China Hands Over Intel Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program

China, a long time defender of Iran over it’s potential nuclear weapons program, has turned over intel regarding the program. China is probably in a good position to actually reveal what Iran’s intentions are as it is believed they helped Iran develope their nuclear program.  This is a turning point for Iran, as one of their staunchest allies is afraid enough of what Iran’s plans are, they are releasing their information on it.

VIENNA, Austria —  China, an opponent of harsh U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, has nonetheless recently provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with intelligence linked to Tehran’s alleged attempts to make nuclear arms, diplomats have told The Associated Press.

Beijing, along with Moscow, has acted as a brake within the council, consistently watering down a U.S.-led push to impose severe penalties on Tehran for its nuclear defiance since the first set of sanctions was passed in late 2006.

A Chinese decision to provide information for use in the agency’s attempts to probe Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program would appear to reflect growing international unease about how honest the Islamic republic has been in denying it ever tried to make such arms.

The new development was revealed by two senior diplomats who closely follow the IAEA probe of Iran’s nuclear program. One commented late last week and the other Wednesday.

The IAEA declined comment, and nobody was picking up phones at the Iranian and Chinese missions to the IAEA.

John Bolton, the previous U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and before that the U.S. undersecretary of state in charge of the Iran nuclear dossier, said any such Chinese move would be “potentially significant” because of Beijing’s former military ties to Tehran. /**/

In a telephone call from Washington, Bolton said America believed that the Chinese had helped Iran develop its nuclear program, particularly in one area of uranium enrichment, “plus they had cooperation on ballistic missile programs as well.”

The diplomats said Beijing was the most surprising entry among a fairly substantial list of nations recently forwarding information to the agency that adds to previously provided intelligence, and which could be relevant in attempts to probe Iran for past or present nuclear weapons research.

But they said several other countries not normally considered to be in the anti-Iran camp had also done so in recent weeks.

The diplomats — who demanded anonymity because their information was confidential — declined to name individual nations. But they attributed a generally increased flow of information to the U.N. nuclear watchdog to concerns sparked by a multimedia presentation to the 35 IAEA board members by the agency in February about intelligence previously forwarded by member states on Iran’s alleged clandestine nuclear arms program.

One of the diplomats said the agency also was on the lookout for misleading information provided it, either inadvertently or in attempts to falsely implicate Iran.

One example, he said was a document showing experiments with implosion technology that can be used to detonate a nuclear device. While the document appeared genuine, it was unclear whether it originated from Iran, said the diplomat.

Suspected weapons-related work outlined in the February presentation and IAEA reports preceding it include:

—uranium conversion linked to high explosives testing and designs of a missile re-entry vehicle, all apparently interconnected through involvement of officials and institutions;

—procurement of so-called “dual use” equipment and experiments that also could be used in both civilian and military nuclear programs; and

—Iran’s possession of a 15-page document outlining how to form uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.

A U.S. intelligence estimate late last year said Tehran worked on nuclear weapons programs until 2003, while Israel and other nations say such work continued past that date.

Tehran continues uranium enrichment, which can generate the fissile core of nuclear warheads, and has led to three sets of Security Council sanctions but insists it is developing the technology only for its other use — power generation.

It denies ever trying to make atomic arms and last month declared the issue of its purported nuclear weapons strivings — and any attempt to investigate them — closed, asserting that information suggesting it ever had a nascent nuclear arms program is fabricated.

But the agency has signaled it is not giving up on its efforts to investigate purported military aspects of Tehran’s nuclear activities. Other diplomats told the AP that deputy director general Olli Heinonen planned to meet in the next few days with Ali-Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief delegate to the agency, to press for answers.

Ahead of that tentative meeting, Gregory L. Schulte, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, urged Tehran to end its stonewalling. He told the AP that with the next IAEA report due in about two months, time was running out for Iran to “explain these serious indications of troubling activities.”

An IAEA report in February said suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest. But it also noted that Iran had rejected the information provided by IAEA member nations to the agency for its probe of suspected weapons research as false and irrelevant.

