[UPDATED]In the course of listening to testimony in the Libby case, it has become clear that Vice President Cheney initiated and directed the criminal conspiracy. That’s not the only bombshell in this case.
The illegal "outing" of Valerie Plame is only part of a much bigger back-story. From virtually the day it took office, the Bush-Cheney Administration systematically dismantled the nuclear arms control regime and counter-proliferation programs it inherited from the Clinton Administration.
By outing Plame, Cheney also outed the CIA's Counter-Proliferation Division (CPD), a secret unit within the Agency's covert Directorate of Operations. This was to have disastrous effects, including an illegal invasion of Iraq, the detonation of a nuclear device by North Korea, the redoubling of Iran’s program, and the destruction of a highly-classified CIA monitoring program that had sabotaged and sidetracked nuclear programs in at least five countries considered to be most threatening to the United States.
But, in the end, the Intelligence Community fought back, and Cheney will soon be facing a federal prosecutor.
MORE below . . .
We now know beyond a reasonable doubt the Vice President provided the inspiration and primary guidance for others involved in the criminal "outing" of Valerie Plame. Libby was carrying out Cheney's detailed, immediate instructions when he revealed Plame's identity to Judy Miller and confirmed her role as a CIA officer to Time Magazine's Matt Cooper. Libby, in turn, instructed Ari Fleischer to leak Plame’s identity to several reporters aboard AF-1 during the week before Robert Novak's column appeared.
Many have asked why Cheney and Libby outed Valerie Plame. The answers about an alleged personal vendetta by the Vice President, or retaliation against Ambassador Wilson, have not been fully satisfactory.
A more complete explanation, more fitting the gravre seriousness and huge scale of the crimes committed, has to do with an attempt by the Administration to destroy the CIA’s ability to resist exaggerated claims being made about the WMD programs of three countries that had been slated for destruction.
In order to do that, the Bush-Cheney Administration had to "out" a CIA deception campaign that the CPD was running through the A.Q. Khan network. The outing of A.Q. Khan’s network – which was working, more or less wittingly with the CIA, until it was publicly revealed by a senior State Department official in 2001 -- is intimately linked to the outing of Valerie Plame, who had been hired by CIA in 1997 to monitor the nuclear program of Iran, which is alleged to been dealing with A.Q. Khan from the late 1980s until 2002.
There's a strange symetry to this part of the story, but the same man who has admitted to initially "outing" Valerie Plame to a reporter (Bob Woodward) was also the Bush-Cheney Administration official who first publicly revealed that a "retired" Pakistani nuclear official had been trading uranium enrichment and missile technology with North Korea.
Yes, that's right. Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage outed Plame in a May 2003 conversation after he outed A.Q. Khan in a June 1, 2001 article in the Times of London.
During the 1990s, there were intermittent clues from intelligence that AQ Khan was discussing the sale of nuclear technology to countries of concern. By early 2000, intelligence revealed that these were not isolated incidents. It became clear that Khan was at the centre of an international proliferation network. By April 2000, the UK Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) was noting that there was an evolving, and as yet incomplete, picture of the supply of uranium enrichment equipment to at least one customer in the Middle East, thought to be Libya, and evidence linking this activity to Khan.
A.Q. Khan's official career came to an abrupt end in March 2001, when he was suddenly forced out as director of the nuclear lab by order of President Pervez Musharraf. Though Kahn was made a special adviser to the government, the reason for his dismissal reportedly coincided with concerns about financial improprieties at the lab as well as general warnings from the United States to the Musharraf about Khan’s proliferation activities. Musharraf's restraint in dealing with A.Q. Khan has been said to have resulted from the lack of incontrovertible evidence of proliferation activities. Nonetheless, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, in an article which appeared in the Financial Times on 01 June 2001, expressed concern that, "people who were employed by the nuclear agency and have retired" may be assisting North Korea with its nuclear program.
AQ KHAN: Father of Pakistan's nuclear Program, and CIA Asset
It is widely acknowledged that A.Q. Khan has had a relationship of some kind with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for a long time, according to the BBC that extends back for more than thirty years. The BBC reported in 2005:
CIA 'let atomic expert Khan go'
Pakistan pardoned AQ Khan, despite his dramatic revelations
Pakistani nuclear expert AQ Khan was not arrested when living in the Netherlands as the CIA was monitoring him, an ex-Dutch prime minister says.
Ruud Lubbers said the CIA had asked the Netherlands in 1975 not to prosecute Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is now dubbed the father of Pakistan's atom bomb.
