Monthly Archives: March 2005

Iran Offers Its Nuts to the US

At least some Iranian officials appear somewhat skeptical of the “Bush administration’s limited incentives”: for Tehran to comply with the EU3’s negotiating demands.

Senior Iranian negotiator Sirus Naseri told Iranian state television 15 March:

bq. As far as America is concerned, we said: Ms Rice, are you prepared to shut down two of your power plants if we supply you with pistachios? We said that we would supply them with a three year stock of pistachios. However, we will supply their pistachios lorry by lorry because they said things would have to be taken step by step and when we see any progress, we will reward them with more pistachios. This is how ridiculous the situation is.

Mmmmmmmm….pistachios. I bet they next offer a fruit basket…

*Jeffrey’s 2 cents:* ACW reader AM sends word that Iranian pistacho merchants have been reluctant to include their product in a barter deal for Bushehr:

A high-powered delegation of Russian nuclear industry officials is traveling to Tehran this week to negotiate details of how Iran will pay for nuclear reactor construction contracts worth a total of $1 billion. … [Russian officials] are proposing to be paid by a combination of cash and Iranian barter goods. Sources in Tehran say about $700 million is to be paid to Moscow in cash, and $300 million in Iranian barter goods.


At the same time, the Iranians have come up with a high-powered product of their own. Presented for the first time at the WorldFood-97 exhibition in Moscow last week, the Iranian wonder product reportedly does one thing nuclear energy cannot – it revives flagging male sexual potency. It’s the pistachio nut prepared with saffron.

“Iranians don’t suffer from impotence,” said Mohammed Karimiapour, director of Arian Milan, one of Iran’s leading exporters of pistachios. “But for centuries, Iran’s shahs have used saffron with their pistachios to cure this ill. In the northern countries of Europe, the saffron pistachio is now being advertised for this purpose. I’ve seen the case studies and letters that have poured in.”


In the much larger barter deal now in planning, Iranian merchants are competing hard for inclusion of their products. But Mr. Karimiapour says the pistachio traders are holding back. Because of this year’s supply shortage and rising prices, most of the Iranians believe they can do better selling directly for hard currency, rather than accept the barter terms and currency controls that will be overseen by the Iranian Central Bank.

But Mr. Karimiapour is confident about the future of Iran’s pistachio trade in Russia. He’s also taken a long, hard look at the American competition. “They are rounder, with less taste than our nuts. Also, they can’t offer what we can for the Russian man.”

“They are rounder, with less taste than our nuts.” AWESOME.

In case you don’t believe me: John Helmer, “Iranian Nuclear Trade With Russia Goes Nuts; Pistachios Marketed For Sexual Potency,” _Journal of Commerce_ (June 11, 1997) 7B.

More on North Korea HEU

Larry Niksch (_right_) from CRS recently published an “interesting summary”: of the relevant intel in the _Chosun Ilbo_.

Niksch mentions a pair of 1993 Russian intel reports that point toward a North Korean HEU program:

bq. There are also assessments from non-U.S. sources simultaneous with or earlier than those of the Clinton Administration. Of special importance are the Russian intelligence assessments of the 1993. Reports in two Japanese journals and the Russian newspaper, Izvestia, quoted from two Russian intelligence documents, an October 1993 Defense Ministry report entitled “The Russian Federation’s Military Policy in the Asia and Pacific Region Under the New Military-Political Conditions” and a 1993 report of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service on “Weapons of Mass Destruction in the World.” Both Russian assessments asserted that North Korea had an active uranium enrichment program.

I am curious as to whether anyone has a copy of the Russian reports . I haven’t been able to find them, but maybe someone with sweeter skills can.

Niksch also correctly points out that South Korean intel sources have been cited in the ROK press for a while now on this issue. Those have never quite been solid enough for _ACT_ to publish, but Seoul clearly seems to think that North Korea has some sort of HEU effort.

There is, however, still no good evidence that the program is, or was, as advanced as North Korea’s plutonium progam.

*As an aside*, when I was doing the reporting for the article I wrote last month about this subject, I couldn’t find anyone who would really defend the intelligence. Now, there are obviously people I missed who likely would defend it, but it’s interesting that no one else reporting on the matter is having much better luck.

_Update_: The sweet skills are on display in the comments section.

Bolton Iraq Wankery

You’ve likely noticed that the office of Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a “letter”: describing State Department efforts to “conceal unclassified information about the role of John Bolton … in the creation of a [December 2002] “fact sheet”: distributed to the United Nations that falsely claimed Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.”

That fact sheet, by the way, was the first public mention about this attempted uranium transaction.

While writing a “chronology”: about the Iraq/Niger uranium fiasco a while back, I looked into Bolton’s role in the creation of that fact sheet, but couldn’t get anyone to confirm his involvement. Members of Congress apparently faced similar obstacles.

Anyway, the relevant portion of the chronology reads as follows:

December 19, 2002: A State Department fact sheet charges Iraq with omitting its “efforts to procure uranium from Niger” from its December 7 declaration to UN weapons inspectors. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted November 8, 2002, required Iraq to submit a declaration “of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes.” The declaration is supposed to provide information about any prohibited weapons activity since UN inspectors left the country in 1998 and to resolve outstanding questions about Iraq’s WMD programs that had not been answered by 1998.

