tehranbureau An independent source of news on Iran and the Iranian diaspora
nextback

News | Book: Mossad Assassinated Iranian Scientists; IRI Nuclear Proposal

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI and DAN GEIST

09 Jul 2012 12:10Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

RezaeiMourning.jpg12:10 a.m. IRDT, 19 Tir/July 9 According to a book published today, Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel's Secret Wars, agents of the Israeli spy agency Mossad are directly responsible for killing at least four Iranian nuclear scientists. Authors Dan Raviv, a CBS News correspondent, and Yossi Melman, who writes on intelligence and military affairs for Israel's Haaretz newspaper, claim that the assassinations are part of a broader program of missions Mossad conducts inside Iran aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons. The Iranian government has disavowed any intention of establishing a nuclear arms program. Kimberly Dozier of the Associated Press interviewed the authors:
The Mossad agents "excel at accurate shooting at any speed and staying steady to shoot and to place exquisitely shaped sticky bombs" and consider it their hallmark, Raviv said[....]

Iran has long blamed the scientists' killings on Israel, which has remained silent on the matter, but media reports speculated Israel had contracted killers to do the job.

"They don't farm out a mission that is that sensitive," so sensitive that Israel's prime minister has to sign off on it personally, Raviv said. "They might use dissidents for assistance or logistics but not the hit itself. The methodology and training and use of motorcycles is all out of the Mossad playbook. They wouldn't trust anybody else to do it."

The Mossad operatives enter and exit Iran through a "multitude" of routes, using a series of safe houses once inside the country that predate the 1979 revolution, the authors said.

According to Melman, Israeli officials view the assassination campaign as a success, both for directly eliminating key figures in Iran's nuclear program and for indirectly steering young Iranian scientists toward different pursuits. The four assassination cases involving Iranian nuclear scientists that have been most widely suspected to involve the Mossad are those of Dr. Ardeshir Hassanpour on January 15, 2007; Dr. Majid Shahriari on November 29, 2010 (on the same day, a failed attempt was made on the life of Dr. Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, now president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran); Dariush Rezaeinejad on July 24, 2011 (an image from his funeral appears above); and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast this past January 11.

By Melman's account, the Stuxnet worm, which attacked computers and uranium-enrichment centrifuges at Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, began as an Israeli initiative. First, cyberwarfare experts with Israeli intelligence and the U.S. National Security Agency created the Trojan horse code known as Flame to infiltrate Iranian nuclear systems and "suck information about the centrifuges and how they operate," Melman said. The data acquired by Flame enabled the Israeli-U.S. team to craft Stuxnet for its specific mission.

Iran's proposal to P5+1 published

The text of Iran's proposal to resolve the ongoing conflict over its nuclear program that was presented by chief negotiator Saeed Jalili on June 18 in Moscow has been made public. Over the weekend, the Fars News Agency published the proposal that Jalili, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, presented to representatives of the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.

The presentation begins by emphasizing "the points that both sides must agree to and emphasize": good intentions, a spirit of cooperation, mutual respect, avoiding actions that violate the first three points, giving priority to issues in which both sides have vested interests, making the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) the basis for negotiations, commitment to member states' rights and obligations specified in the NPT, avoiding preconditions, and agreeing to continue the negotiations according to a new process that is comprehensive, long term, stable, mutually agreed upon, constructive, and based on a step-by-step procedure involving definable actions and reciprocity.

The presentation describes the goals of the negotiations as the return of Iran's nuclear dossier to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from the United Nations Security Council; the cancellation of all Security Council sanctions as well as those imposed unilaterally by the United States and its allies; a guarantee that Iran can make practical use of its rights in the framework of the NPT and IAEA charter in return for Iran's implementation of all the provisions of its Safeguards Agreement with the agency; long-term, stable nuclear cooperation between the two sides that enables Iran to get access to advanced nuclear technology; and a comprehensive agreement to govern the obligations of both sides regarding economic, security, and political issues and international cooperation. The presentation also divides the matters of concern into nuclear and nonnuclear issues -- such as the uprisings in Bahrain and Syria, which it presentation identified as priorities for Iran.

Iran's first step would be to affirm its commitment to its obligations under the NPT and, based on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's fatwa, formalize its opposition to the production of nuclear weapons. In return, the P5+1 must explicitly recognize Iran's right to uranium enrichment based on Article IV of the NPT, which states,

Article IV: 1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.

Article IV: 2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.

The presentation then addresses the various concerns expressed by the P5+1. In response to the demand that Iran stop uranium enrichment at the underground Fordow site near Qom and close the facility, the presentation -- which refers to 19.75 percent enriched uranium with the common shorthand of "20 percent" -- declares,

There is no direct link between uranium enrichment at 5 percent level and installation of more centrifuges [on one hand], and uranium enrichment at 20 percent [on the other];

There are other activities going on in Fordow that are not related to enrichment at 20 percent.

In response to the demand that Iran transfer its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.75 percent to a third country under IAEA supervision, the presentation declares,

There is no link between enrichment at 20 percent and transferring the enriched uranium, as all the nuclear materials are safeguarded by the Agency, and under its inspections through the visit of its inspector.

There is no link between transferring enriched uranium and enrichment at 20 percent, because if the [aim is for the] materials to be safeguarded by the Agency abroad, they already are safeguarded in Iran by the Agency.

The P5+1 had suggested that closing Fordow would eliminate concerns about its possible military use. According to the presentation,

Fordow is not a military site and there is no reason [for it] to be viewed as such.

The equipment at Fordow cannot be used for enrichment at higher levels [than 19.75], since their design and the system there do not have such capability.