Mr Khan admitted last year that he had leaked nuclear secrets to North Korea, Libya and Iran.
He came under suspicion while working for a Dutch uranium firm, Urenco.
He has been under close guard at his home in Islamabad since his public confession.
According to Mr Lubbers, US intelligence wanted to find out more about Mr Khan's contacts while he was working as an engineer at the top secret Dutch uranium enrichment plant at Almelo.
"The Americans wished to follow and watch Khan to get more information," he told Dutch radio.
Mr Khan returned to Pakistan in 1976 . . .SNIP
In 1983, Khan was convicted in absentia by a Dutch Court for his role in smuggling gas centrifuge equipment and plans from a nuclear enrichment where he had worked. http://www.ebearing.com/...
Khan remained at large at large, however, the reason given that Pakistan refused his extradition. Despite an outstanding INTERPOL warrant, the U.S. did not act to alert the Dutch authorities when Khan was observed travelling abroad on his frequent missions. According to an article in Foreign Affairs,
http://www.cfr.org/... "a joke is making the rounds of the nuclear anti-proliferation community: "If you want to know who's a proliferator, follow A.Q. Khan's travel schedule." Khan has long argued that Muslim countries are entitled to the bomb. He traveled freely for years, meeting with officials in other countries. Experts warn that many of these nations are now potential proliferation suspects, including:
Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, one of the Gulf emirates, which experts say both helped finance the Pakistani nuclear program;
Algeria and Syria, which have expressed nuclear ambitions;
Malaysia and Indonesia;
Myanmar (Burma), where Khan reportedly met with officials;
Douglas Jehl of the New York Times provided details about the CIA's penetration of the Khan network. Former CIA Director George Tenet acknowledged that the Agency's monitoring of Khan extended back at least to 1997, the year Valerie Plame is reported by David Corn to have been assigned the Iran account. Jehl writes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/24/politics/24weapons.html; reprinted at: http://blackhole.xerces.com/...
In recent paid speeches, Mr. Tenet has given new details about the C.I.A.'s role in unraveling the Khan network, according to people who attended the sessions. The speeches to private groups have been delivered on ground rules that they remain off the record, but a tape recording of a speech given in Georgia in September was provided to The Times by someone who was there.
In that speech, Mr. Tenet said that the C.I.A.'s role had stretched back to 1997, and that he had kept it secret in the government from everyone but President Bill Clinton and President Bush. Describing a "hidden network that stretched across three continents," he said: "Working with British colleagues, we pieced together his subsidiaries, his clients, his front companies, his finances and manufacturing plants. We were inside his residence, inside his facilities, inside his rooms. We were everywhere these people were."
Mr. Tenet called the agency's role "one of the greatest success stories nobody ever talks about."
IRAN AND THE A.Q. KHAN NETWORK
For more than a quarter-century, various sources have been warning that Iran was on the nuclear threshold, and would be able to build an atomic bomb "within five years." From the mid-1980s until 2002, Khan was the principal supplier of nuclear enrichment technologies. During that period, until the Bush Administration dismantled the Khan network, the CIA knew exactly what was going into Iran and had a picture of Iran's program. That knowledge didn't necessarily make it into the public statements, however, which tended to exaggerate the progress that Iran was making. Surprisingly, the Agency's most recent estimate in 2005, written in the light of its disastrous over-statement of Iraq's WMD in 2002, is far more cautious and nuanced, estimating a 10-year lead time until Iran could build an actual, working nuclear bomb.
"The Iranians may have an atom bomb within two years, the authoritative Jane's Defense Weekly warned. That was in 1984, two decades ago.
Four years later, the world was again put on notice,
this time by Iraq, that Tehran was at the nuclear
threshold, and in 1992 the CIA foresaw atomic arms in
Iranian hands by 2000. Then U.S. officials pushed that
back to 2003. And in 1997 the Israelis confidently
predicted a new date: 2005...."
SOURCE: AP February 27, 2006 - Ever a `threat,' never an atomic power..."
Even after the Clinton Administration, we still heard official predictions that never quite happened.
Late 1991: In congressional reports and CIA assessments, the United States estimates that there is a `high degree of certainty that the government of Iran has acquired all or virtually all of the components required for the construction of two to three nuclear weapons.' A February 1992 report by the U.S. House of Representatives suggests that these two or three nuclear weapons will be operational between February and April 1992."
