply of pundits - the news is Iran. While Iran has admitted the existence of an undeclared nuclear site, their actual nuclear weapons status remains a question mark. This makes Iran's alleged nuclear status is front and center - again. However, other recent news should sound a note of caution about what is real.

On September 2, 2009, Reuters reported that ElBaradei believes the nuclear threat is "hyped." According to the article:

Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there was no concrete evidence that Tehran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program.

"But somehow, many people are talking about how Iran's nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world. In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped," he told the specialist Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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This does not mean that ElBaradei is giving Iran a bye on the issue. He has consistently called for greater transparency from Iran. However, he does not see the imminent threat claims that keep reemerging from Israel, and under Bush, and now under Obama.

Perhaps part of his hesitancy regarding the imminent threat posed by Iran has to do with the documentation the IAEA has been looking at regarding Iran's nuclear status and ambitions. This comes in the form of sheaves of documentation coming from the United States and other "western" nations. The concerns over this documentation were discussed by Gareth Porter writing for the Inter Press Service on September 14, 2009.

According to Porter, and verified by his sources, is that there is possible veracity to Iran's claim that these documents are forgeries. While the IAEA tacitly vouches for the credibility of the documents as they "appear(s) to have been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, is detailed in content and appears to be generally consistent". However:

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Iran has submitted serious evidence that the documents are fraudulent. Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations in Vienna, Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told IPS in an interview he had pointed out to a team of IAEA officials in a meeting on the documents in Tehran in spring 2008 that none of the supposedly top secret military documents had any security markings of any kind, and that purported letters from defence ministry officials lacked Iranian government seals.

Soltanieh recalled that he had made the same point "many times" in meetings of the Board of Governors since then. "No one ever challenged me," said the ambassador.

The IAEA has responded to this issue by suggesting that perhaps the supplying agencies have removed these types of identifying markers. As noted by Porter, why would an agency remove marking from documents that proved the validity of their origins and nature? Porter gives one specific example of the type of document which Iran claims is fraudulent:

ran has also provided the IAEA with evidence that the handwritten notes on a May 2003 letter, which supposedly link a private Iranian contractor to the "alleged studies", were forged by an outside agency. The letter was from an engineering firm to the private company Kimia Maadan, which other documents in the collection identify as responsible for part of the alleged covert nuclear weapons programme called the "green salt project".

The letter itself has nothing to do with any "green salt" project, but handwritten notes on the copy of the letter given to the IAEA by an unidentified government referred to individuals who are named in other intelligence documents as participants in the "alleged studies", according to the latest IAEA report.

But the original letter, which Iran has provided to the IAEA, has no handwritten notes on it. Amb. Soltanieh recalled that he showed that original letter to an IAEA team led by the deputy director of IAEA's Safeguards Department, Herman Nackaerts, in Tehran Jan. 22-23, 2008.

He said the IAEA team was able to compare the original document with the copy that they had been given as part of the alleged studies documents and that Nakaerts declared that his team accepted the authenticity of the original they were shown.

I am starting to hear a lot of "You can't believe Iran because they have consistently lied to us." This sounds suspiciously like the methodology used to justify discounting Iraq's claim they did not have "Weapons of Mass Destruction." We were told the "Hussein's a liar, has always lied, he's lying now." Well we know how that turned out.

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I don't know what the status is of Iran's nuclear projects - nor their purpose. However, once burned twice cautious as they say. It makes me quite nervous that the corporate media seems to not be any more cautious in jumping on the "Bad Iran" band wagon than they were on the "Bad Iraq" band wagon. Either they are stupid and don't learn from their mistakes, or they have much to gain from unquestionably beating the drums.


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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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