Posts

Amid Reports of Near Agreement and IAEA, Iran Followup Meeting, Jahn Eats Crow

Despite the best efforts of those who want a military attack on Iran to paint Iran as hiding attempts to develop a nuclear weapon, cooler heads appear to be prevailing as yesterday’s talks in Tehran produced reports of a likely agreement and a follow-up meeting between the IAEA and Iran in only a month. One of the most important signs of progress is that the AP’s George Jahn, who has served as a conduit for many of the most flimsy charges against Iran even gave space at the end of his report today to provide an alternate viewpoint that calls most of his reporting for the past year into significant question.

From Reuters, Fred Dahl (who at times has dabbled in the same rumor-mongering as Jahn, but not as blatantly) reports on the progress made yesterday:

The U.N. atomic agency failed to gain access to a military site in talks with Iran this week but expects to reach a deal in January to resume a stalled nuclear probe, the chief U.N. inspector said after returning from Tehran on Friday.

Even though the International Atomic Energy Agency was not allowed to see the Parchin complex during Thursday’s visit to the Iranian capital, IAEA team leader Herman Nackaerts said progress had been made in the meeting.

/snip/

“We expect to finalize the structured approach and start implementing it then shortly after that,” he said, referring to a framework agreement that would enable the IAEA to restart its investigation into suspected atomic bomb research in Iran.

“We had good meetings,” Nackaerts added. “We were able to make progress.”

It is not just the IAEA who characterized the meeting as productive. From PressTV, we also get positive news from the Iranian side of the meeting:

Earlier, Iran’s Ambassador to the IAEA Ali-Asghar Soltanieh told Press TV that Tehran and the UN nuclear body agreed at the end of the one-day meeting to hold a next round of talks in January.

“This round of talks was constructive and good progress was made,” Soltanieh added.

Adding to the possible momentum generated yesterday, both the Reuters article linked above and this Fars News piece from Iran report that a new round of the P5+1 talks also could be taking place soon.

But perhaps the most encouraging news of all comes from what appears in today’s report from the AP’s George Jahn, who has been at the center of controversy many times during the last year because of the way he publishes “leaked” material coming from countries that favor military action in Iran and who want to disrupt diplomatic negotiations. In today’s story, he does recite some of his litany of charges against Iran and the claims that work at the Parchin military site may have been carried out to develop an explosive trigger device for a nuclear weapon. He also relates that David Albright emailed to AP a “series of commercial satellite photographs of the Parchin site” detailing activities at the site that Albright and Jahn have been hyping as aimed at “cleansing” the site of radioactive signatures of the trigger development work. Presumably, Albright had to email the photos to Jahn because Jahn is not able to find them on Albright’s website where he posted them along with a “they’re still at it” type of “analysis” earlier this week.

However, after giving space for more information from Albright, Jahn makes the remarkable move of providing an alternate viewpoint from an authoritative source [emphais added]:

But a former IAEA inspector questioned what the information shown on the satellite photos actually mean.

This ‘sanitization story’ is an old wives’ tale,” said Robert Kelley, in an email Friday to the AP. “It is clear from examination of the satellite images that there is no concerted effort to disguise possible uranium contamination outside the building.”

Kelley said the activities at Parchin reflected “a construction project, not a demolition effort,” adding: “This is clearly not a sanitization.

Seeing his last year of work on behalf of war mongers dismissed as “an old wives’ tale” and then including it in his report had to hurt Jahn. He is due a bit of respect for reporting it, even if he did hide it at the very end of his report.

Warrick Selectively Edits Amano Remarks to CFR

Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA,  appeared on the record yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations. He presented a very brief statement and then the bulk of his time was spent in a wide-ranging question and answer session. The lineup of questioners included Barbara Slavin leading off, David Sanger near the middle and Gareth Porter getting in just before questioning was brought to a close.

Joby Warrick took advantage of Slavin’s question to present Iran in the worst possible light:

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said the nuclear watchdog would try again next week to visit the Parchin military base, a sprawling complex where Iran is thought to have conducted tests on high-precision explosives used to detonate a nuclear bomb.