"February 24, 1993: CIA director James Woolsey says that Iran is still 8 to 10 years away from being able to produce its own nuclear weapon, but with assistance from abroad it could become a nuclear power earlier."
"January 1995: The director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, John Holum, testifies that Iran could have the bomb by 2003."
"January 5, 1995: U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry says that Iran may be less than five years from building an atomic bomb, although `how soon...depends how they go about getting it.'"
"April 29, 1996: Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres says `he believes that in four years, they [Iran] may reach nuclear weapons.'"
"October 21, 1998: General Anthony Zinni, head of U.S. Central Command, says Iran could have the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons within five years. `If I were a betting man,' he said, `I would say they are on track within five years, they would have the capability.'"
"January 17, 2000: A new CIA assessment on Iran's nuclear capabilities says that the CIA cannot rule out the possibility that Iran may possess nuclear weapons. The assessment is based on the CIA's admission that it cannot monitor Iran's nuclear activities with any precision and hence cannot exclude the prospect that Iran may have nuclear weapons."
At the Bush-Cheney Administration came into office, the official CIA estimates of Iran’s nuclear program showed that Iran was 7-10 years away from being able to build an A-bomb. Similarly, until early 2002, Colin Powell and Condie Rice were repeating intelligence estimates that said Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed no serious threat to either its regional neighbors or the U.S.
But, the CIA's Iraq estimate changed with the appearance of the October, 2002 NIE. As we later learned, it was wrong. It wasn't just wrong in the details, it got the most important facts about Iraq's alleged nuclear program was dead wrong.
CIA, October 2002, pp.1-2: "Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain proscribed high-strength aluminum tubes are of significant concern. All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program. Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs. Based on tubes of the size Iraq is trying to acquire, a few tens of thousands of centrifuges would be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a couple of weapons per year."
The current CIA NIE for Iran completed in 2005 is by comparison, a model of balance and "carefully hedged assessments", estimating it would take Iran at least a decade or longer to produce a bomb, if it determined to do so. That doubled the amount of time projected in the 2001 assesment it replaced. http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
That's not very different in its conclusions from the one in 2000, when the non-enrichment agreement was still in place. If a new NIE were to be ordered, or were to appear that significantly shrank that time estimate, that would be a significant and ominous development.
Given the level of vitriol we hear from the White House about Iran's program, and that which gets echoed back from President Ahmadinejad, it is surprising that a consensus of the intelligence community is that things gaven't changed much in Iran. How can that be? The evidence shows that Iran's was never really serious about making atomic bombs, and that its program today is still a screwed up mess because it started out with junk peddled by a con man.
Following quiet negotiations with the Clinton Administration, in 1995 Iran’s President Khatemi agreed to allow inspectors from the IAEA to monitor the country’s known nuclear sites, and to suspend research that potentially had dual use of developing weapons. That agreement didn’t actually go into effect until 1998.
After that accord was reached, however, Khan brokered a deal for delivery of some 500 centrifuge component sets, old units that Pakistan had used and discarded from its own enrichment program. That breach was, of course, known at the time, but rather than force a renewed conflict with Iran – and knowing that these machines were not adequate in number or quality to produce sufficient quantities of bomb-grade material -- Washington chose not to make a public issue of it at the time. The Clinton White House took this approach toward other countries it was monitoring through the Khan netwwork.
As was foreseen, a decade later, Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is plagued by breakdowns, materials shortages, and an inability to produce centrifuges on an industrial scale. A report by the UK Guardian describes that program today:
Nuclear plans in chaos as Iran leader flounders
Boasts of a nuclear programme are just propaganda, say insiders, but the PR could be enough to provoke Israel into war
Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
Sunday January 28, 2007
Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.
Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved. The country denies developing weapons, saying its pursuit of uranium enrichment is for energy purposes.
Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production.
The disclosures come as Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], that it plans to install a new 'cascade' of 3,000 high-speed centrifuges at its controversial underground facility at Natanz in central Iran next month.
The centrifuges were supposed to have been installed almost a year ago and many experts are extremely doubtful that Iran has yet mastered the skills to install and run it. Instead, they argue, the 'installation' will more probably be about propaganda than reality.
The detailed descriptions of Iran's problems in enriching more than a few grams of uranium using high-speed centrifuges - 50kg is required for two nuclear devices - comes in stark contrast to the apocalyptic picture being painted of Iran's imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon with which to attack Israel. Instead, say experts, the break-up of the nuclear smuggling organisation of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadheer Khan has massively set back an Iran heavily dependent on his network.
