“I’m not joking… one of these gang stalkers has a thing for wanting to perform oral sex on me (drives a white Golf)… first he’s in the local pub with his sister and parents, comes into the toilets whilst I’m taking a piss and just blatantly stares at my dick with his mouth wide open… THEN!… a few months later, he parks outside my house, opening his mouth and blatantly starts giving blowjob faces… 😀
But it got me thinking, SIS chief Alex Younger… how do I know I can ever trust him? 🙂 “There’s only one way Alex!”… If Alex Younger performs oral sex me, I will know that he is part of the team… … I know I’m not gay, but this has nothing to do with sex… this is about trust Alex! 😀
Seriously though… I want the current head of MI6 to suck my fucking cock, before I even consider giving them anything!
MI-6 chief in Israel to meet with Mossad about possible Iran nuclear race
International Atomic Energy Agency maintains Tehran complying with deal.
British intelligence MI6’s chief Alex Younger met recently with Mossad director Yossi Cohen in Israel to coordinate intelligence efforts over concerns that Iran may be gearing up to race toward developing a nuclear weapon.
According to a Channel 13 report on Friday night, the meeting took place at the beginning of last week, and signaled a new level of seriousness in Western intelligence concerns regarding Iran.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment.
Although Israel has been warning the world that Tehran would find ways to cheat on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the UK and other EU countries have continued to support the deal – even actively opposing new US sanctions imposed in August and November.
In recent weeks, the EU has raised its pressure on the Islamic Republic to cease ballistic missile testing and its interventions in Syria, though those issues were left out of the nuclear deal.
The UK and the EU’s viewing of Iran’s secret nuclear files to make five nuclear weapons – shown to them after the files were obtained by a Mossad operation in January 2018 which Cohen directly presided over – is believed to have set off red flags.
In addition, Iranian leaders have publicly ramped-up their rhetoric of threats to restart enriching uranium for nuclear weapons at a larger volume following the US’s new sanctions.
Tehran’s statements have also included indications that they can easily undo any changes they made to their Arak plutonium nuclear reactor as part of the deal to reopen the path to a weapon using plutonium.
At the same time, the IAEA continues to issue reports, including on Friday, stating that to date, Iran has not violated the nuclear deal.
This would mean that regardless of whatever threat Iran might pose if and when it decides to leave the deal – barring a current clandestine program that even the Mossad has not detected – the Islamic Republic’s volume of uranium is around a third of what would be needed for a nuclear weapon.
There are ongoing debates about whether it would take Iran six months or a full year to enrich enough uranium for a weapon, and it is also unknown how long it would take for Tehran to be able to deliver a nuclear bomb on a missile.
Israeli military intelligence recently estimated that the whole process could take around two years, but past estimates on such issues regarding North Korea have been both overly optimistic and pessimistic at different stages.
Kazakhstan? It’s cropped up numerous times since the late 80’s, in regards to the nuclear black market (warheads, uranium, nuclear components and know how)… its a former Soviet state… majority Muslim, close ally to Iran… no-one has any fucking idea what happened after the fall of the Soviet empire (if we’re being honest with ourselves), it’s the largest landlocked country in the world, corrupt as fuck, run essentially by the same autocratic dictator since it’s creation (1991?)… for Kazakhstan to say to the world that it secured it’s nuclear secrets is laughable!
III. “The Road To Nuclear Weapons Is Best Paved With Ambiguity.” Did Iran Obtain Illicit Nuclear Material & Munitions? 39
“When fissile material itself is on sale, the traditional source of leverage on the nonproliferation challenge disappears… nuclear leakage enables states to leap over the hardest part of acquiring nuclear weapons.”40 -Graham Allison
Nuclear weapons have significant value by the mere fact of possession. A state that has already demonstrated it is worth billions of dollars, as well as international approbation, to pursue its own fissile material production capacity will logically turn to the black market in order to save both time and money. As one commentator wrote two decades ago:
“[I]t is difficult to persuasively argue that a country willing to engage in expensive, time-consuming programs of covert indigenous fissile material development would not enthusiastically avail itself of relatively inexpensive and readily available black market fissile material.”41
The Islamic Republic is no exception to that rule. Iran’s nuclear weapons program is too complex to have spontaneously generated. Its overall nuclear strategy is to publicly disavow any interest in nuclear weapons while developing every allowable capability. The real goal is to “hedge” nuclear weapons development—described as a commitment to a “nuclear ‘surge capacity’ if not a full arsenal of weapons”42—until such time that the Islamic Republic’s leaders deign it appropriate to fully cross the nuclear threshold. 43 Iran may maintain steadfast nuclear ambiguity but its opacity is conditional and situational. While government ministers invariably proclaim peaceful intentions for Iran’s nuclear power program, they are quick to promise a decisive military reprisal of a sort impossible without nuclear weapons. And without admitting to nuclear weapons, Islamic Republic leaders make recurring references to overwhelming military power, real or imagined.44
Erecting a credible nuclear deterrent for the Islamic Republic begins with establishing sufficient grounds for an adversary to believe three propositions. The first is that Iran may possess some number of nuclear munitions, however crude. The second is that if Iran does possess nuclear munitions, it is capable of delivering them to a target—something as simple as nuclear artillery or land mines would suffice, and human proxies could extend their range. Third and finally, if Iran possesses some number of deliverable nuclear munitions, it is willing to use them in its own defense against a perceived existential threat. The third proposition—Iran’s will to use nuclear munitions in its own defense—is not subject to serious contention. Nor is the second proposition given the associated low technical bar. So the question is reduced to the first proposition—whether Iran possesses some number of nuclear munitions, however rudimentary, for use in defending its own territory.
