Information Flow is Key in Iran War Posturing

As Marcy points out this morning, Iran is now emphasizing the many ways that the US is waging war on Iran. What I find interesting in both the physical attacks, whether they hit equipment or people, and the propaganda attacks waged in the media is that the flow of information is of overwhelming importance. I’ll hit three examples of the importance of information flow in the posturing for war with Iran.

Information Flow Between IAEA and Intelligence Agencies

Iran is now disclosing remarkable details on the August attack that disrupted electricity to the Fordo uranium enrichment plant near Qom. Especially intriguing is a fake rock discovered later that appeared to house electronics for monitoring communications at the site. But more important to me is that Iran is using the Fordo event to renew its claims that the IAEA is too closely affiliated with both US and Israeli intelligence. Consider this report today from Fars News in Iran, titled “Iran Angry at IAEA’s Use of External Sources of Information for Reports“. The article begins by lamenting that IAEA relies on information from US and Israeli intelligence:

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoun Abbasi lamented that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) uses external and unreliable sources of information for reporting Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.

“Unfortunately, the IAEA is influenced by intelligence sources outside the Agency, and its information leaks and the CIA and Mossad benefit from the leaked information,” Abbasi said in a meeting with members of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in Tehran on Tuesday.

The article goes on to note that IAEA inspectors appeared to know instantaneously when the power was disrupted at the Fordo plant and links this to accusations of infiltration of IAEA:

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Abbasi also warned the IAEA about infiltration of saboteurs and terrorists.


“On Friday August 17, 2012, power lines running from the city of Qom to Fordow facility were cut using explosives. It should be reminded that power outage is a way of damaging centrifuge machines. In the early hours of the following day, (IAEA) inspectors demanded a snap inspection of the facility,” he said, addressing an IAEA meeting in Vienna.

“Isn’t there any connection between the visit and the blast? Who else could have quick access to the facility other than IAEA inspectors to register and report dysfunctions?” he asked.

The fake rock would still have been operating on August 17, so Iran has told us that US and/or Israeli intelligence would have known immediately of the loss of power. And yet, somehow this information also made its way to IAEA within only a few hours. Such a sequence of events certainly paints a picture of the intelligence community having very good lines of communication with the IAEA and the information flow appears to go in both directions.

Control of Information on Uranium Enrichment

Just as was the case for explaining that the disputed explosion chamber at Parchin likely is used for nanodiamond research rather than nuclear trigger research, a report from b at Moon of Alabama should have completely defused the yammering over the August report on Iran from the IAEA. We learn from b that although Iran produced a large amount of 20% enriched uranium during the reporting period, much of Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium was converted to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor that produces medical isotopes. Importantly, once converted to fuel plates, the uranium is no longer in a chemical form that can be put back into centrifuges for further enrichment to weapons grade. As a result, b is the only person who could bring us this important news just after the report was released:

Not only is any Uranium Iran has below weapons grade but, according to the new IAEA report, Iran has today less enriched Uranium that could quickly be converted into a nuclear weapon than it had in May 2012, the time of the IAEA’s last report (GOV/2012/23) on the issue.

Of course, this point was completely lost on the corporate media, even though it was published back on August 31. Here is Joby Warrick wringing his hands over enrichment on Monday:

At the same time, the Obama White House has proven to be no more successful than its predecessors at halting Iran’s nuclear advance, the singular goal that has driven U.S. policy on Iran since the George H.W. Bush administration. Indeed, Iran’s rate of production of enriched uranium has nearly tripled since Obama took office, while hopes that the president can deliver a solution to the crisis have faded, even among his former admirers in Iran.

Warrick completely leaves out the fact that Iran has converted much of its 20% enriched uranium to a form that is useless for enrichment to weapons grade. Is Warrick’s omission a deliberate play into the strategy of the war mongers or does it demonstrate a level of ignorance that should render him ineligible for any further reporting on the nuclear issue in Iran?