The Director-General of the Agency [Yukiya Amano] has emphasized [in his reports to the IAEA Board of Governors] that all the equipment and activities at Fordow are for peaceful purposes.

While there have been expressions of concern that Fordow is inside a military base, the presentation states,

Fordow is not part of a military base.

There are no limitations on visits to Fordow [by IAEA inspectors].

Concerns have also been expressed about the tight security at Fordow, to which the presentation responds,

Securing nuclear sites is not only necessary, but also obligatory.

The mechanisms that are emphasized in the Safeguards Agreement emphasize tight security for nuclear facilities.

The constant threats against [Iranian] enrichment sites and the constant threats that exist against [Iranian] nuclear scientists -- all of which are in violation of the U.N. Charter and its resolutions -- necessitates tighter security for the site.

Since we face constant threats, it is necessary to have strengthened sites in order to protect the uranium enrichment program.

Responding to statements made by Western officials that Fordow is too small to have any commercial value, the presentation declares,

The Fordow site was never constructed for commercial purposes to begin with.

The main purpose of Fordow is [that it is] protected against threats, but it is [also] used for enrichment at 20 percent, research and development, laboratory [space], storage [of nuclear materials], and other purposes.

In response to the P5+1's proposal to supply fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) -- which runs on the sort of 19.75 percent enriched uranium produced at Fordow -- the presentation states,

Several months ago Iran inserted its own manufactured fuel rods in the TRR and, therefore, Iran no longer needs such assistance.

The presentation goes on to enumerate the reasons why Iran does not agree that the P5+1's offer of fuel for the TRR would eliminate any need for Iran to enrich at 19.75 percent:

[The need] to produce enough fuel for the TRR for several years;

The fact that some of the produced enriched uranium at 20 percent will be used for other purposes;

Production of nuclear fuel for at least four [additional] research reactors due to Iran's large size and the short lives of the medical isotopes [produced by such reactors]; and

Iran's right to sell the fuel rods to other nations.

The last point apparently contradicts the earlier statement that Fordow was not constructed for commercial purposes.

Responding to a P5+1 offer to supply medical isotopes for Iranian patients to make sure their treatment continues uninterrupted and the U.S. announcement that it is willing to facilitate repairs to Iran's aging commercial airline fleet -- which sanctions have made extremely difficult -- the presentation declares,

Supplying medical isotopes, treating cancer patients, repairing commercial airliners, and supplying their spare parts are fundamental elements of human rights, and mixing them with a political discussion is indicative of the unconstructive attitude of the P5+1.

The presentation also acknowledges that the P5+1 has expressed interest in moderating its sanctions against Iran (in return for Iran taking concrete steps to address its concerns), but casts doubt on that prospect due to how the United States has long viewed Iran's nuclear program.

This past Tuesday, technical experts from Iran and the P5+1 met in Istanbul for 15 hours of talks. Afterward, it was announced that Ali Bagheri and Helga Maria Schmid, the principal deputies to Jalili and the P5+1's chief negotiator, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, would meet soon to decide whether another round of negotiations between Ashton and Jalili is warranted.

Temporary suspension of uranium enrichment possible

Majles deputy Mohammad Hassan Asfari, a member of the Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy, said, "The West must specify the duration of suspension of [uranium] enrichment. For example, it should say that Iran should suspend enrichment for two years, during which the West must supply Iran's needs for nuclear fuel. But, if the suspension is meant to be permanent, it is not acceptable under any circumstances." Asfari added that Iran would agree to a temporary suspension in return for an end to the Security Council sanctions and the return of Iran's nuclear dossier to the IAEA. He emphasized that honesty is the most important factor in successful negotiations and that the West must demonstrate its "good intentions."

Mehdi Mohammadi, a member of Iran's delegation to the nuclear negotiations who works for the Supreme National Security Council, said, "When the Islamic Republic of Iran is aware that the sanctions will not be cancelled, there is no reason for it to make any concession," implying that Iran is willing to make concessions in return for the cancellation of at least some sanctions. Mohammadi, former political editor of the hardline newspaper Kayhan, added, "The approach of the United States to the negotiations is that the sanctions cannot be cancelled. Sanctions that cannot be cancelled are not effective, and in fact the outlook for their cancellation is unclear."

Iran ready for secret negotiations with United States?

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reports on signals that "Iran is ready for secret bilateral talks with the U.S., but time is short, and election-year pressures will make real bargaining difficult." Observing that Iran's presentation to the P5+1 mentioned its plan to build four new nuclear research reactors, Ignatius says, "Maybe that's a bargaining chip, or maybe it's a sign these negotiations really are headed into the ditch."

Second poll on closing Strait of Hormuz

Khabar Online, the website linked to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, carried out the second online poll in a week regarding the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Khabar asked its readers, "In your view, what benefits can Iran gain by closing the Strait of Hormuz?" As of this writing, 538 people had taken part in the poll, 81.8 percent of whom agreed with the view that closing the strait "will have no major benefits for Iran." Meanwhile, an item on the website of Fars, which is under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed that the previous polls on the state-run Shabakeh Khabar website that also indicated popular opposition to closing the strait and support for ending uranium enrichment at 19.75 percent were incorrect because, according to Fars, Shabakeh Khabar was hacked and the poll results altered.

Iraq opposes strait's closure

Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the Iraqi government, stated that Iran has no right to close the Strait of Hormuz to international commerce. He had previously called for the development of alternative routes to the strait.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

@TehranBureau | TB on Facebook

SHAREtwitterfacebookSTUMBLEUPONbalatarin reddit digg del.icio.us
blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.