As with Schrödinger’s cat, the inability of potential adversaries to know definitively whether the Islamic Republic satisfies the first condition means that Iran has a credible nuclear deterrent irrespective of the factual answer to the first proposition. Iran’s nuclear ambiguity and opacity create a condition under which it appears sufficiently likely Iran has satisfied the first condition such that a rational adversary has to act on the basis of that inference. The condition of minimum deterrence is the lowest bar on the nuclear ladder since it requires very few nuclear munitions and simple means of delivering them while still deterring potential aggressors.
A state does not need industrial-scale uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing to support minimum deterrence. Nor does it require a large arsenal or sophisticated delivery options. It may aspire to these, but none are necessary to get a foot on the deterrence ladder. If potential adversaries believe a state has nuclear munitions—and that state is suitably ambiguous about the truth—whether or not it actually has them is of secondary importance. That state has a nuclear deterrent because its adversaries think it has a nuclear deterrent, or at least think it likely enough to avoid wanting to test the proposition.
While the importance of constraining Iran’s domestic uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capacity is self-evident, it is not the only pathway to a nuclear weapon. From the mid-1980s when President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani restarted Iran’s nuclear program, the Islamic Republic engaged in a concerted effort to acquire contraband weapon-grade fissile material and nuclear munitions.45 This effort continued in earnest through at least the late 1990s, when the its primary emphasis may have shifted to developing and scaling its indigenous uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities.46
Iran during the 1980s and 1990s unambiguously sought contraband fissile material and nuclear munitions through illicit channels, both from proliferator-states like Pakistan and from the constituent (and later, former) Soviet republics which found themselves in possession of fissile material and nuclear munitions as the Soviet Union unwound and ultimately dissolved. Two questions arise here. First, did Iran succeed in obtaining contraband weapons-grade fissile material; and if so, did it acquire enough to fabricate one or more nuclear munitions? Second and subject to the same conditions, did Iran acquire some number of contraband nuclear munitions?
It should be understood that what evidence exists dates to the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s. As with most intelligence information that makes its way into open source literature, it is largely circumstantial and incomplete. The relevant question is whether those circumstances are plausible. It is fair to say that the Islamic Republic signaled its intent to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. This alone, however, falls short of substantiating whether it succeeded in doing so. It does put in context incidents for which there is some basis to claim that Iran attempted to do so (and possibly, in a smaller number of cases, succeeded).
Why would the Islamic Republic seek contraband weapon-grade fissile material and nuclear munitions? Why else, one might respond. The only plausible reason is that possessing sufficient weapons-grade fissile material—which there is persuasive evidence that Iran could not produce through indigenous enrichment/reprocessing in the period in question—is the main barrier to fabricating a working nuclear munition. In this context, there are three reasons why the Islamic Republic wanted a contraband nuclear munition. The first is self-evident, i.e., to use it as a weapon, assuming Iran acquired working launch codes, which is unlikely based on the author’s belief and knowledge. This leaves two other reasons—to use it as a template from which to reverse engineer a workable weapon design, and/or to extract from it weapons-grade fissile material.
B. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Known Efforts to Acquire Nuclear Weapons: A Partial Accounting
Captured Iraqi intelligence records are one source to document Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. The first references occur in 1980, with the onset of the Iran-Iraq War the year after the Islamist regime came to power in Tehran. As that war wound down in the late 1980s, Iraq’s efforts to recruit high-level Iranian officials and individuals involved in the nuclear program began to bear fruit. The frequency of intelligence reports increased and continued at that level through the 1990s. In contrast, the first mention of an Iranian nuclear weapon program by the United States intelligence community (or at least the first one that has been declassified) was a draft national intelligence estimate produced in the fall of 1991.47
In 1984, West German intelligence determined that the Islamic Republic had renewed Iran’s Pahlavi-era interest in nuclear weapons. It supported its finding with observations by German engineers in Iran to assess wartime damage to two unfinished Pahlavi-era nuclear reactors. That same year, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) allegedly established a covert research institute at Mo’allem Kalaych. It housed uranium enrichment gas centrifuges installed by China and Pakistan (and possibly laser enrichment equipment, too) as well as nuclear weapon development activities.48
The Islamic Republic pursued the acquisition of contraband fissile material and nuclear munitions on parallel tracks. Down one lay the former Soviet republics that possessed legacy weapon-grade fissile material and/or nuclear munitions that Iran could target for theft, purchase or diversion. Down the other lay Pakistan, a key proliferator-state during the period:
“One European official in Tehran said Iran may have sought help from Pakistan to enrich a large quantity of uranium concentrate it acquired from South Africa in the late 1980s—about the time Iraqi officials were saying privately that Pakistan was helping Iran develop nuclear weapons. Pakistan recently denied the allegations. The U.S. government has confirmed that Islamabad rebuffed an Iranian offer of money for nuclear weapons technology.”49
The Iranian offer was reportedly communicated through Mirza Aslam Beg, who at the time was Pakistan’s Chief of Army staff (1988-1991).50 According to a published account, Beg in 1988 “came back from Tehran with an offer of $5 billion in return for nuclear know-how, but [Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz] Sharif rejected the offer.”51
The chaos that ensued after the dissolution of the Soviet Union created favorable conditions for opportunistic “loose nukes” theft and diversion. Legacy Soviet-era nuclear weapons and fissile material remained in unsecure conditions in Russia and the three “nuclear” (and newly independent) former Soviet republics—Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. As one period commentary noted, “Never before…had a government that possessed 30,000 nuclear warheads and bombs, spread across its vast territory, completely disappeared.52 While “the West has been extraordinarily fortunate to date to have avoided a flood of nuclear contraband from the former Soviet Union,” William Potter warned in August 1994, “I think that our luck has just run out.”53 Potter’s warning reflected that between May and August 1994, German police on four separate occasions seized material believed to originate in Russian nuclear facilities. The Islamic Republic pursued these opportunities with alacrity.
Russian organized criminal networks targeted nuclear materials for theft and sale abroad. How much material was stolen or diverted remains unknown given Russia’s abysmal accounting and inventory procedures.54 As one analyst noted, “the only thing that has limited what organized crime groups in Russia have sold, is what they did not have an opportunity to acquire, or the risk involved was not justified by the potential benefits to be gained.”55
What was clear then and now, however, was “‘the existence of a latent, potential nuclear smuggling infrastructure.”56 It exploited security chasms in fissile material handling by Russia’s Ministry of Atomic Energy, which eventually consolidated its civilian-side material at four main locations—the so-called “closed” cities of Chelyabinsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Sverdlovsk57—and at a handful of research laboratories. Bad as security was at the Ministry’s sites, it was worse at Russian naval facilities. At the Murmansk naval complex, “even the potatoes were guarded better.”58
Iraqi intelligence records suggest the intent of Iran’s nuclear quest (including technology and materials needed to re-start its nuclear program) was more for deterrence than actual or intended use.59 A March 1992 Iraqi intelligence service60 report summarized a 10 November 1991 discussion at a meeting of the Iranian National Security Council, on which basis the report’s author makes certain conclusions and recommendations.
“The Iranian government […] tasked Dr. Mahdi Jamran (sic), who was handling intelligence activities since 1968. Dr. Jamran…met a high-level official from Kazakhstan who has a detailed offer for supplying Iran with nuclear weapons from the Soviet inventory. […] Dr. Jamran returned to Kazakhstan in early October 1991 to complete the final agreement of the contract details. Iran agreed to pay an amount of 130-150 million dollars for the purchase of the three nuclear weapons. Three million [dollars] was paid as a down payment to one of the banks in Manteaux, Switzerland, and other letters of credit opened with banks in Germany.” […]
“The main decisions [for developing nuclear weapons] were reached in one week in mid-November 1991. […] At the end of the meeting, President Rafsanjani announced the meeting’s decision, saying ‘Iran must have nuclear weapons for the benefit of the region, only because the Arabs proved that they are incapable of doing so. Such weapons will be necessary for [Islamic] solidarity and to refresh Islamic unity.’ President Rafsanjani pointed out the American threats regarding the likeliness of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. ‘Under the current international circumstances, the Iranian people must depend on their [own] capabilities and power.’ […] The Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Akbar Wilayati completed a tour of the Soviet Republics of Central Asia [in late November 1991]…A high-ranking employee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kyrgyzstan said, ‘Iran used Wilayati and the accompanying delegation to send a number of intelligence officers to be sure of the smuggling routes and the movement of parts of nuclear weapons and other relevant equipment.’ The parts and the equipment were transferred by vehicles and trains through the Turkmenistan Republic, as there are no checkpoints on the border with Iran.”