Iran has repeatedly refused to let IAEA inspectors visit the base, on the outskirts of Tehran. Instead, in the months since the agency requested access, satellite photos have revealed what appears to be extensive cleanup work around the building where tests are alleged to have occurred.

“We are concerned that our capacity to verify would have been severely undermined,” Amano told a gathering of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. He noted Iran’s “extensive” cleanup effort at the site, which has included demolishing buildings and stripping away topsoil.

“We cannot say for sure that we would be able find something,” Amano said.

Notice the careful way in which Warrick has excerpted parts of what Amano said and inserted his own spin into the statements. If you listen carefully to what Amano says in response to Slavin’s question around the 27 minute mark of the video, you will see that Amano never characterizes the activities by Iran as sanitizing the site (as said in Warrick’s headline) or even that it was cleanup work, as Warrick says in the body of the article. Amano does mention removal of soil, demolition of buildings and extensive use of water, but maintains that access to the site is necessary in order to have a clear understanding of both past and current activities there.

Amano sits in a a position of high tension. He must deal with the Wikileaks disclosures showing that he is much more aligned with the US than his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei. Perhaps helping him to navigate this delicate position, the host of the CFR event, George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, provided some background comments and posed questions to Amano aimed at allowing Amano to voice his overall goal of resolving issues diplomatically. Despite this claim by Amano that his goal is diplomatic solutions, he must deal with the fact that the issues his organization has been raising are cited (often in an embellished way, as Warrick does above) as grounds for an attack on Iran. Perkovich also used these comments as a way to provide an endorsement of sorts for a second term for Amano.

One of the better questions posed by Perkovich related to whether it is possible to come to agreement with Iran regarding boundaries for future activities while leaving unresolved questions about what may have taken place in the past. Read more

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]: Read more

Where Are the Dirt Photos? We Must Have Dirt Photos!

As I have noted many times, there is a prescribed, choreographed sequence for getting reports of “cleanup” activities at Iran’s Parchin site into the US news media. First, “diplomats” release information (arising from intelligence agencies or the IAEA) to George Hahn of AP or Fredrik Dahl of Reuters, and then David Albright emerges within just a few hours with an “analysis”, usually including satellite imagery. The choreography and imagery reached a comedic highpoint when Iran covered a number of buildings at the Parchin site with pink tarps last summer. Once Albright provides his viewpoint, various US media chime in to tell us how devious the Iranians are being with this military site that might house work that could somehow, one day, sort of help Iran produce a nuclear weapon.

Now, however, the cycle appears to have been broken. Late Wednesday, Fredrik Dahl published an article where he reported that a “closed-door” IAEA briefing had disclosed that satellite images of Parchin dated November 7 found new piles of dirt. Whether due to the Thanksgiving holiday or a lack of enthusiasm after the embarrassment of the pink tarp photos, Albright has not yet followed up by publishing these all-important photos of the piles of dirt.

Here is Dahl’s report:

Iran has been hauling dirt to a military site U.N. nuclear inspectors want to visit, Western diplomats said on Wednesday, saying the findings were based on satellite images and they reinforced suspicions of a clean-up.

They said the pictures, presented during a closed-door briefing for member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), suggested Iran was continuing to try to hide incriminating traces of any illicit nuclear-related activity.

The allegations come a few days after the IAEA said in a report on Iran that “extensive activities” undertaken at the Parchin site since early this year would seriously undermine its inquiry, if and when inspectors were allowed access.

Albright clearly was already aware of the new piles of dirt. From his comments (pdf) put up along with publication of the November 16 IAEA report (pdf) (clearly marked “Restricted Distribution”):

The third and final points about removal of external pipework from the containment vessel building and about a depositing of new earth where earth was removed are new observations and ones that were not previously reported by ISIS. (See previous ISIS imagery analysis on the apparent sanitization activities at Parchin here.) Iran undertook sanitization activities, including the removal of earth and deposit of new earth, at Lavisan Shian in 2004. These activities are suspected to be related to Iran hiding evidence of efforts of the Physics Research Center, a military entity linked to parallel military nuclear activities that was sited there until the late 1990s.

