Nuclear Agency Demanding Iranian Missile Blueprints

VIENNA (IPS) — Iran stopped meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency last year over Western allegations of covert Iranian nuclear weapons work because the nuclear agency was demanding access to the designs for its Shahab-3 missile and other secret military data, according to both Iranian and IAEA officials.

The United States and other Western states have cited Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA on resolving issues related to intelligence documents on a purported covert nuclear weapons programme as further evidence of its guilt.

“They’ve been asking for Shahab-3 drawings for about a year,” Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told IPS in an interview. “We found out a year ago and that’s when we stopped the meetings with IAEA.”

A senior official of the IAEA familiar with the Iran investigation, who insisted on anonymity as a condition for being interviewed, confirmed to IPS that the agency had requested not only that Iranian officials discuss the details of the Shahab-3’s reentry system, but access to the actual engineering designs for the missile.

“We want them to explain to us that the design studies are not for nuclear weapons,” said the official. “We’re saying, you say you’ve done reentry vehicle reengineering [on Shahab-3], so show us some documentation.”

The latest IAEA report, dated Aug. 28, notes that the agency “has been unable to engage Iran in any substantive discussions about these outstanding issues for over a year”, but it does not link the Iranian disengagement to the demand for military secrets.

The Sep. 15, 2008 report said, however, that in a Sep. 5 letter Iran had “expressed concern that the resolution of some of these issues would require Agency access to sensitive information related to its conventional military and missile related activities.”

Asked whether this request would not compromise Iran’s national security secrets, the official conceded to IPS, “Yes there will have to be some compromise on their part, because the charges are serious. If someone is accused of nefarious crimes, it is in their interest to share a little of their security to show they are baseless.”

Defending the IAEA’s request, the official said, “All verification is a compromise of national security. Natanz [the Iranian uranium enrichment facility] is the most heavily verified enrichment plan in the world. It’s a compromise of national sovereignty.”

Soltanieh said he had protested the demand for such conventional military secrets at meetings of the IAEA Governing Board in 2008 and 2009. “They denied they asked for this information,” said Soltanieh.

The Iranian ambassador first expressed concern about being asked to give the IAEA access to national security secrets about its missiles and other conventional military technology in a letter to ElBaradei Sep. 5, 2008.

The September 2008 IAEA report strongly implied without saying so explicitly that the agency was seeking access to actual plans for the missile. It said the IAEA had “proposed discussions with Iranian experts on the contents of the engineering reports examining in detail modeling studies related to the effects of various physical parameters on the reentry body from the time of the missile launch to payload detonation.”

The most recent report of the IAEA, dated Aug. 28, 2009, referred to “the need to hold discussions with Iran on the engineering and modeling studies associated with the re-design of the payload chamber referred to in the alleged studies documentation to exclude the possibility that they were for a nuclear payload.”

In a letter to IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei Sep. 4, 2009, Soltanieh complained that the report which had just been released had “reflected the unjustified previous requests by your staff in Tehran [for] discussing with Iranian military staff the issue of missiles and explosives!”

He noted that the director general had on several occasions “emphasised that the Agency is not intending to enter into the domain of the national security of Member States”.

The agency also requested “additional information and documentation, and access to individuals, in support of [Iran’s] statement about the civil and conventional military applications of its work in the area of EBW detonators,” according to the September 2008 IAEA report.

The IAEA further asked to meet individual scientists named in one of the intelligence documents as being part of the purported Iranian nuclear weapons research programme. The senior IAEA official acknowledged in the interview with IPS, however, that it would be relatively easy for an outside agency to identify individuals who belonged to an organisation.

“It’s not difficult to cook up such a document,” the official said.

In his letter to ElBaradei, Soltanieh said these IAEA requests represented “interference in confidential conventional military activities of a Member State, related to its national security…”

The IAEA has offered to “discuss modalities that could enable Iran to demonstrate credibly that the activities referred to in the documentation are not nuclear related, as Iran asserts, while protecting sensitive information related to its conventional military activities.”