“All available evidence strongly indicates that Iran had obtained all of what it needs to assemble three tactical nuclear weapons by the end of 1991. At the beginning of January 1992, there was an indication that an assembly process started for three nuclear weapons in Iran, from parts that were obtained from Kazakhstan. A highly reliable Iranian official source confirmed in late January 1992 that Iran had obtained three nuclear bombs and a number of Soviet specialists and experts who are in Iran, in the al-Kubra area. […] Because the parts of the [nuclear] weapons arrived from different sources, Iran could have obtained the two types [airdropped gravity bomb and missile warhead] of nuclear weapons.”61
Whether the report is credible in whole or in part is unknown. The referenced “Dr. Mahdi Jamran” is actually Mehdi Chamran62 (aka Mehdi Chamran Savei). He directed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, which operates as an external intelligence arm.63
The following warning appeared in a 1992 article published in Air Force Magazine:
“Tehran is apparently pursuing the wherewithal to build nuclear weapons. CIA and other analysts say there are signs that Iran has initiated a nuclear development program and that, given the state of Iranian technical expertise and the rate at which the program is moving, Iran could probably produce a nuclear bomb around the turn of the century.”64
In March of that same year Iran reportedly secured a pair of nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan (shipped by indirect route via Bulgaria) but not the necessary launch codes required to use the warheads nor the missile system to carry them.65 This incident was disclosed by Paul Muenstermann of West Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst federal intelligence service. His account is corroborated by a period Iraqi intelligence reporting which identified:
“[A] high-level official from Kazakhstan who had a detailed offer for supplying Iran with nuclear weapons from the Soviet inventory. The [Kazakhstan] official stated that he has close contacts with Kurchatov Institute in Moscow and the [Semipalatinsk] Establishment.”66 [emphasis in original document]
Iran also allegedly purchased four 152mm nuclear shells, reputedly from former Soviet officers who stole them. In fairness, this alleged incident was denied at the time by both Iran’s Foreign Ministry and by Lieutenant General Sergey Zalentsov, senior commander of the CIS United Armed Forces and deputy-in-charge of nuclear arms. The United States intelligence community evidently believed Iran intended to pursue the endpoint of a nuclear capability: witness the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee’s February 1993 report, Iran’s Nuclear Program: Building a Weapons Capability, the declassified version of which is redacted in its entirety except for the first paragraph on the first page.67
Also in 1992, Iranian agents reportedly attempted to buy weapons-grade uranium stored at the Ulba Metallurgy Plant near UstKamenogorsk in northern Kazakhstan. That facility produced highly enriched uranium fuel stock for the Soviet Union’s secret ALFA submarine program and for nuclear-powered satellites. The United States eventually intervened and in November 1994 removed 581kg (1278 lbs.) of weapons-grade uranium under the auspices of Project SAPPHIRE.68
An Israeli newspaper in January 1993 published what it claimed was an English language transcript of a December 1992 telephone call between two senior Iranian diplomats that was intercepted by an unnamed European intelligence service. The two diplomats discussed Iran’s acquisition of four nuclear warheads from an unnamed ex-Soviet Central Asian republic. 69
By the mid-1990s, the Central Intelligence Agency was openly discussing its finding that the Islamic Republic had an active nuclear weapons program:
“Iran is attempting to develop the capability to produce both plutonium and highly enriched uranium. In an attempt to shorten the timeline to a weapon, Iran has launched a parallel effort to purchase fissile material, mainly from sources in the former Soviet Union.”70
It expanded on this finding six years hence:
“Iran has continued to attempt using its civilian nuclear energy program to justify its efforts to establish domestically or otherwise acquire assorted nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities. Such capabilities, however, are well suited to support fissile material production for a weapons program, and we believe it is this objective that drives Iran’s efforts to acquire relevant facilities. We suspect that Tehran is interested in acquiring foreign fissile material and technology for weapons development as part of its overall nuclear weapons program.”71
Perhaps the most explicit (and surprising) public acknowledgement that the Islamic Republic possessed nuclear munition was made by a Russian Army senior officer, General Yury Nikolayevich Baluyevsky, who disclosed it unexpectedly in a wideranging 31 May 2002 Moscow press conference:
“Iran does have nuclear weapons. Of course, these are non-strategic nuclear weapons. I mean they are not ICBMs with a range of more than 5500 kilometers and more. But as a military man, I see no danger of aggression against Russia by Iran.”72
2004 February 2004. Bagila Bukharb, “Kazakhstan Probes Nuclear Black Market,” Associated Press story published in the Washington Post. “Kazakhstan has opened an investigation into the nuclear black market that helped Iran, Libya and North Korea, exploring suspected ties in the country that housed much of the Soviet Union’s atomic arsenal, officials told The Associated Press. The black market’s potential connection to Kazakhstan – which served as a nuclear testing ground until it disarmed after its 1991 independence – has raised concern about the proliferation of remnants of the Soviet weapons program. Kazakh officials strongly deny any highly enriched uranium – the form used in weapons – has leaked out of the country. Bush accused Sri Lankan businessman Bukhary Syed Abu Tahir of brokering black-market deals for nuclear technology using his Dubai-based company SMB Computers as a front. That firm also has an office in the Kazakh commercial capital, Almaty. The Kazakh intelligence agency, the National Security Committee, is investigating allegations that SMB Computers’ affiliate was dealing with highly enriched uranium, spokesman Kenzhebulat Beknazarov said Thursday. . . A Europe-based Western diplomat working on issues of nuclear proliferation questioned the reliability of Kazakh safeguards for its nuclear assets.