On the date that the IAEA provided for restricted distribution its latest report on Iran, Albright was already aware that new imagery showed the additional fill dirt being brought to the Parchin site, and yet more than ten days later, and nearly a week after being prompted by Dahl, Albright still has not given us the dirt photos. If he doesn’t come around soon, Albright will be in danger of being left out of the noise amplification loop and in the future new photos will bypass him and go directly to Barbara Starr.

Update: Ha ha ha ha. I guess George Jahn was feeling left out. He just published a diagram proving that the Iranians can calculate the yield of an atomic weapon. Quick! Prepare the fainting couch! Even Albright wasn’t too impressed with this one, as quoted by Jahn:

David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is used by the U.S. government as a go-to source on Iran’s nuclear program, said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more “to understand the process” than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.

I’m sure Barbara Starr will be along shortly to tell us how frightened we should be by this diagram.

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.

Persians Punk Photo Pretenders: Parchin Pretty in Pink

Detail from the photo carried in CNN’s story showing the pink tarp over the building said to contain the blast chamber.

In order to make the case for a military attack on Iran, those who advocate war need to show that Iran is engaged in developing a nuclear weapon. There will be a new IAEA report this week, and we already know that this report will try to whip up excitement around what is already known: Iran’s installation of additional centrifuges for enrichment of uranium to 20% has continued, and Iran now has increased its capacity for such enrichment. What press accounts of the enrichment situation will gloss over is the fact that IAEA inspectors are present at all of Iran’s enrichment sites and that all material is accounted for. That means that in order to accuse Iran of taking 20% enriched uranium and subjecting it to further enrichment to the 90%+ that is needed for weapons, one would have to postulate a secret site, unknown to IAEA inspectors, where Iran could take raw uranium ore all the way to weapons grade.

With the rogue enrichment route to a military attack unlikely to gain footing, war advocates also accuse Iran of other activities aimed at developing a nuclear weapon. A favorite target for those accusations is the military site at Parchin, where one particular building has been separated out and accused of holding a high explosives blast chamber where Iran is accused of carrying out research aimed at developing a neutron trigger device for a nuclear bomb. Despite a very thorough debunking of this theory by b at Moon of Alabama, where it was shown that the chamber was much more likely to be used in production of nanodiamonds than neutron triggers, the accusations continued. In May, George Jahn of AP provided ridiculous “proof” of work on a trigger device by publishing a cartoon (drawn from a real photograph!) and description of the chamber. These new allegations from Jahn even included a claim that there was a neutron detector on the outside of the chamber so that neutron flux from the explosions inside the chamber could be monitored. I showed that this allegation meant that if such work had been carried out, the steel chamber itself would have been made radioactive through the process of neutron activation. This radioactivity would be present throughout the thickness of the steel and therefore could not be removed by a surface cleaning.

Despite the fact that the steel chamber (and possibly even the structural steel of the surrounding building) would be radioactive in a way that could not be cleaned, we have for months been deluged with accusations that Iran is “cleaning” the Parchin site. After this process had gone on for some time, I began to describe it as a game of cat and mouse in which it appears that Iran is having quite a bit of fun at the expense of those who are making allegations about the Parchin site. The primary target of Iran’s pranks in Parchin is David Albright, of the Insitute for Science and International Security. Despite no known expertise in intelligence gathering by photo analysis (and that comment on lack of expertise comes from someone who previously was a CIA photo analyst) we have had multiple accounts from Albright of Iran “cleaning” the Parchin site to remove evidence of their work on a trigger device.

I have responded to most of Albright’s reports, but chose not to respond to his report of August 1, where he declared that Iran had finished its cleanup work at Parchin. That report appears to have been operational for only a brief period, however, as a report issued on August 24 shows images from August 15. In this new report, additional activity at Parchin has taken place and the suspect building is now draped with a tarp that is bright pink.