It also noted that Iran had blocked agency requests to talk to key officials suspected of possible involvement in past military nuclear programs, among them one identified by diplomats as nuclear engineer Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

They told the AP that he and others active as academics in Iran’s civilian nuclear faculties are suspected by the agency of key roles in secret nuclear activities with a possible military dimension, including the procurement of “dual use” equipment.

In a summary recently forwarded to the AP, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group that claims to have informants inside the Iranian government, identified three others as Revolutionary Guard commander Fereydoon Abbasi, Seyed Jaber Safdari and Mohammed Mehdi Nejad-Nouri.

It said the three and others are involved in clandestine nuclear weapons-related research at three Iranian universities: Beheshti; Malek Ahstar and Imam Hossein.

Asked for verification, a senior diplomat of an IAEA member state said that a fact check run by his country’s relevant agency showed the claims to be generally accurate. Another senior diplomat also said the information appeared to be fairly reliable.

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Canada’s Foreign Minister Apologizes For Including The US & Israel On Torture List

In a reversal of a non-official list of countries considered to be countries that use Torture, Canada’s Foreign Minister Bernier has apologized and ordered a re-evaluation and re-issue of the list to remove the US and Israel.

Well I am suprised by this turn of events, considering the obvious distaste for America expressed by the typical Canadian politicians… I do welcome the fact they they realized they made a mistake and acknowledge that “forced nudity, isolation, sleep deprivation and the blindfolding of prisoners ” are not actual forms of torture…

I wonder when the rest of the mainstream liberal media will put this on the front page like they did when the US and Israel were included…

The Canadian foreign minister has apologised for including the US and Israel on a list of states where prisoners are at risk of torture.

Maxime Bernier said the list, which formed part of a manual on torture awareness given to diplomats, “wrongly includes some of our closest allies”.

Mr Bernier insisted the manual was not a policy document and did not convey the official views of his government.

The listing was criticised by the US and Israel, who demanded it be changed.

“We find it to be offensive for us to be on the same list with countries like Iran and China. Quite frankly it’s absurd,” said the US ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins.

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, Michael Mendel, said the Israeli Supreme Court was “on record as expressly prohibiting any type of torture”.

“If Israel is included in the list in question, the ambassador of Israel would expect its removal,” he added.

‘Reviewed and rewritten’

In a statement on Saturday, Mr Bernier said he regretted the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the list and promised it would be changed to reflect the Canadian government’s official position.

“It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten,” he said.

“The manual is neither a policy document nor a statement of policy. As such, it does not convey the government’s views or positions.”

The manual lists US interrogation techniques such as forced nudity, isolation, sleep deprivation and the blindfolding of prisoners under its “definition of torture”.

It also refers to the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, where a Canadian man, Omar Khadr, is being held. Critics say it ridicules Ottawa’s claims that he is not being mistreated.

Member of US military in cell block of Guantanamo Bay prison camp

The manual refers to Guantanamo Bay where a Canadian is being held

Other countries on the watch list include Afghanistan, China, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The document was mistakenly provided to the human rights group, Amnesty International, as part of a court case it is bringing against the Canadian government over the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan.

The torture awareness course was introduced after Ottawa was strongly criticised for its handling of the case of a Canadian who was deported from the US to Syria in 2002.

Syrian-born Maher Arar, who was accused of being an al-Qaeda member, has said he was tortured during the 10 months he was detained in a prison in Damascus. An inquiry exonerated him of any links to terrorist groups in 2006.

Liberal Doves Wary Of NEI Conclusion On Iran’s Nuclear Program

Wow another news story I never thought I would see happen… It appears that Bush’s assertion that Iran is a danger is not overblown….

Some experts fear the intelligence estimate will sap international pressure to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons.

By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 7, 2007

WASHINGTON — The new U.S. intelligence report that says Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 is suddenly raising concerns among the political center and left, as well as conservatives who have long called for a hard line against the Islamic Republic.

Moderate and liberal foreign policy experts said that U.S. intelligence agencies, possibly eager to demonstrate independence from White House political pressure, may have produced a National Intelligence Estimate that is more reassuring than it should be on the potential risks of the Iranian nuclear program.

