Iran Caught out in a Vanishing Trick Too Many

Until recently, Washington was resigned to putting on hold any showdown with Iran over its clandestine nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration lacked support in the International Atomic Energy Agency for referring the issue to the UN Security Council and possible international sanctions and decided to postpone go-it-alone steps until after the November 4 presidential election.
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That situation has changed dramatically. Tuesday, June 8, France, Britain and Germany overcame their reluctance to get tough with Iran and took the bull by the horns. Without waiting for the UN nuclear watchdog to submit its report at the June 14 Vienna board meeting, the three European governments circulated a draft UN nuclear resolution that would sharply rebuke Iran for not cooperating fully with the lAEA. The draft reportedly “acknowledges Iranian cooperation in responding to agency requests for access to locations”, but deplored this cooperation for not being “complete, timely and proactive.”
The draft would urge Iran to reverse its decisions to begin operating a uranium conversion facility and constructing a heavy water research reactor that could produce bomb-grade plutonium.
Last Friday, June 4, DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed:
The most secret section of the latest report the International Atomic Energy Agency’s director Mohammed ElBaradai has drafted on Iran’s nuclear program is also the most embarrassing for the international nuclear watchdog. Our intelligence sources reveal exclusively that when inspectors arrived in Iran in mid-May and asked to revisit installations they saw in February or April, they were astonished to find empty spaces. When they questioned their Iranian escorts, they were greeted with blank stares. “What installations?” the officials asked.
The inspectors pulled out photos from previous visits and showed the Iranian officials what had been there before. The Iranians dismissed them as having been shot in other places that looked the same – or grafted there by “hostile intelligence bodies.”
When the inspectors persevered and reported the existence of aerial photos showing the exact location of the missing facilities, the Iranians shrugged.
The Iranians had amazingly dismantled and spirited away all the structures containing incriminating evidence of continuing uranium enrichment for weapons production so completely that there was no sign a building had ever stood there. The fresh flowerbeds were still in the same places as before but the lawns had been extended to cover the former sites, most probably with thick layers of earth. All the inspectors could do was to remove soil samples and take them away.
According to our sources, US officials involved in the Iranian nuclear issue have no doubt that the installations were not destroyed but removed to secret subterranean sites probably built under military bases scattered around the country and that the Iranians are industriously advancing their forbidden programs.
However, so as not to give the game away, they discontinued work on uranium enrichment.
The ElBaradei report does not specify the locations over which the broad lawns have been planted. Our sources report at least five, including Nantaz, Arak and Tehran.
After diplomatic consultations at the end of May, the US and the German, British and French governments reached the same conclusion: Tehran’s costly and elaborate exercise in deception attests to its bad faith on nuclear weapons development and provides grounds enough to put Iran in the dock. For the time being, the Bush administration appeared willing to hold off direct action on the issue until after the presidential election on November 4.
debkafile Update
Sunday, June 6, top officials in Teheran declared that Iran had “answered all nuclear ambiguities and there is nothing left on the table.” They were optimistic enough to assert that the June 14 IAEA meeting would give Iran a clean bill of health. The Iranian nuclear case must be removed from the nuclear watchdog’s agenda, they insisted. The foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said emphatically: “If the case remains open, it is because of the agency’s laziness,,, and its unfounded fussiness.”
However, when President George W. Bush arrived in France to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the allied landing in Normandy, he came armed with fresh intelligence data. After the success of their vanishing trick, the Iranians felt they could safely resume the full-scale production of enriched uranium. They were confident enough to announce publicly the activation of their new heavy water plant at Arak.
Tehran’s cockiness may have been its undoing.
debkafile‘s sources reveal that before he left Europe, Bush conducted a hasty consultation with Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French president Jacques Chirac and British premier Tony Blair. They decided to wait no longer and the next day, the E-3 circulated its draft ready for submission.
debkafile‘s Tehran sources predict that the Islamic republic will not take this reversal lying down. It is likely to lash out at the nearest objects of its ire, American interests in Iraq and the Israeli-Lebanese border. Iran has been holding a large force of guerilla and suicide fighters in Iraq ready to punish the Americans in case they let the world body loose on its nuclear program – which explains why the three European powers are sponsoring the draft rather than the United States.
The Iranians have also been keeping the Hizballah on the ready to stir up big trouble against Israel on a scale much broader than the exchange of fire Tuesday.
The industrial powers represented Tuesday at the G-8 summit on Sea Island, Georgia, are also determined to stop up nuclear leaks for the future. They are reported close to consensus on several proposals, one to suspend for a year all new transfers of equipment for uranium enrichment and reprocessing. This would include endorsement of a UN resolution to criminalize proliferation activity and press for reforms of the UN nuclear watchdog to strengthen its role. Concern over the inadequacy of current measures to prevent the spread of nuclear technology were raised when it emerged that A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, had helped North Korea, Libya and Iran to develop their arms programs.

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