In keeping with the usual pattern for these accusations, CNN has breathlessly repeated Albright’s analysis. It hardly seems necessary to point out that the point I have been making all along still stands. The most important element of any inspection at Parchin will be the high explosive chamber itself. Iran cannot “scrub” it of neutron activation. That means that if sufficient neutron trigger work was carried out in the chamber to make it radioactive, Iran will need to remove and destroy the chamber. Whether there is a pink tarp over the building or not is irrelevant to the issue of whether the chamber still exists.

The only way Iran can top the comedic spectacle of the pink tarp is to paint the ground outside the building to mimic Albright’s yellow comment balloons and font with a note along the lines of “Please do not look at this building”.

Albright Attempts to Deflect Neutron Activation Issue at Parchin

On May 15, I pointed out that the claims associated with the cartoon published by George Jahn of AP purporting to depict a high explosives chamber used by Iran at Parchin (this is a new link for the cartoon, the AP link in the May 15 post no longer works for me) and in a report by David Albright claiming that Iran has taken actions aimed at cleansing the Parchin site were rendered baseless by the likelihood that if the accused work on a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon had indeed been carried out at Parchin, then the chamber would be rendered radioactive throughout the thickness of its steel by the process of neutron activation. Yesterday, Albright published even more photos of the Parchin site that he claims document further cleansing activity and in the discussion section of his report he finally addressed the issue of neutron activation. In order to make the issue of neutron activation go away, Albright is now proposing that  the uranium deuteride presumed to be present in the explosion would produce too low a flux of neutrons to produce appreciable neutron activation of the chamber’s steel, even though Jahn is claiming that the Iranians placed a neutron detector outside the chamber, presumably to measure the neutron flux that passed through its steel walls.

Here is the relevant portion of a 2009 report by Albright describing the neutron initiator:

If the data in this document are correct and the descriptions of the work are accurate, then this report appears to be describing a plan to further develop and test a critical component of a nuclear weapon, specifically a neutron initiator made out of uranium deuteride (UD3), which when finished (and subsequently manufactured) would most likely be placed at the center of a fission bomb made from weapon-grade uranium. This type of initiator works by the high explosives compressing the nuclear core and the initiator, producing a spurt of neutrons as a result of fusion in D-D reactions. The neutrons flood the core of weapon-grade uranium and initiate the chain reaction.

Albright goes on to describe the issue of producing neutrons and measuring their production:

The measurement of the neutrons emitted by this UD3 source would be the hardest measurement Iran would need to make in developing a nuclear weapon. This assumes that Iran believes it cannot do a full-scale nuclear test, although it would be expected to do a “cold test” of the full device as a way to gain confidence the nuclear weapon would perform as expected. . . The timing of the explosion and resulting shock waves would need to be perfect in order to get enough fusion to create a spurt of neutrons in a reliable manner at exactly the right instant. The experiment itself is very difficult to do. There are relatively few neutrons emitted in a brief period of time and there is a lot of noise from the electronics that interferes with the neutron measurements.

It should be noted here that although Albright is discussing a “cold test”, that means the test is carried out without the weapons grade uranium which the initiator sets off in the nuclear explosion. The uranium deuteride is still present as the primary part of the initiator and is producing the neutrons which are to be measured. Although Albright does claim that few neutrons are produced in the explosion in the latter part of the description, he refers to a “spurt” of neutrons that “flood” the weapons grade uranium in the earlier portion. The fact remains that in such an experiment, significant quantities of uranium are present and there would be neutrons released into the steel of the chamber the entire time the uranium is present, not just during the brief explosion.