Isfahan

Isfahan

 click to enlarge

The report, made public Monday, contradicted the Bush administration’s assertion that Iran has been secretly working to build nuclear weapons. It also found that Tehran, which says it is enriching uranium solely for civilian energy purposes, appears to have a pragmatic view and has responded to outside pressure and economic sanctions, in contrast to characterizations by administration hawks.

For years, President Bush’s anti-Tehran vitriol has drowned out the more circumspect voices in the U.S. foreign policy establishment who nonetheless agree Iran poses a concern. But with this week’s report, many experts worried that the pressure they believe is needed to counter Tehran now may dissipate.

Iran expert Ray Takeyh, a former professor at the National War College and National Defense University, said that although his own politics are left of the president’s, he agrees with Bush that Iran’s nuclear program is a continuing threat.

“The position I take is that President Bush is right on this,” said Takeyh, now at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Takeyh, who has long argued for engaging Iran in diplomacy, said the intelligence report was too easy on Tehran by not objecting to the uranium enrichment program, which many Western governments have alleged is meant to build the knowledge base to eventually develop nuclear weapons. The American intelligence agencies, in effect, accepted Iran’s contention that the enrichment is for peaceful purposes, Takeyh said.

After the report’s release, Bush pledged to maintain pressure on Iran and lobbied for international support. On Thursday, French and German leaders meeting in Paris said they favored continued pressure, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not commit herself to backing harsher United Nations sanctions sought by the United States.

The new U.S. intelligence estimate has made any new economic sanctions unlikely, most analysts agree, since it has given nations such as Russia and China a reason to give the benefit of the doubt to Iran, their ally and business partner. As a result, experts of varying political affiliations in Washington believe that efforts to successfully apply pressure on Iran have been hurt by the report.

At the same time, they say, it is questionable whether the Islamic Republic has been responsive to international pressure, as the report suggests.

Sharon Squassoni, a former government nuclear safeguards expert now with the generally liberal Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, noted that the intelligence report said Iran suspended its enrichment program in 2003 and later signed an agreement allowing U.N. inspections.

But, she said, the portion of the report made public was silent on the fact that the Iranians reversed both actions in 2006.

The ability to develop fissile materials is the most important element of a nuclear weapons program, she told reporters.

Gary Samore, who was a top arms control official in the Clinton White House, agreed that the National Intelligence Estimate did not adequately emphasize Iran’s continuing efforts to enrich uranium and build missiles.

The halting of the weaponization program in 2003 is less important from a proliferation standpoint than resumption of the enrichment program in 2006,” said Samore, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Samore said the report undermined Bush’s warnings about Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons and left Tehran in a strong position, allowing it to develop its enrichment capacity without a substantial challenge from the United States and its allies. The secret weaponization program is “on ice,” he said, but Iran preserves the option to resume that when it wishes.

Though American intelligence officials believe Iran has been enriching uranium at a concentration that could only be used for civilian energy purposes, analysts fear that the same basic technology could eventually be used to kick-start a weapons program.

Anthony Lake, who was a national security advisor to President Clinton, found no fault with the intelligence report. But he said a key message was the importance of taking action.

While we’ve got more time, we’ve got to use the time, because the enrichment activities are continuing,” Lake said in an interview.

The new report repeats a number of the same cautions and conclusions in its last major assessment, in 2005, when the agencies reached the vastly different conclusion that Iran was determined to develop nuclear weapons. But the new report stresses the more recent findings that cast doubt on Tehran’s determination to build a bomb.

As a result, conservatives have denounced the report.

John R. Bolton, the hawkish former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has called for a congressional investigation of the report, which he said is flawed.

In a Washington Post op-ed column Thursday, Bolton alleged that many of the officials involved were “not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department” brought in by J. Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence.

Norman Podhoretz, the right-wing commentator who has advocated a U.S. military strike on Iran and who is a foreign policy advisor to Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign, accused the intelligence community of purposefully “leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush.”

paul.richter@latimes.com