But the senior IAEA official interviewed by IPS made it clear that such modalities would not preclude access to the documentation on the Shahab design.

Iran’s enemies, especially the United States and Israel, are eager for intelligence on the design of the Shahab-3’s reentry vehicle.

According to a detailed analysis by the Armed Combat Information Group (ACIG), the upgraded version of the Shahab-3 has an improved guidance system and warhead, as well as completely new re-entry vehicle with a different guidance system based on rocket-nozzle steering rather than a spin-stabilised re-entry vehicle.

The new reentry vehicle is smaller than the previous version, according to the former head of Israel’s Ballistic Missile Defense Organisation. That gives the improved version greater precision.

But the most significant feature of the new variant, according to the ACIG analysis, is the capability for changing trajectory repeatedly during re-entry and in the missile’s terminal phase. That capability allows the Shahab-3 to evade the radar systems associated with Israel’s Arrow 2 missile.

If Israeli and the United States were able to get more information on the design of the reentry vehicle, they would be able to make adjustments in the Arrow 2 system to increase its effectiveness against the Iranian missile.

The IAEA secretariat is well-known to be major source of intelligence on Iran for the United States and Israel. In the 1990s, 10 of the 35 members of the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Vienna were Central Intelligence Agency personnel, according to the 2007 book The Italian Letter, by journalists Peter Eisner and Knute Royce.

Ambassador Soltanieh told IPS that the IAEA safeguards department, to which the Iranians pass much sensitive information, has repeatedly leaked that information — usually out of context — to journalists for stories portraying the Iranian nuclear programme in a menacing light.

“Leakage of confidential information is a matter of serious concern,” said Soltanieh. “In many cases, we give information to inspectors and soon it is in the media.”

A Western diplomatic source in Vienna who insisted on not being identified said, “I don’t think it would help a lot to get the specific plans of Shahab-3.” For one thing, he observed, “They could be working on other studies and we wouldn’t know about it.”

The official admitted that it was “always difficult to prove that something is nonexistent”.

Nevertheless, it would be “much safer for Iran to compromise on these issues than to keep its present attitude,” the official said.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. His latest book, with John Kiriakou, is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War. Read other articles by Gareth.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on September 19th, 2009 at 11:50am #

    A good thing is that iranian missiles won’t be missiling kids of afpak. Iranian missiles may hit israel, if israel attacks iran.
    And, of course, some israeli children may be killed/maimed.
    Right to bear arms, and especially the ones one’s avowed and rabid enemy has, is a universal while attacking a land for any reason is not.

    The only language israel understands is iranian capabilities to seriously hurt it.
    No other language will force israel to behave peacefully towards iran or pal’ns. tnx

  2. Annie Ladysmith said on September 20th, 2009 at 12:30am #

    US NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY?? What security do you need when you own space and can take out a target anywhere on the earth.They have deflective magnetic resonance shields that go horizontal AND verticle. What possible security is needed?? It is the rest of the world that needs security! AND HERE WE GO AGAIN, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, PLUTONIUM LIE,LIE,LIE. They are set on turning Iran into the churning blood, guts, DU, rape and torture that is now Iraq, a country disabled and then left to die in the stew the US created. All i have is my Prayer, and i am praying night and day that the Most High God will protect the Persian people, they will have done nothing to warrant being slaughtered, and if you agree with military intervention in Iran you should find your controler and incapacitate it, and get some therapy to bring you into reality, it is possible that you can get your mind back, others have, please listen to sanity and compassion.

  3. Shabnam said on September 20th, 2009 at 6:52pm #

    Despite persistent mass demonstrations protesting June’s disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a new survey of Iranian public opinion released here Saturday suggests majority domestic support for both him and the country’s basic governing institutions.

    Four out of five of the 1,003 Iranian respondents interviewed in the survey released by (WPO), a project of the highly respected Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland, said they considered Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of Iran.
    Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had “a lot of confidence” in the declared election results, which gave Ahmadinejad 62.6 percent of the vote within hours of the polls’ closing Jun. 12 and which were swiftly endorsed by the Islamic Republic’s Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Three of four respondents said Khamenei had reacted correctly in his endorsement.