2003 September 23. Attempts to sell depleted uranium on black market. Police in Kazakhstan have arrested a resident in the northern border town of Uralsk in West Kazakhstan Oblast who was trying to sell a container with an undisclosed amount of depleted uranium. The Kazakh newspaper Ekspress K reported the arrest on 23 September 2003. Officials have not disclosed further information about the price sought for the material, its origin or how it came to be in the oblast. Sources: “Pochem nynche uran?” Ekspress K, 23 September 2003; in Integrum Techno, http://afnet.integrum.ru.
2003 July 31. Attempts to sell plutonium-239 on the black market. Agents from the Kazakhstani National Security Committee (KNB) arrested two Kazakhs and one Russian for attempting to sell the radioactive isotope plutonium-239, Ekspress-K reported on 31 July 2003. The arrests were the result of a surveillance operation. The three suspects, two residents of Pavlodar, Kazakhstan and one native of Saratov Oblast in Russia, were arrested while making the transaction at a local train station in Pavlodar. The two Kazakhs were reportedly selling the plutonium to the Russian. Police seized $20,000 in cash and an ampoule which a subsequent analysis showed to contain Pu-239. A KNB spokesman later said that the isotope of plutonium seized is used in smoke detectors and “in no way can be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction.” Charges have been filed against the three suspects.
Sources:  Asel Tulegenova, “Radioaktivnyy rynok,” Ekspress K, 31 July 2003; in Integrum Techno, http://www.integrum.ru.  “Spetssluzhby Kazakhstana pri popytke prodazhi izotopa plutoniya-239 zaderzhali 3 chelovek, v tom chisle grazhdanina Rossii.”
But there were still some gaps in the anti-proliferation efforts after the Soviet Union’s fall, as David Hoffman reported in “The Dead Hand,” his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2009 book about the end of the Cold War arms race.
“The Dead Hand”
And one of the more alarming failures relates back to the most pressing nuclear proliferation issue of the present day.
As Hoffman reports, Iran immediately positioned itself to take advantage of the loose material, idle weapons scientists, and general chaos left in the Soviet Union’s wake.
In the years after the empire’s disintegration, Tehran recruited Russian rocket scientists, attempted to get ahold of nuclear weapons material, and solicited cooperation from Soviet bloc experts on a possible biological weapons program.
Hoffman’s book shows that Iran began positioning itself for a nuclear weapons capability long before the country’s program became a focus of international attention.
And it shows that there’s a human element to nonproliferation that sanctions, inspection and export control regimes can’t always account for.
The activities Hoffman describes would have been hard to detect through traditional trade monitoring and impossible to find through aerial surveillance. Iran’s activities largely evaded the world’s attention — and fed into a nuclear program that’s now the subject of urgent international diplomacy.
As Hoffman reports, several countries, including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, scoured the post-collapse Soviet Union for whatever fissile materials or weapons scientists they could pinpoint. But “Iran was especially active,” opening “a special office … in Tehran’s embassy in Moscow to search for and acquire weapons technology.”
‘More scientists and engineers from the former Soviet Union than they knew what to do with’
In the mid-1990s Iranians made a concerted effort to attract rocket scientists and their agents in Moscow “approached the prestigious Moscow Aviation Institute, a school for missile and rocket technology.”
Vadim Vorobei, a Russian expert on the construction of liquid-fueled rocket engines at the institute, noticed that “graduate students from Iran started to appear. They enrolled to study rocket engineering.” Vorobei then agreed to lecture in Iran, becoming part of what Hoffman calls “a larger underground railroad of Russian rocket scientists,” according to the book.
Tehran was soon awash in experts from the former Soviet Union: “Although the Iranians made a show of keeping the scientists apart, Vorobei said, they frequently bumped into each other at hotels and restaurants. One day, he would spot a leading Russian missile guidance specialist; the next, a well known missile engineer from Ukraine. All had been brought to Tehran on the pretext of giving lectures on rocket technology.”
Vorobei said the effort was “a bit of a circus,” since, in Hoffman’s words, “The Iranians brought more scientists and engineers from the former Soviet Union than they knew what to do with.”
There is virtually only one reason to build long-range ballistic missiles, and that’s to launch strategic weapons capable of taking out entire cities or military bases in a single shot.
A ballistic missile is an awkward and expensive way to deliver a conventional payload, and there’s no modern precedent for a country launching conventional warheads 1,553 miles (2,500 kilometers) from their border. All nuclear-armed states possess missiles capable of traveling more than 1,500 miles, but only two non-nuclear states have weapons that can operate at that range: Iran, which likely had an active nuclear weapons program as recently as 2003, and Saudi Arabia, which is certainly keeping its options open.