As further support for the uranium deuteride initiator being the primary focus of the narrative promoted by Albright and Jahn, it should be kept in mind that Jahn mentions that the chamber is “equipped with” “a neutron detection system outside the explosion chamber to measure neutron emissions”. Jahn goes on to quote another expert who posits the use of uranium in the experiments with explosives: Read more

Parchin Game of Cat and Mouse Escalates: Razed Buildings, Earthmoving Probably Don’t Affect Controversial Chamber

For a brief period yesterday afternoon, initial news reports had me thinking that perhaps proof had finally emerged that Iran has indeed carried out work on a nuclear weapon and was taking actions in an attempt to hide the after-effects of that work. As new details emerged, however, it became more clear that an elaborate game of cat and mouse is being played out between Iran and those who accuse them of weapon development, but overall there still seems to be no conclusive proof that weapon development at the controversial Parchin site has been carried out.

That is a pattern that has played out several times now. “Diplomats” provide anonymous information to a reporter in Vienna on new accusations about nuclear weapon development work in Iran. The first version of the story put out by the reporter contains only a vague accusation but is delivered with a sensationalized headline suggesting that new and important evidence supports the conclusion that Iran is carrying out work at Parchin aimed at developing a neutron trigger device for a nuclear weapon . Subsequent expansion of the article reveals that the “evidence” is much weaker than initially portrayed and that technical details tend to contradict the accusations for the large part.

Until yesterday, that pattern had played itself out three times since March, each with George Jahn of AP playing the role of the reporter in Vienna. First, there was the claim in March that Iran was trying to clean the Parchin site to remove evidence of work on a trigger device. It took several weeks after the initial claim, but finally a satellite image purporting to show evidence of “washing” the building at Parchin was produced in early May when David Albright displayed satellite images showing puddles in the parking lot outside the suspect building. Of course, Albright’s claim of “washing” away the radioactivity is ludicrous, as traces would remain, especially if the wash water is simply allowed to pool in the parking lot of the building. Albright and Jahn did not give up, however, and Jahn subsequently came up with a cartoon depicting the chamber (it’s even the same color as the real chamber!). The huge hole in those accusations, though, is that if the accused neutron trigger work with uranium were indeed being carried out at Parchin, then the process of neutron activation would have resulted in both the structural steel of the chamber itself and most likely the structural steel of the building housing the chamber being radioactive throughout the thicknesses of the steel. This would mean that Albright’s claims that Iran could “cleanse” the chamber and the building by grinding and washing surfaces were impossible. Instead, in order to clean the site:

The only way that Iran would be able to hide evidence of work on a neutron trigger device at Parchin would be to dismantle and remove the entire chamber. It most likely would be necessary to raze the entire building as well, since the structural steel in the building surrounding the chamber also likely would have been made radioactive by the neutrons.

Jahn’s third sensational headline followed by less sensational details related to the finding of traces of uranium enriched to 27% rather than 20% at the enrichment site at Qom instead of at Parchin, but this still fits the overall pattern.

Another aspect of attempts to clean evidence of work with radioactivity is removal of the upper layers of soil.

Yesterday, Fredrik Dahl of Reuters took over George Jahn’s role as the reporter in Vienna to release a sensational headline only for the real story to fall short of the accusations (apologies to Jahn for my initial–now deleted–tweets on this revelation, which I attributed to him when I reacted first to the headline and only later noticed the story was from Dahl and not Jahn). I have counted at least five versions of Dahl’s story as it was updated through the day yesterday and this morning. Here is complete article as it appeared in its initial form: Read more

George Jahn Once Again Grants Anonymity for Dubious Iran Accusation

Just under two weeks ago, AP’s George Jahn released the infamous cartoon around which he built a dubious nest of mostly anonymous charges that Iran had conducted work toward developing a neutron trigger device for nuclear weapons, using an explosive containment chamber at the Parchin military site. Jahn further repeated anonymous claims from “diplomats” that satellite imagery showed activity claimed to be Iran “cleaning” the site to remove traces of radioactivity.