A key case in point is that Tehran originally procured the extremely high-quality bearings required for the centrifuges' carbon-fibre 'top rotors' - spinning dishes within the machines - from foreign companies in Malaysia.
With that source closed down two years ago, Iran is making the bearings itself with only limited success. It is the repeated failure of these crucial bearings, say some sources, that has been one of the programme's biggest setbacks.
Iran is also believed to be critically short of key materials for producing a centrifuge production line to highly enrich uranium - in particular the so-called maraging steel, able to be used at high temperatures and under high stress without deforming - and specialist carbon fibre products. In this light, say some experts, its insistence that it will install 3,000 new centrifuges at the underground Natanz facility in the coming months is as much about domestic PR as reality.
The growing recognition, in expert circles at least, of how far Iran is from mastering centrifuge technology was underlined on Friday by comments by the head of the IAEA, whose inspectors have been attempting to monitor the Iranian nuclear programme.
Talking to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, Mohamed El Baradei appealed for all sides to take a 'time out' under which Iranian enrichment and UN sanctions would be suspended simultaneously, adding that the point at which Iran is able to produce a nuclear weapon is at least half a decade away. In pointed comments aimed at the US and Israel, the Nobel Peace prize winner warned that an attack on Iran would have 'catastrophic consequences'
Going back decades, the Agency’s nuclear experts had been waging an internal war, of a sort, for control over the Iran NIE. During the Clinton years, Director Tenet had resisted pressures to substitute data provided by an unnamed third country and Iranian exile groups considered to be unreliable.
In August 2002, as Pakistan came under mounting U.S. pressure to suppress A.Q. Khan's network after the Administration publicly revealed the trade with North Korea and Libya, Iran was again accused of building a bomb. The Iran allegations this time came from the MEK, an exile group with ties to Michael Ledeen at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and other neoconservatives.
Iran was said to be secretly enlarging an uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and building a plutonium reactor at a site near the city of Arak. The MEK accusations proved to be exaggerated. Iran was not, as alleged, already on the nuclear threshold, and did not have thousands of centrifuges spinning out bomb-grade enriched uranium. A planned heavy water reactor at Arak was at that point nothing but plans on paper. Construction of the reactor did not actually start until late 2006, and Iran cannot hope to produce significant amounts of plutonium for at least seven years, according to the IAEA.
The type and number of centrifuges isn’t just an academic issue. Depending upon the type – Iran is known to have two models, the P-1 and P-2 -- production of enough Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) to build one bomb requires between 2000 and 9000 devices spinning continuously for one year. Reasonable estimates for the amount of time it would take Iran in an all-out, crash program to produce a bomb range from a low of 3 years (Albright and Hinderstein) to the 7-10 year estimate of the CIA. See, http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/...
A centrifuge cascade of 164 machines was already known and under UN seal. International inspectors, however, confirmed that Iran had acquired components for an additional 500 centrifuges, the P-1 device, acquired from Khan. A report for the Arms Control Association found:
in March, 2006 that it is unclear whether Iran even has the capability to mass manufacture P-2 centrifuges, and could confirm the existence of only 500 sets of components for the less efficient P-1 type.
Iran’s Nuclear Programs
Tehran is developing a gas-centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program and constructing a heavy-water moderated nuclear reactor. Both programs could potentially produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.
Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. They can produce both low-enriched uranium (LEU), which can be used in nuclear power reactors, and highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used in certain types of nuclear reactors and as fissile material.
Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility, which so far contains a cascade of 164 centrifuges, and is constructing a much larger commercial facility. Tehran has told the IAEA that the pilot facility will eventually contain approximately 1,000 centrifuges and the commercial facility will ultimately house more than 50,000 centrifuges.
Iran also has a uranium-conversion facility, which converts uranium oxide (lightly processed uranium ore) into several com pounds, including uranium tetrafluoride and uranium hexafluoride. Heinonen reported that the country’s current "conversion campaign," which began in November 2005, is expected to end this month.
Tehran claims that it wants to produce LEU for its light-water moderated nuclear power plant currently under construction near the city of Bushehr, as well as additional power plants it intends to construct.
Iran says that its heavy-water reactor, which is being constructed in Arak, is intended for the production of medical isotopes. But the IAEA is concerned that Iran may use the reactor to produce plutonium, and the board has asked Iran to "reconsider" the project. Tehran has told the IAEA that the reactor is to begin operating in 2014.