  4. Shabnam said on September 20th, 2009 at 7:42pm #

    A new poll of Iranians finds that six in 10 favor restoration of diplomatic relations between their country and the United States, a stance that is directly at odds with the position the Iranian government has held for three decades. A similar number favor direct talks.

    However, Iranians do not appear to share the international infatuation with Barack Obama. Only 16 percent say that have confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. This is lower than any of the 20 countries polled by WPO on this question in the spring. Despite his recent speech in Cairo, where Obama stressed that he respects Islam, only a quarter of Iranians are convinced he does. And three in four (77%) continue to have an unfavorable view of the United States government.

    “While the majority of Iranian people are ready to do business with Obama, they show little trust in him,” says Steven Kull, director of WPO.

  5. Shabnam said on September 21st, 2009 at 8:40am #

    The world is fed up with the Israelis’ war machine, even the American Empire. No one can tolerate Israelis’ crimes against humanity including Palestinian genocide anymore. No one can stay silent in the face of daily destruction of Palestinian houses and erection of illegal ‘jewish’ settlement on top of that. No one can stay silent on crimes of Zionism any more except the closet Zionists who present the crime of ‘Jewish State’ as ‘the US imperialism’ policy so they can keep the ball on imperialist’s land longer to divert attention from zionist expansionist policy to erect ‘the greater Israel.’
    Zbig Brzezinski: Obama Administration Should Tell Israel U.S. Will Attack Israeli Jets if They Try to Attack Iran

    The national security adviser for former President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, gave an interview to The Daily Beast in which he suggested President Obama should make it clear to Israel that if they attempt to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons sites the U.S. Air Force will stop them.

    “We are not exactly impotent little babies,” Brzezinski said. “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? … We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a ‘Liberty’ in reverse.”

    The USS Liberty was a U.S. Navy technical research ship that the Israeli Air Force mistakenly attacked during the Six Day War in 1967.

    Brzezinski endorsed then-Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign in August 2007, which at the time was portrayed in the media as a boost to Obama’s foreign policy cred. The Washington Post reported: “Barack Obama, combating the perception that he is too young and inexperienced to handle a dangerous world, got a boost yesterday from a paragon of foreign policy eminence, Zbigniew Brzezinski.”

    Brzezinski was never an official campaign adviser, but Republicans jumped on the endorsement to push the meme that Obama wouldn’t be a friend to Israel, as Brzezinski’s views of Israel attracted criticism from some quarters in the American Jewish community.

    “Brzezinski is not an adviser to the campaign,” former Ambassador Dennis Ross, then a senior adviser on Middle East affairs to the Obama campaign, said at the time. “There is a lot of disinformation that is being pushed, but he is not an adviser to the campaign. Brzezinski came out and supported Obama early because of the war in Iraq. A year or so ago they talked a couple of times. That’s the extent of it, and Sen. Obama has made it clear that on other Middle Eastern issues, Brzezinski is not who he looks to. They don’t have the same views.”
    Brzezinski’s comments come within the same week that the White House distanced itself from comments made by former President Carter, who said he thinks “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man.”

  6. Shabnam said on September 21st, 2009 at 7:09pm #

    Parviz Meshkatian, an Iranian musician and composer, died of a heart attack in Tehran on 21 september 2009 at the age of 54.

  7. billrowe said on September 21st, 2009 at 7:53pm #

    Iran is right to continue “giving the middle finger” to Israel and US illegal, hypocritical allegations and demands….

  8. rosemarie jackowski said on September 22nd, 2009 at 2:03pm #

    Any nation that has used nuclear bombs to kill innocent civilians has no moral authority to dictate what any other nation’s nuclear policy is.

  9. Danny Ray said on September 23rd, 2009 at 7:32am #

    Rosemary, I agree with you wholeheartedly any one who would use Nuclear bombs on people should never be allowed to make policy to any one.

    Boy, I sure am glad that the bombs we used of those Japs were just Atomic.