A deactivated Soviet-era SS-4 medium range nuclear capable ballistic missile displayed at La Cabana fortress in Havana, on Oct. 13, 2012. Desmond Boylan/Reuters
Iran was actively developing a long-range nuclear delivery system in the early 1990s. But it was also scouring the former Soviet Union for actual bomb material.
“We knew that Iran was all over Central Asia and the Caucasus with their purchasing agents,” said Jeff Starr, a former high-ranking Pentagon disarmament official, according to Hoffman.
“The Dead Hand” reports one particularly worrying close call in 1994: In a warehouse in Kazakhstan where the US helped remove an unguarded stockpile of weapons-grade uranium, a US diplomat noticed “a shipment of beryllium, which is used as a neutral reflector in an atomic bomb, packed in crates.
“Stenciled on the side was an address: Tehran, Iran. Apparently a paperwork glitch was the only thing that had kept the shipment from being sent.”
David Albright is the president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution dedicated to informing the public about science and policy issues affecting international security. Correspondent Aryan Hossein of RFE/RL’s Radio Farda interviewed Albright about reports that Iran has been trying to secretly buy more than 1,000 tons of uranium ore from Kazakhstan.
RFE/RL: Mr. Albright, Iran has rejected the international community’s end-of-the-year deadline to accept a uranium enrichment deal. This comes as an intelligence report obtained by The Associated Press says Iran is close to a deal to import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan. What is your assessment — is Iran’s stockpile of uranium oxide diminishing or does it have another agenda?
David Albright: It’s hard to know. I mean, first of all, we don’t know what Iran was allegedly doing in Kazakhstan. The report, from what I understand, says that Iran was trying to acquire uranium yellowcake in a pretty substantial quantity. Now, under UN Security Council resolutions, it’s very unlikely it could ever acquire that material legally.
Kazakhstan’s government would have to check very carefully whether it could sell uranium to Iran. And so more than likely — and this was reported in the initial AP report — that this was kind of a black-market deal, and it was detected, and I assume it was stopped. And I would be very surprised if it could go forward at this point. Kazakhstan’s government would be under enormous pressure not to allow any such deal to take place.
Now, what does it mean? Iran does a lot of smuggling. I mean, it smuggles for its military programs. It smuggles for its uranium enrichment program. It smuggles for its reactors — its heavy-water reactor at the Araq site. It’s in the business of nuclear smuggling. And so it’s not surprising that they would try to get uranium, and the reason is simple: It’s that they don’t have enough for what they planned for their nuclear program and so they do need uranium.
We think at ISIS that they’ve probably run out of usable uranium for their uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan, which takes yellowcake and turns it into this specialized material — uranium hexafluoride — that can then be used in an enrichment plant.
RFE/RL: It seems like Iran’s production of low-enriched uranium was declining, or at best was holding steady. So do you think this attempt is due to a [production] failure or was it because of the low stockpile of uranium oxide?
Albright: For its limited enrichment program at Natanz, it has plenty of uranium hexafluoride. Iran would be trying to get this uranium for its long-term needs.
There are two possibilities. One is to try to hoard material or stockpile material for future use in an expanded civil nuclear program. The other is to secretly try to acquire uranium that could be used in a parallel, secret nuclear weapons effort. It would start from natural uranium as yellowcake, turn it into uranium hexafluoride in secret at a secret facility, enrich it at a secret site, and the use it for nuclear weapons. So there [are] two possibilities.
This is a relatively large amount of uranium. It’s enough, we would estimate, to make well over 100 nuclear weapons, so it’s way beyond what they would need for a secret parallel nuclear weapons effort. But you never know if that was the initial reason to try to acquire this material secretly, and then they just got more, and they would buy it. Because they’re smuggling so much to break sanctions, they have to deal with many laws in various countries that don’t approve of many of the things Iran is buying, and so they’re very committed to going out and buying things despite domestic and international laws. And if they can get something, they’ll try to get a lot of it. And so, it’s a natural instinct.
So again, it’s hard to determine the purpose of this uranium, if the reports are true, but it could be either for civil or military purposes. But principally, I would say it would be for civil purposes.
RFE/RL: A report by IPS, the Inter Press Service Agency, quotes a former CIA counterrorism official as saying that the document published earlier this month by “The Times” of London newspaper describing a plan by Iran to experiment with a neutron initiator for a nuclear bomb is a fabrication. Have you seen the document? And if so, what’s your assessment of its validity?
Albright: The issue of the authenticity of the document is very important. I’ve taken a position where we could not, at ISIS, authenticate it. We did analysis for “The Times” on that document — technical analysis based on the English translation — and we did ask many governments as we were doing this analysis, “Would this source likely fabricate a document like this?” Because the source had given it to the International Atomic Energy Agency and various governments. And we got back a message: “Not likely.” But they didn’t say 100 percent it wouldn’t happen.