The spent nuclear fuel from both light- water and heavy-water reactors contains plutonium—the other type of fissile material in use. But clandestinely obtaining weapons-grade plutonium from light-water reactors is considerably more difficult.
Tehran has been conducting research on two types of centrifuges: the P-1 and the more advanced P-2. Iran acquired its centrifuge materials and equipment from a clandestine supply network run by former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. Iran has not been fully forthcoming to the IAEA about either of these programs. The agency is concerned that Tehran may have conducted undisclosed work on both types of centrifuges and may also have an ongoing clandestine centrifuge program.
Iran ’s capability to produce enough centrifuges for its programs is unclear. A diplomatic source in Vienna close to the IAEA told Arms Control Today recently that Iran currently lacks the expertise to produce P-2 centrifuges. Tehran can build large numbers of P-1 centrifuges but not enough to meet the commercial centrifuge facility’s planned capacity, the source said.
The IAEA’s investigation of these efforts has been hampered by Iran’s lack of full cooperation. Tehran has both lagged in fulfilling IAEA requests for documentation and provided the agency with false information regarding its centrifuge procurement efforts.
Iran has acknowledged receiving centrifuge components and related materials during the late 1980s and 1990s. Tehran has provided the agency with some information regarding these acquisitions as well as related offers from foreign suppliers.
According to a November 2005 report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei, Iran has recently provided the agency with substantial amounts of additional documentation regarding its P-1 procurement activities. This information appears to have resolved some of the discrepancies in Iran’s previous accounts, but the IAEA has requested additional documentation. For example, Heinonen reported that " Iran has been unable to supply any documentation or other information about the meetings that led to the acquisition of 500 sets of P-1 centrifuge components in the mid-1990s."
Heinonen’s report also says that Iranian officials’ accounts of "events leading up to" the mid-1990s centrifuge deal offer "are still at variance" with accounts provided by "key members of the [secret procurement] net work." The report provides no details about these discrepancies but does note Iran’s claims that "there were no contacts with the network between 1987 and mid-1993."
Iran claims that it conducted no work on its P-2 centrifuge program between 1995 and 2002, but the IAEA is skeptical of this claim.
Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, told Arms Control Today Jan. 23 (see page 9) that Iran suspended work on the program during those years because Iran had not yet "achieved mastery" of the P-1 centrifuge.
However, this response does not appear to address the basis for the agency’s concern. According to ElBaradei’s September 2005 report, the agency suspects that Iran may have conducted undeclared centrifuge work because an Iranian contractor was able to make modifications for certain centrifuge components "within a short period" after first seeing the relevant drawings.
Additionally, ElBaradei reported in November that the agency is assessing documentation provided by Tehran indicating that an Iranian contractor who had worked on the program obtained related materials that the government had apparently not disclosed to the IAEA.
Heinonen’s report states that the IAEA, after sharing with Tehran information "indicating the possible deliveries" of P-2 centrifuge components, asked Iran in November "to check again" whether it had received additional components after 1995. Both the Vienna source and a former Department of State official familiar with the issue confirmed that the IAEA’s information originated with Buhary Syed Abu Tahir, a businessman who has been detained by Malaysia for his role in the Khan network.
Both sources also noted that Tahir only recently revealed this information, although he has been in custody since the spring of 2004. Tahir had no documentation for his claim, the former U.S. official added.
In early 2005, it was revealed publicly that Iran also had obtained a small number of a more modern P-2 type. This wasn’t news to the CIA – beginning in the mid-1990s, these machines had been purchased by Iran from A.Q. Khan under the watchful eyes of the Agency’s nuclear weapons experts working in the covert Directorate of Operations.
The Iran War Plans Go Off the Track
Accusations against Iran involving the Khan centrifuges emerged simultaneously with charges Washington was making against Saddam Hussein about aluminum tubes and Niger Yellowcake, charges also related to the Agency's intimate knowledge of the Khan network.
At the end of 2002, it was unclear which country would be first targeted. That answer was provided in February, when Colin Powell and President Bush addressed the UN. It was during this that Bush uttered the now infamous "sixteen deadly words" about Iraq’s alleged Niger yellowcake purchases. CIA Director George Tenet fell on his sword, allowing the Agency to take blame when no WMDs were found in Iraq several months later. Ambassador Wilson wasn't so sanguine, publishing his op-ed in the New York Times on July 6. Eight days later, Robert Novak published his infamous column in which he identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA officer working on WMD.