It is simply impossible to “clean” radioactivity from a steel chamber in which uranium has been used to generate neutrons, as the neutrons would result in making the entire thickness of the steel chamber radioactive, as I showed in this post. The only way that Iran would be able to hide evidence of work on a neutron trigger device at Parchin would be to dismantle and remove the entire chamber. It most likely would be necessary to raze the entire building as well, since the structural steel in the building surrounding the chamber also likely would have been made radioactive by the neutrons.

Since negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries will continue next month in Moscow, those who prefer a war with Iran now must find new areas in which to accuse Iran of weapons work. George Jahn dutifully stepped up to play his role in this process again today, granting anonymity to “diplomats” who make a vague accusation that Jahn dressed up into a highly sensational headline that is backed up by few facts and then rendered essentially meaningless when he goes further into the information. At the AP’s site, Jahn’s article carries the headline “APNewsBreak: Higher enrichment at Iranian site“. The Washington Post decided that headline wasn’t incendiary enough, and so their version reads “APNewsBreak: Diplomats say UN experts find enrichment at Iranian site closer to arms level“.

The story itself is quite short. It opens:

 Diplomats say the U.N. nuclear agency has found traces of uranium at Iran’s underground atomic site enriched to higher than previous levels and closer to what is needed for nuclear weapons.

Wait a minute. This whole thing is about “traces” of uranium enriched to a higher level. Missing from the entire article is any detail of how much material was found or to what level the uranium was enriched. The highest level of enrichment currently declared by Iran is 20%, which the press in the recent past has been describing as only a short “technical step” away from the the 90%+ needed for a nuclear weapon.

The next two paragraphs from Jahn basically render his entire story moot:

The diplomats say the finding by the International Atomic Energy Agency does not necessarily mean that Iran is secretly raising its enrichment threshold.

They say the traces could be left during startup of enriching centrifuges until the desired level is reached. That would be a technical glitch only.

So, in other words, these “diplomats” are doing their best to create a crisis over something that is a mere “technical glitch” and represents an insignificant amount of material. Of course, for those who only see the headline, especially the one on the Post’s website, the idea will have been planted that Iran is cheating on its declared enrichment program and secretly producing material that is ready to be placed into a weapon.

As I pointed out in this post, all of these incendiary press reports about Iran and uranium enrichment overlook a very important basic set of facts: Read more

Amano: Agreement With Iran Reached, “Will Be Signed Quite Soon”

It appears that the hopeful signals being sent out by Iran yesterday ahead of the visit by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano have been followed through. Speaking to reporters after his return to Vienna this morning, Amano announced that Iran and the IAEA have reached agreement on how to move forward on inspection of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Of particular importance, Amano describes the agreement as part of a structured approach, which seems to fit Iran’s insistence that any agreement would lay out in advance the framework for how and where inspections are to take place. From Bloomberg:

“There was an important development on the structured approach document on which we have been working since January,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said today in Vienna after returning from Tehran, where the deal was reached yesterday. “The decision was made to conclude and sign an agreement.”

The accord will be signed “quite soon,” Amano told journalists, without giving a date or details. The agreement comes as negotiators head to Baghdad for a second round of negotiations tomorrow over Iran’s nuclear program.

The New York Times has more key details, including the fact that inspection of the Parchin facility will be part of the agreement:

Mr. Amano’s visit to Tehran on Monday was his first to Iran since his appointment in 2009. Mr. Amano’s trip here, announced unexpectedly on Friday, was part of what diplomats in Vienna called an effort centered on persuading Iran to allow inspections of a site the agency suspects has been used for secret tests for triggering mechanisms that could be used in a nuclear weapon. Iranian officials have ridiculed those suspicions and contended that the site, called Parchin, was sufficiently inspected by the agency in 2005.

Diplomats in Vienna said an investigation of the Parchin site was “not the only game in town” in the negotiations on the so-called structured approach.”

Asked about the Parchin site specifically, Mr. Amano said: “I have raised this issue of access to Parchin and this issue will be addressed as a point of the implementation of the structured approach document.”

Significantly, the suggestions that Iran has attempted to clean the Parchin site have not made it into any of the articles I have seen announcing this agreement. Read more