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Were Fake Documents Planted to Encourage an Attack on Iran?

Documents at the center of the case against Iran show telltale signs of fraud.

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After that test, however, it would have been too late to redo the re-entry vehicle studies, which would have the biggest impact on news media coverage and political opinion.

Iranian statements about the Shahab-3 missile would have been misleading for anyone attempting to fabricate these schematics. The IISS study recalls that Iran had said in early 2001 that the Shahab-3 had entered "serial production" and declared in July 2003 that it was "operational." The IISS study observes, however, that the announcement came only after the US invasion of Iraq, when Iran felt an urgent need to claim an operational missile capability. The study says it is "very dubious" that the missile was ever produced in significant numbers.

Skepticism and Resistance at the IAEA

A second inconsistency between the laptop documents and the established facts emerged only in 2008. At a briefing for IAEA member states in February 2008, Heinonen displayed an organization chart of the purported research program, showing a "Project 5" with two sub-projects: "Project 5/13" for uranium conversion and "Project 5/15" for uranium ore processing. Kimia Maadan, a private Iranian firm, is shown to be running "Project 5."

One of the key documents in the collection, a one-page flow sheet for a uranium-conversion process, dated May 2003, with Kimia Maadan's name on it, is marked "Project 5/13."

Bush administration hardliners and the IAEA safeguard department had been convinced in the 2004-2005 period that Kimia Maadan was a front for the Iranian military. In a 2005 report, the IAEA questioned how that company, with such "limited experience in ore processing," could have established an ore processing plant at Gchine in such a short time from 2000 to mid-2001 on its own.

But in January 2008, Iran provided documents to the IAEA showing that Kimia Maadan had actually been created by the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in 2000 solely to carry out a contract to design, build and put into operation an ore-processing facility. The documents also established that the firm's core staff consisted entirely of experts who had previously worked for AEOI's Ore Processing Center and that the conceptual design and other technical information had been provided to Kimia Maadan by AEOI.

But the most explosive new evidence provided by Iran showed that the code number of "Project 5/15" on ore processing, supposedly assigned by the Iranian military's secret nuclear weapon research program, had actually been assigned by the AEOI more than two years before the purported nuclear weapons program had been started. In the context of the documents on Kimia Maadan's relationship with AEOI, the IAEA report of February 2008 acknowledged, "A decision to construct a UOC [uranium ore concentration] plant at Gchine, known as 'project 5/15,' was made August 25, 1999."

An unpublished paper by the IAEA safeguards department, leaked to the media and the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in 2009, identified early 2002 as the formal beginning of what it called the Iranian military's "warhead development program."

Asked about this contradiction, Heinonen told me he couldn't answer the question, because he did not recall the specific dates involved.

After the IAEA had acquired that new evidence of fraud in January 2008, an IAEA official familiar with the internal debate inside the agency told me that some IAEA officials had demanded that the agency distance itself publicly from the intelligence documents. But IAEA reports made no concession to those demands. Instead, beginning with the May 2008 report, the agency began to use language implying that the documents were considered reliable.

 
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