Between Paranoia And A Hard Place

Iranian nuclear chief Fereydun Abbasi-Davani declared that “”terrorists and saboteurs might have intruded the agency and might be making decisions covertly” in reference to an incident on Aug. 17 when power lines to the underground enrichment facility at Fordo were cut the day before a surprise inspection was sought by the International Atomic Energy Agency:

“‘Does this visit have any connection to that detonation? Who other than the IAEA inspectors can have access to the complex in such a short time?’

‘It should be recalled that power cut-off is one of the ways to break down centrifuge machines,’ he added, referring to the equipment used to increase the proportion of fissile uranium-235 atoms within uranium.”

The IAEA dodged his charge – a move which probably appeared suspicious to Tehran – while Abbas-Davani’s accusation was dismissed as dishonest:

“Western diplomats privately dismissed the Iranian allegations against the IAEA as an attempt to divert attention from Tehran’s stonewalling of the agency’s inquiry.

‘Iran’s accusations against the IAEA are a new low. Increasingly cornered, they are lashing out wildly,’ said nuclear proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank.”

It’s possible Abbasi-Davani’s remarks reflect the Islamic Republic’s irritation with the IAEA’s increasingly critical stance against Iran’s nuclear program. Just three days ago, the board of the UN watchdog issued a resolution condemning the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program – a resolution that included Tehran’s traditional backers Russia and China.

Or, he could be relying on precedent.

That precedent possibly was the use of the United Nations Special Commission, or Unscom by the CIA as a cover for intelligence gathering on sites in Iraq while looking for the weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. The Guardian reported in 1999:

American espionage in Iraq, under cover of United Nations weapons inspections, went far beyond the search for banned arms and was carried out without the knowledge of the UN leadership, it was reported yesterday.

An investigation by the Washington Post found that CIA engineers working as UN technicians installed antennae in equipment belonging to the UN Special Commission (Unscom) to eavesdrop on the Iraqi military. When British intelligence asked what was going on, the operation was denied, the report said.

US government officials refused to comment on the report yesterday.

In response to newspaper allegations of espionage in January, the US conceded that it had deployed eavesdropping equipment in an operation codenamed Shake the Tree, but insisted that it was done at the invitation of Unscom with the sole aim of foiling Saddam Hussein’s attempts to conceal weapons of mass destruction.

But according to yesterday’s report, quoting unnamed US sources, the “remote monitoring system” Unscom used to relay video pictures of suspected weapons sites to inspectors in Baghdad was secretly used to intercept communications between Iraqi commanders and military units.

Richard Butler, the Australian diplomat who runs Unscom, was reportedly kept in the dark about the CIA operation, as was his predecessor, Rolf Ekeus.

But the Washington Post quoted “sources in Washington” as saying that the CIA notified Charles Duelfer, a US official who served as deputy to both Mr Ekeus and Mr Butler, to ensure that Unscom inspectors in Iraq did not interfere with the operation.”

The Islamic Republic is well-known for its paranoia and using conspiracy theories to avoid its own political short-comings , most especially when dealing with internal uprisings that it tried blaming solely on outside interference. But given the numerous assassinations of nuclear scientists, terrorist operations emanating from U.S. soil, or threats of a U.S./Israeli attack, one cannot simply dismiss his remarks as simulated paranoia for diplomatic gain when they have their neighbor’s experiences under similar circumstances to consider.

Not to mention Abbasi-Davani’s own personal experience:

Mr Abbasi was himself wounded when a motorcyclist attached a bomb to his car in Tehran in November 2010, on the same day as another scientist was killed by this method.”

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