So we feel that this document does need to be authenticated, and we welcome a debate and actually a collecting [of] information from people, people who’ve done linguistic analysis, inside information. We think, in the end, we’d like the International Atomic Energy Agency — which we know has the document — to make a judgment about what this document means and not only, “Is it authentic?” Is it truly from 2007? And then how does it fit in — if it is true and it is from 2007 — how does it fit in with all the other information they have about Iran’s effort to build nuclear weapons?
They continue to restrain Western military action
On March 21, 2008, this author was among a group of Foreign Service officers and diplomats who received a briefing at the State Department on Iran. The Department’s Middle East expert, under questioning by this author, told the group that it was “common knowledge” in the region that Iran had acquired tactical nuclear weapons from one or more of the former Soviet Republics. Using the vague term “common knowledge” allowed the expert to discuss the information in an unclassified presentation. This disclosure was consistent with reports that have been circulating for years. On April 9, 1988, the Jerusalem Post reported that Iran had acquired four tactical nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan. The Post cited Iranian documents obtained by the Israeli government and authenticated by U.S. Congressional investigators. In March 1992, “The Arms Control Reporter” published an article confirming that Iran had acquired four nuclear warheads from Russia. A May 1992, report in “The European” claimed that Iran had acquired two nuclear warheads from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. These reports were all generally confirmed in a 2002 interview given by General Yuri Baluyevsky, then Russia’s Deputy Chief of Staff. A report in the Cleveland Jewish News, dated January 27, 2006, reported that there were 20 sites in Iran in which dispersed tactical nuclear warheads were being stored. Finally there was a report that Iran had acquired four 152mm nuclear artillery shells from Kazakhstan that were shipped to Iran through Bulgaria.
The State Department’s 2008, admission that Iran was already a nuclear power was raised by this author in open e-mails and other communications with State Department legal advisor Stephen Townley. He would neither comment on the admission nor did he raise any claim that the information was classified. This author then notified the State Department’s Inspector General that the Secretary of State was making public statements and official statements to Congress regarding Iran that were not correct, but Deputy General Counsel Karen Ouzts told this author that her office would not investigate the allegations, giving no explanation for ignoring potential criminal offenses.
On July 26, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on the NBC news show “Meet the Press” and stated that the U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. This follows her April 22, 2009, testimony to Congress that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon and vowed that the U.S. would employ “crippling sanctions” to prevent that. She was to make similar statements in 2010 and 2011. It needs to be determined if Secretary Clinton intentionally misled Congress and the American public.
The question of whether any State Department officials have ever misled Congress about this matter is currently the subject of two investigations by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The OSC has assigned case numbers of MA-12-0180 and DI-12-0250 to its separate inquiries.
A further element of corroboration is that the possession of tactical nuclear weapons by Iran suddenly makes sense out of some inexplicable Western efforts to-date in the region. For example:
1. Israel does not need 400 nuclear warheads to defend itself against non-nuclear neighbors.
2. Israel does not need its Arrow-2 and the U.S. Patriot (PAC-3) anti-missile systems simply to deal with some Iranian missiles such as the Shahab-4. Even if they were loaded with chemical agents, the risk to Israel is minimal. This author served as a Captain with the U.S. Air Force’s 487th Tactical (Nuclear) Missile Wing and he was trained in chemical warfare. Chemical dispersion by ballistic missile is difficult and clumsy and more of a nuisance than a weapon of mass destruction. These very expensive anti-missile systems make sense only if the threat is from existing nuclear warheads.
3. The United States does not need to maintain between 60 and 90 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey unless there is a localized nuclear threat.
4. The United States and some of its European allies have been promoting a very costly ballistic missile shield for Europe, even at the risk of antagonizing Russia. The vehemence of this expensive effort only makes sense if the threat is current and real, and if it is a nuclear threat.
5. Finally, the United States and Israel have all but ruled out air strikes on Iranian nuclear targets, which only makes sense if Iran has the ability to respond with tactical warheads. For Iran, giving such warheads to terrorists or having its own special operations forces covertly use the warheads would leave no Iranian fingerprints because the radiation signature from any detonation on a Western target would merely reveal that they were Soviet warheads, which would not implicate Iran. Without credible and hard evidence of Iranian involvement, a nuclear counterstrike on Iran would not be possible. The question is whether Iran has been blackmailing the West for decades with these warheads.
The actual number of tactical nuclear weapons manufactured by the former Soviet Union is stunning. Rough estimates have it producing 4300 nuclear missile and air dropped warheads, 2000 nuclear artillery and mortar rounds. 1500 nuclear torpedoes and other Naval ordinance, and 14,000 nuclear land mines. That does not include specially designed Spetznaz warheads. Many of the tactical weapons were dispersed in Soviet republics which underwent revolutions when the Soviet Union broke up. In January 2006, the prestigious Washington, D.C.-based Council on Foreign Relations, in a background paper entitled: “Loose Nukes,” rejected the above estimates and stated that the Soviet Union had even more nuclear warheads. Its estimate was 27,000. The reality is that no one in the West knows for sure how many tactical and strategic warheads were produced or where they are today.