Control of Information on Negotiations

A very strange sequence of events this week points out how both Iran and the US control information flow about the state of any negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. On Monday, Gareth Porter published an exclusive interview with Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who represents Iran in its negotiations with the IAEA. Porter revealed that Saeed Jalili, who is Iran’s negotiator with the P5+1 group of nations, had conveyed to EU negotiator Catherine Ashton a willingness for Iran to halt all 20% uranium enrichment in return for an end to the sanctions that have been put in place:

Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sep. 19.

Of course, Warrick’s article on Monday not only misses this development, but it states no new breakthroughs are expected:

No firm dates for new negotiations have been set, and Middle East analysts say no breakthrough is likely until after the November election.

However, it’s not just mouthpieces for the US-Israel hardliners that ignore Soltanieh’s disclosure. Iran’s PressTV reported Tuesday that Soltanieh refuted that his interview with Porter took place:

Iran’s ambassador to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has denied false remarks the Inter Press Service (IPS) attributed to him about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program, Press TV reports.

“Let me tell you! I’ve taken part in no interviews about [the country’s uranium] enrichment and relevant issues with anyone in the past one month. I’ve not said such a thing,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh told Press TV on the phone on Tuesday.

But the PressTV denial of the interview now appears to be refuted by an article today from Mehr News, where the Porter interview is quoted. It’s hard to see how this article can be seen as anything other than confirmation both that the interview took place and that Iran did indeed offer to halt 20% enrichment in return for dropping the sanctions, especially since the article is headlined “Iran has offered to halt 20 percent enrichment if sanctions lifted“:

Iran has offered to stop enriching uranium to a purity level of 20 percent if the West lifts sanctions against Tehran, Iran’s ambassador to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency says.


Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said the offer was made once again in an informal meeting between Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Istanbul on September 18.


“We are prepared to suspend enrichment to 20 percent, provided we find a reciprocal step compatible with it,” Soltanieh said in an interview with the Inter Press Service News Agency published on Monday.

“We said this in Istanbul,” he added. “If we do that there shouldn’t be sanctions.”

By email, Porter told me that he is looking into the reasons why Soltanieh would have called PressTV to deny the interview and hopes to publish more information on the turn of events.

At the very least, it appears that there are differing factions within Iran with differing views on whether it should be publicized that Iran is willing to suspend 20% enrichment in return for dropping the sanctions. At the same time, the US press is too consumed with fears over 20% enrichment and joyous descriptions of the pain inflicted on Iran’s civilians by the sanctions to notice that new peace opportunities might be up for negotiation.

Update: IPS has added the following note on Gareth Porter’s article reporting on his interview with Soltanieh:

Iranian Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh has reportedly denied the interview on which this Sep. 24 story was based. The interview, conducted by telephone on Sep. 20, is the third story that IPS has published based on interviews with the ambassador, and like the others, it accurately reflects the ambassador’s statements to IPS reporter Gareth Porter. We regret the fact that the ambassador has felt the need to deny any or all of it.

10 replies
  1. Cheryl Rofer says:

    Jim, I think there is a danger in taking Iran’s claims at face value, just as there is in taking US claims at face value. After all, just last week, Fereydoon Abbasi, the head of Iran’s nuclear program, said they have lied to the IAEA inspectors.

    Frankly, I find all claims (this is not the first) of the transmitting rocks absurd. The “rock” would have to contain a detector of some kind, a transmitter, and a power source. This claimed “rock” seems to have been more of a boulder; in addition to all that, it would have had to contain explosives and a detonator. And then someone would have had to place the “rocks.” So they drive up within shouting distance of Fordow and drop a boulder off their truck. Right.

    The other claims are poorly backed up. If the US government claimed that Iranian agents had cut power lines in Alabama, you would want to see some proof, wouldn’t you?

    Of course the IAEA uses outside sources of intelligence. Iran would prefer that they use only Iran-supplied information. If Iran would open up and supply the information the IAEA is asking for, then they wouldn’t have to complain about other information being unreliable.

    Nuclear Diner and even some MSM outlets have noted that some of Iran’s 20% is now tied up in fuel elements. It’s not a “b” exclusive.

