U.S. Deploys Slide Show to Press Case Against Iran


Richard Moore


This article reminds us that the war drums continue to beat
steadily, in preparation for a U.S. attack on Iran. As with
the recent invasion of Iraq, Washington seems to want to
push the U.N. as far as possible before going ahead and taking
unilateral action.



U.S. Deploys Slide Show to Press Case Against Iran 

By Dafna Linzer 
Washington Post Staff Writer 
Wednesday, September 14, 2005; A07 

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 13 -- With an hour-long slide show that
blends satellite imagery with disquieting assumptions about
Iran's nuclear energy program, Bush administration officials
have been trying to convince allies that Tehran is on a fast
track toward nuclear weapons.

The PowerPoint briefing, titled "A History of Concealment and
Deception," has been presented to diplomats from more than a
dozen countries. Several diplomats said the presentation,
intended to win allies for increasing pressure on the Iranian
government, dismisses ambiguities in the evidence about Iran's
intentions and omits alternative explanations under debate
among intelligence analysts.

The presenters argue that the evidence leads solidly to a
conclusion that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing
weapons, according to diplomats who have attended the
briefings and U.S. officials who helped to assemble the slide
show. But even U.S. intelligence estimates acknowledge that
other possibilities are plausible, though unverified.

The problem, acknowledged one U.S. official, is that the
evidence is not definitive. Briefers "say you can't draw any
other conclusion, and of course you can draw other
conclusions," said the official, who would discuss the
closed-door sessions only on condition of anonymity.

The briefings were conducted in Vienna over the past month in
advance of a gathering of world leaders this week at the
United Nations. President Bush, who is to address the annual
General Assembly gathering Wednesday, and Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, plan to use the meeting to press for
agreement to threaten international sanctions against Iran.

The president's direct involvement marks an escalation of a
two-year effort to bring Iran before the U.N. Security
Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, unless
Tehran gives up technology capable of enriching uranium for a
bomb. U.S. officials have acknowledged that it has been an
uphill campaign, with opposition from key allies who fear a
prelude to a military campaign.

Several diplomats said the slide show reminded them of the
flawed presentation on Iraq's weapons programs made by
then-secretary of state Colin L. Powell to the U.N. Security
Council in February 2003. "I don't think they'll lose any
support, but it isn't going to win anyone either," said one
European diplomat who attended the recent briefing and whose
country backs the U.S. position on Iran.

Robert G. Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and
international security, acknowledged last week that despite
European support, the Bush administration has traveled a tough
road in persuading others that Iran should face consequences
for a nuclear program it built in secret.

"There's a great deal of resistance . . . on the part of many
governments who don't seem to place, quite frankly,
nonproliferation and Iran, a nuclear-armed Iran, at the top of
their priority list," he told a congressional panel last week.

Several influential nations such as India, Russia, China,
South Africa and Brazil share U.S. suspicions about Iran's
intentions. But they maintain profound differences with the
Bush administration over how to respond, and are apprehensive
about the goals of a U.S. president who has said "all options
are on the table," in dealing with Tehran.

Three years ago, the White House used the same annual
gathering to put both Iraq, and the world community on notice.
In a toughly-worded speech, delivered six months before the
U.S. invasion of Iraq, Bush warned that the United States
would deal alone, if necessary, with a dictator bent on
launching nuclear weapons.

The U.S. intelligence community no longer believes Iraq was
trying to reconstitute a nuclear program, as the president
said. Those and other U.S. intelligence failures have remained
fresh in the minds of international decision-makers now being
asked to weigh the case of Iran.

The Iraq experience has had a "sobering effect" on Iran
discussions, said President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, a
close ally of the Bush administration. In an interview, he
refused to speculate on whether Iran, whose program was
secretly aided by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, had been
designed for weapons production. But he said he feels
confident Iran's aims are now peaceful and there was no need
for Security Council action.

Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is also
attending the U.N. summit, has his own meetings scheduled in
New York, and Iranian officials said he would use the
gathering to mount forceful counterarguments. Iranian
diplomats have been in close contact with countries such as
Japan, which relies heavily on Iranian oil.

The outcome of both sides' efforts will be tested on Sept. 19,
when diplomats from 35 countries meet at the International
Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to decide whether to report
Iran's case to the Security Council.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns last night suggested
the administration may not be able to press for a successful
vote and was exploring other options. He said the
administration was working "with lots of other governments to
devise an international coalition that will call upon Iran to
return to the talks," it walked away from this summer with
European negotiators. "There is a consensus that Iran has got
to return to the talks."

Iran insists its nuclear efforts are aimed at producing
nuclear energy, not bombs. The Bush administration contends
that the energy program, built in secret and exposed in 2002,
is just a cover. "They cannot be allowed to develop nuclear
weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, which
is what they're trying to do," State Department spokesman Sean
McCormack said earlier this month.

A recent U.S. intelligence estimate found that Iran, mostly
through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering
technologies that could also be used for bomb-making. But
there is no proof that such diversion has occurred, the
estimate said, and the intelligence community is uncertain as
to whether Iran's ruling clerics have made a decision to go
forward with a nuclear weapons program.

The estimate judged Iran to be as much as a decade away from
being able to manufacture the fissile material necessary for a
nuclear explosion. A report issued last week by the
International Institute for Security Studies, a London-based
research group, found Iran was 10 to 15 years from the
technical know-how to build a bomb.

Both reports are based in large part on the findings of U.N.
nuclear inspectors, now in their third year of investigating
Iran's program. While no proof of a weapons program has been
found, serious questions about Tehran's past work on
centrifuge designs and experiments with plutonium -- a key
ingredient for a nuclear weapon -- have yet to be adequately
addressed and have furthered suspicions that the country is
hiding information.

With little new information from the probe, the Bush
administration put together its own presentation of Iran's
program for diplomats in Vienna who are weighing whether to
report Iran to the Security Council.

The presentation has not been vetted through standard U.S.
intelligence channels because it does not include secret
material. One U.S. official involved in the briefing said the
intelligence community had nothing to do with the presentation
and "probably would have disavowed some of it because it draws
conclusions that aren't strictly supported by the facts."

The presentation, conducted in a conference room at the U.S.
mission in Vienna, includes a pictorial comparison of Iranian
facilities and missiles with photos of similar-looking items
in North Korea and Pakistan, according to a copy of the slides
handed out to diplomats. Pakistan largely supplied Iran with
its nuclear infrastructure but, as a key U.S. ally, it is
identified in the presentation only as "another country."

Corey Hinderstein, a nuclear analyst with the Institute for
Science and International Security, said the presence of a
weapons program could not be established through such
comparisons. She noted that North Korea's missile wasn't
designed for nuclear weapons so comparing it to an Iranian
missile that also wasn't designed to carry a nuclear payload
"doesn't make sense."
© 2005 The Washington Post Company 


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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
blog: http://harmonization.blogspot.com/

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