President Obama’s National Security Advisor reportedly has a list of lost or missing nuclear warheads from both U.S. and Soviet stockpiles (the U.S. reportedly has lost at least 11 warheads). Thomas E. Donilon should be pressed to reveal the total number of warheads that are not unaccounted for. The number is likely to be shocking.
On May 13, 2009, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller sent a cable to the U.S. State Department in which she recounted a briefing that Egypt’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maged Abdelaziz, gave to her and other officials during meetings on May 5th and 7th. Abdelaziz stated that Egypt had been offered nuclear weapons after the breakup of the Soviet Union but had declined them. Under questioning Ambassador Abdelaziz stated that he had personal knowledge of this as a result of his being in Moscow. The cable was reported by the Guardian newspaper on December 19, 2010, in its story: “Egypt Turned Down Nuclear Weapons After Collapse of the Soviet Union.”
On March 22, 2004, Fox News reported on Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir’s interview with al-Qaeda’s No. 2, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Dr. Zawahiri told Mir that so-called suitcase nuclear weapons (each weighing 50-80 kilograms) were available on the black market in central Asia for anyone with $30 million. He stated that al-Qaeda had sent representatives to Tashkent, Uzbekistan and to one other regional country (allegedly Kazakhstan) and had purchased several.
Western news reporters need to pose carefully phrased questions to Secretary Clinton and to State Department, Pentagon and White House spokespersons in order to eliminate any wiggle room. They also need to insist on yes or no answers. One suggestion question is:
“Does the United States have any intelligence that suggests that Iran ever acquired any type of nuclear warhead?”
The answer has to be “Yes” and then the inquiry can continue forward regarding the specificity and reliability of the intelligence information.
There has been much criticism from Republicans in the United States regarding President Obama’s policy of reconciliation with Iran. If all the facts be known, that policy may be a reasonable one. If Iran does possess nuclear weapons, then those proponents who recklessly advocate preemptive air strikes on Iran and the commencement of a new war are acting irresponsibly. A nuclear conflict should not be risked solely so that politicians can score points with fringe elements of their political base.
Part of the problem is that there is deliberate short-term memory within the U.S. Government regarding Iran. Some of the facts regarding Iran’s nuclear program are never discussed in the West as they are uncomfortable reminders of Western mischief. One such basic question is:
“How did Iran’s nuclear programs begin?”
The answer is that in 1975, Shah Reza Pahlavi signed a multi-billion dollar deal with a German joint venture company to construct two nuclear reactors outside of Bushehr, Iran. Then in 1977, in meetings between representatives of the Shah and President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Government endorsed Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology. It did so even though the Shah had no civilian need for nuclear power at the time. The American motivation was money. The Shah proposed to purchase four nuclear reactors from the United States, specifically from Westinghouse. There were no reported Israeli objections to the Westinghouse sale. While that specific deal was never finalized the Shah continued his construction at Bushehr, Iran. Its two reactors were later completed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In conclusion, the Iranians know they have tactical nuclear warheads, as do Western governments. Everyone else is being kept in the dark. Secrecy in this instance is counterproductive. The world’s policy regarding Iran needs to be formulated, but only after a full discussion of all the facts, options and risks. That is what democracy is supposed to be all about. The world community also needs to engage in an open debate about the true scope and perils of black market nuclear warheads. Finally, the citizens of those nations that are potential targets for these weapons need to be better prepared for the consequences of their possible use.
Iran, too, has sent a substantial network of procurement agents to the former Soviet Union in search of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, has succeeded in acquiring key missile technologies from Russian institutes, and has specifically sought technologies for producing both HEU and plutonium.5 The CIA has specifically warned that “Teheran continues to seek fissile material” 6 and reportedly concluded in a recent analysis that it could not rule out the possibility that Iran has already acquired a nuclear weapon capability, if it has succeeded in secretly procuring fissile material abroad.7 There have been innumerable press reports (of varying levels of credibility) of Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear materials or even nuclear weapons, and there have been a significant number of actual arrests of Iranian nationals, for smuggling of various types of nuclear materials.8 At the Ulba facility in Kazakhstan, canisters were found labeled for shipping to Teheran, in a room next to the room where hundreds of kilograms of HEU was located. The Iranians had reportedly approached Kazakhstan to secretly purchase beryllium and LEU from this facility, perhaps as a trust-building prelude to an offer to purchase the HEU. (The HEU was subsequently removed from this facility under the U.S.-Kazakh cooperative effort known as Project Sapphire.)9 Iran is also purchasing safeguarded civilian nuclear power reactors from Russia-which the United States suspects will be used to build up the technical infrastructure for Iran’s weapons program-and has sought to purchase a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant from Russia as well. The United States has imposed economic sanctions on some Russian institutes because of their cooperation with Iran on sensitive nuclear technology.