    Negotiations are best conducted between the negotiators. The last I heard, Gareth Porter wasn’t part of either delegation. The change in Iran’s story is only the latest example of their obfuscation: yes we did, no we didn’t. If they are serious about negotiations, they will negotiate in the negotiating room, not in the media. And if they’re going to press forward with a media barrage, they might want to choose a single story to do it with.

    Porter has presented the words he has (obviously not the whole story) misleadingly. Iran has offered a suspension of enrichment to 20%, not an end to it, apparently in return for lifting of all sanctions. That’s an extreme position, not a reasonable one, perhaps suitable as an opening gambit behind closed doors, but absurd and destructive in the media.

    Some years back, I had some sympathy for Iran. But their unwillingness to negotiate seriously and their willingness to make absurd claims, alongside their escalation of enrichment, incline me to believe that there is very little good faith there. I recognize that there could be non-malign reasons for their actions, but at some point they have to recognize how their actions look to the rest of the world and begin to negotiate seriously.

  2. Jim White says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I’m not saying Iran’s claims should be taken at face value as much as I’m saying their claims shouldn’t be so dismissed that they never see the light of day.

    It seems that the rock ruse is not a new one, so I find it intriguing.

    Sorry if I missed ND on the fuel plate issue. I thought b was first. I know Porter had stuff on it a few days after M of A.

    But the whole point of this post is that information is what is key. And an important corollary should be that determining the validity of information and the credibility of its sources is a big part of that. Thanks for helping to bring focus on that important aspect.

  3. Cheryl Rofer says:

    I agree completely that validity of information and credibility of sources is an essential consideration. What bothers me is that I can’t see a way to figure out what information coming from Iran is valid. They have taken too many positions and then changed them, even when they are talking to a relatively friendly reporter like Porter.

    I also agree that part of this is differences within the regime. But we can’t see those to figure out why the differences in information. And some of it may be deliberate attempts to throw smoke screens or gain negotiating points. Iran is sufficiently isolated, by its own desires and the actions of the rest of the world, that its leaders may not be able to step back and see how much the dancing around damages them.

  4. GKJames says:

    Whatever Iran’s proposals, it’s unlikely that they’d be permitted to adulturate the narrative firmly planted in American heads. Bellicosity is the flavor of the season, while what by Washington’s own definitions are acts of war are perpetrated without the least hint of irony. In that context, what scribe gorging at the trough of power is going to ruin a good story?

    As for the IAEA, only a full-blown (never-gonna-happen) public investigation would allow us to know to what extent it is infilrated or influenced by individual governments.

  5. BSbafflesbrains says:

    The MIC has proven beyond doubt that they can start a war whenever they want to. If we are ever going to end wars we need to socialize war and remove the profit motive from the DuPonts, Krups etc. that have amassed wealth on the business of war.

  6. P J Evans says:

    Don’t be that dim.
    Government doesn’t lie all the time; it can’t afford that. It lies to maintain its own power (or what it perceives as its power); this isn’t new or news.

  7. please says:

    @P J Evans: I believe the reaction was hyperbole and instigated by the seemingly suggestion that Iran who has been under siege for years and has felt the brunt of a US orchestrated coup, etc, is hard to take seriously talk less of the US itself.

  8. jerryy says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: While it is always great to take pr claims from any governement with heaping spponfuls of salt, do not be in too big of a hurry to dismiss the ‘rock’ story. It is quite plausible. here’s why:

    The newly released cell phone from Apple scored 1601 (*1) when tested as a computer using a test called Geekbench. In comparison Apple’s older desktop / workstation computer (called the PowerMac G5) scored around 1161(*2) before Apple discontinued its archetecture in favor of using a different manufacturer’s chips. [Note: Apple’s phone competitors are close enough in performance to the new phone for purposes of this discussion.] I am repeating to make it clear: The G5 was a powerful workstation, but new to the public cell phones are more powerful.

    Additionally, there are several kinds of detection gizmos that you can attach to phones, there was a radiation detector in specific developed to hook to the phones, available to the general public, after the disaster in Japan.

    Broadcom makes all kinds of very small, low power transmitters, some of which are used in phones, some in otehr types of equipment.

    While it may turn out the ‘rock’ is hyperbole in this case, it is possible in practice.



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