Just as the Plame scandal was unfolding, in June, 2003, the same figures at the White House were preparing the case for an attack on Iran. PBS Frontline recounts these events below:
The original date for inspection teams to view the newly discovered nuclear facilities at Natanz came and went in October 2002, but the following February Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director general, went to Iran to meet with nuclear officials. During the visit, Iran confirmed that it was building a heavy-water production plant in Arak and officially declared the two uranium enrichment plants it was building in Natanz, which ElBaradei visited. His trip was cut short, however, as the international debate over whether Iran's neighbor Iraq had a nuclear weapons program was about to erupt into war.
Once Saddam Hussein's regime had fallen to U.S.-led coalition forces, the world again turned its attention to Iran. In June 2003, the IAEA criticized Iran for hiding nuclear facilities and called on the country to sign an additional protocol to the NPT, putting its nuclear program under greater scrutiny. When talking to reporters later, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the United States would not rule out the "military option" in dealing with Iran. [Fleisher resigned on July 13, shortly after issuing this threat, and one day before Novak’s Plame article appeared.]
In August 2003, IAEA inspectors visiting Iran discovered traces of enriched uranium in Natanz. Enriched uranium is used to fuel nuclear reactors, but if it is enriched to a purer state, it can also be used to form the core of a nuclear weapon. During the visit, inspectors also found traces of enriched uranium at the Kalaye Electric Company, just south of Tehran. Iran claimed the equipment had been contaminated with highly enriched uranium when it was imported from an unnamed country, believed to be Pakistan.
Distracted by the unfolding Plame scandal, and facing increasing resistance from the international community to sanctions, the campign against Iran proved an on again off again series of threats and relaxation of tensions. The confrontation escalated again in February 2005, when under pressure from the U.S., Pakistan’s Foreign Minister finally acknowledged that A.Q. Khan had been providing centrifuges for Iran since the late 1980s, and confirmed IAEA reports that included a number of more modern P-2 type devices. The following month, Iranian Prime Minister Khatemi defiantly announced that Iran would not give up enrichment. The U.S. then pressed a campaign to bring UN sanctions against Iran, after a long delay, repeating a pattern of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq two years earlier.
Meanwhile, another track in preparations for war with Iran was in progress, but this was to blow-up badly with the OSP-AIPAC scandal, which proved to be the undoing of neocon efforts to push the US into war with Iran.
The Pentagon Office of Special Plans (OSP), created in March 2002 by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, was installed as a stove-pipe to the Office of the Vice President (OVP). Through that office flowed salted Pentagon files containing intelligence data about Iran’s nuclear program "suggested by" Israeli intelligence officers working out of the Washington Embassy. This was a device to bypass the normal channels and checks and balances that attend CIA estimates and reporting.
All the while that OSP worked with Israeli intelligence, the FBI was watching as part of an ongoing surveillance of suspected espionage going back decades. Among OSP staff and consultants, a startlingly large percentage had previously been fired from government posts, lost security clearances or otherwise disciplined for unauthorized contacts with Israeli officials. That group included Feith, Richard Perle, and Harold Rhode.
On May 26, 2005, a 20-page indictment was handed down by the US District Court in Alexandria, VA against USAF Lt. Col. Larry Franklin, the OSP Iran desk officer, on espionage charges. Also indicted were two Iran experts, working for the American-Israel Political Affairs Council (AIPAC), one of whom had been observed communicating with Israeli officials since 1999. As news of the FBI investigation was leaked to Leslie Stahl, Naor Gilon, the Mossad Chief of Station in DC, and several Israeli military intelligence officers hastily slipped out of the country. The indictment lists 14 times between August 15, 2002, and June 23, 2004, that Mr. Franklin met with Mr. Gilon. See, http://www.dailykos.com/...
As the OSP-AIPAC Grand Jury deliberated, a related investigation across the Potomac River pushed into high gear.
On October 28, 2005, a Grand Jury returned an indictment against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on six felony charges of perjury and Obstruction of Justice. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald announced that figures in the White House and Vice President’s office was the subject of a previously quiet investigation into the outing of Plame.
North Korea and the Khan Network
When the A.Q. Khan network was made public, it was made clear that the CIA had been closely monitoring A.Q Khan’s activities "for decades". We also learned in 2006 at the time of first live test of North Korea’s bomb that the technologies that were peddled to North Korea didn't work.
END OF PART 1