pink tarps

Pinheads Dance on Nuclear Accusations Against Iran

Cringe before the power of the dirt piles!

I noted on Tuesday that Fredrik Dahl of Reuters dutifully transcribed accusations from anonymous “Western diplomats” to report that satellite images (which David Albright finally published yesterday–I’m so happy we get to see those dirt pile photos!) revealed that Iran had brought fill dirt to the Parchin site where there have been accusations that Iran may have carried out work on developing an explosive trigger for a nuclear weapon. That post had barely been up for an hour or two when George Jahn unleashed a spectacularly bad graph purporting to show Iranian calculations on nuclear bomb yields. Glenn Greenwald did a terrific debunking of the graph yesterday, showing, among other things, how profoundly wrong the science in the graph was. I had noted back in September, when Jahn first started hinting at what turned out to be his beloved graph, that this particular accusation first came to light in the November, 2011 IAEA report. Jahn and those who are feeding him his “exclusives” sat on this graph for a year before releasing it, presumably because it is so craptastically ridiculous that it could not be made public until the laughter over Bibi’s bomb cartoon and the pink tarps had died down.

The timing of this nearly simultaneous flinging of poo by Dahl and Jahn is explained by the fact that the IAEA is meeting now to discuss the most recent report on Iran’s nuclear activities. The US is using this meeting to roll out a new bit of “leverage” against Iran, stating that if Iran does not comply with IAEA requests by the time of the next IAEA report in March, the US will request that the IAEA refer Iran to the UN Security Council for its intransigence. Aside from how hypocritical this announcement looks, coming within just a few hours of the US condemning the UN for allowing Palestine to achieve non-member observer status, it also appears that Iran knew this ploy was coming. Today we see a report from Mehr News noting that Iran has reported the US to the UN for violating Iranian airspace at least eight times during October.

Lost in all of this noise is the fact that for all the posturing over Iran’s 20% enriched uranium being “close” to weapons grade, Iran continues to divert significant amounts of the 20% enriched material into fuel plates for the Tehran reactor where the uranium has become chemically incapable of further enrichment to weapons grade. From David Albright’s summary of the most recent IAEA report (pdf), we see that Iran has produced 232.8 kg of 20% enriched uranium but has diverted 95.5 kg, or 41%, of this to fuel plates. Back in August, Moon of Alabama explained the significance of the chemical changes that take place when fuel plates are produced [emphasis in original]: Continue reading

Breaking: Albright Discovers That After Covering Buildings at Parchin With Pink Tarps, Iranians Now Removing Tarps!

Alternative representation of Iran moving pink tarpaulins around at the Parchin military site. (Detail from a photo by azkid2It on Flickr under Creative Commons license)

It seemed that David Albright and his Institute for Science and International Security had reached a new low when on August 24 they wowed the world with their analytical powers by explaining to us the meaning of Iran draping buildings at the disputed Parchin military site with pink tarpaulins. Yesterday, Albright and associates did their best to keep the Pink Panic at Parchin going, as they breathlessly revealed that Iran is now actually REMOVING THE TARPS!

As I have maintained all along, if Iran has carried out work at this site to develop a neutron trigger based on high explosives, as they have been accused, then the steel chamber in which the work was carried out is quite likely to have been rendered radioactive through the process of neutron activation and no amount of cleaning the chamber or the surrounding building or surrounding soil can hide that. That means that the tarps themselves (along with the earlier soil-moving exercises) have been a feint to give Albright and the press something to chase while those who favor an attack on Iran continue to agitate for “action”. We see from the most recent photos that the building in which the explosives chamber is believed to be housed still stands after the tarp has been removed from its roof. Should inspectors gain access to the site, their primary objective remains unchanged from pre-tarp days. They first need to determine if the chamber is still inside the building. If the chamber is still present, they need to examine it for evidence of neutron activation or any other radioactive contamination arising from the research the Iranians have been accused of carrying out.

AP’s George Jahn, ISI’s David Albright Re-run Allegations of Iranian Bomb Calculations

I can calculate the destructive power of nuclear explosions, too, with this handy tool from 1962.

Breathlessly calling today’s story an “AP Exclusive“, George Jahn sticks to his usual routine of depending on “diplomats” to leak information on Iran and then using David Albright to cast the information in a way calculated to make it look as though Iran has made new, major breakthroughs in efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. Today’s effort is more transparent than a pink tarp, with Jahn’s article itself finally getting around to noting that everything claimed to be an “exclusive” in the article was already noted in IAEA’s November, 2011 report.

Jahn’s opening:

The U.N. atomic agency has received new intelligence that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon by advancing its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead, diplomats tell The Associated Press.

And then, of course, we need Albright to add just the right spin:

“You want to have a theoretical understanding of the working of a nuclear weapon that is then related to the experiments you do on the various components,” said David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security is a frequent go-to source on Iran for Congress and other U.S. government branches. “The two go hand-in-hand.”

Such computer mock-ups typically assess how high explosives compress fissile warhead material, setting off the chain reaction that results in a nuclear explosion. The yield is normally calculated in kilotons.

Now that we have been properly scared into believing there is new and damning evidence against Iran, let’s see what Jahn finds when he goes back to the November, 2011 IAEA report:

The IAEA first outlined suspicions in November that Iran was working on calculating the yield of a nuclear weapon, as part of a 13-page summary of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons work that it said was based on more than 1,000 pages of research and intelligence from more than 10 member nations.

It said then that “the modeling studies alleged to have been conducted in 2008 and 2009 by Iran … (are) of particular concern,” adding that the purpose of such studies for calculating anything other than nuclear explosion yields is “unclear to the agency.”

Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, said such computer-run modeling is “critical to the development of a nuclear weapon.”

So Jahn admits that this “new” information is basically just a re-run of what was stated in November by the IAEA. I guess Jahn and his handlers decided that not enough attention had been paid to this particular nugget of information, and so a new “exclusive” was needed in order to focus more attention on it. That is a very brave move after being punked so badly by the pink tarps.

At least Jahn got one sentence correct:

Any new evidence of Iranian research into nuclear weapons is likely to strengthen the hand of hawks in Israel who advocate a military strike on Iran.

Next week, perhaps Jahn and Albright can provide analysis of all Google searches from Iran on “nuclear weapons”. I’m sure Jahn’s “diplomat” friends can provide those for us.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
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