The fact sheet is “developed jointly by the CIA and the State Department,” according to an April 29, 2003, letter from the State Department to Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA). Boucher later says July 14, 2003, that the Niger information was “prepared in other bureaus of the State Department,” but he does not say which bureaus were involved. The fact sheet was not cleared by the State Department’s intelligence bureau, according to knowledgeable sources.

A State Department official interviewed August 21, 2003, however, said the State Department’s Public Affairs Bureau developed the fact sheet from a draft of a speech U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte gave December 20, 2002, to a closed session of the Security Council. The State Department would have discussed the information for that speech “at several levels with the National Security Council (NSC),” the official added. The final draft of Negroponte’s speech did not contain the reference to Niger.

The IAEA requests information from the United States on the uranium claim “immediately after” the fact sheet’s release, according to a June 20, 2003, letter from the IAEA to Waxman. This information is not supplied until February 4, 2003, according to a July 1, 2003, State Department letter to Waxman.

(Thanks to “Steve Clemons”: via “Laura Rozen subbing for Kevin Drum”:

Iran Wankery

Will someone in the press please, for the love of God, notice that Bush’s description of Washington’s Iran diplomacy does not constitute anything anyone could reasonably call “success”?

Bush told an audience on Friday that:

bq. we [the US and the Europeans] worked together on the issue of Iran, to make sure that we speak with one voice to the Iranian regime, that they should abandon any ambitions for nuclear weapons for the sake of peace in the world. I am pleased that we are speaking with one voice with our European friends.

Persuading other countries to take the courageous “Iranian nukes bad” stance does not a diplomatic triumph make. And who, exactly, was on the “Bombs for Tehran” bandwagon that W so successfully derailed?

Good thing the adults are in charge…

Missing the Point on Iran

Note to SecState Rice:

“Making token gestures”: to support the EU3-Iran negotiations is only a really, really, weak beginning of a coherent Iran policy.

Look, Iran is being asked to do something that’s not legally required (i.e. give up its fuel cycle), so we have to provide serious incentives. I don’t think the WTO and aircraft parts incentives are going to cut it. Iranian officials, as well as “experts who have recently spoken”: with said officials, seem to agree.

Let’s be clear: Washington needs to make it clear that a satisfactory EU-Iran agreement on the fuel cycle issue would be sufficient to keep the US from overthrowing the government in Tehran. The US still hasn’t done that.

For example, Rice would not say during her confirmation hearings that a verifiable fuel cycle agreement would get the US to do, well, anything. Instead, she listed other concerns (terrorism, human rights, etc.) that the administration also wants resolved. During her subsequent trip to Europe, Rice refused on several occasions to answer direct questions about whether the US has a policy of regime change.

Contrast that with Powell’s 10 December statement that “U.S. policy is not to advocate regime change in Iran.”

Now, maybe something is happening behind the scenes. I certainly hope so. But I fear that the charaterization of the US strategy “in the NYT”: is accurate.

Some officials in the Bush administration… see the president’s decision to dangle what amount to modest American economic incentives as part of an effort to speed along the negotiating process so that Iran’s intentions become clear.

At that point, in the view of hawks on the issue inside the White House and the Pentagon, the Europeans will be bound to take the issue to the Security Council. These officials would only speak anonymously because such delicate negotiations hang in the balance.

Notice that this US schtick _really_ looks like the same bad-faith diplomacy from the Iraq debacle. Even if the US gets its UNSC referral, it is far from certain that anything will happen if others think we aren’t serious about the process this time around.

Of course, then the US could well say “the UN sucks, we’ll do our own thing.” Then we could likely be facing a choice between another war or welcoming the next major nuclear-armed non-NATO ally.

Strong work.

Pyongyang/Tehran Missile Testing: Yeeeaahhhh….Maybe Not

Before North Korea, on 4 March, said it was no longer bound to its 1999 missile launch moratorium, _Time Magazine_ “published a 20 February article”:,10987,1029824,00.html making an old charge: “Administration officials think it may be cheating [on the moratorium] by using Iran as its proxy.”

Reports that North Korea has been circumventing the testing moratorium through outsourcing to other countries have been circulating for a while now. A “Bush administration official” made the claim to a _Los Angeles Times_ reporter on 5 August, six days before Iran “tested its Shahab-3 missile.”:

So why did _Time_ say that Iran and N Korea “may be cooperating more closely than previously known”?

If the author could go ahead and tell us, that would be great. But the article only says:

bq. After Iran test-fired the Shahab-3 last summer, there have been indications, a top U.S. official says, that Tehran is giving North Korea telemetry and other data from its missile tests and that North Korea is using the data to make improvements in its own missile systems. In exchange, the official says, Pyongyang may be supplying Iran with engineering suggestions for further testing.

Strictly speaking, I suppose it could be true that there are “indications” of post-August-test cooperation. But that doesn’t mean these “indications” are different from previous “indications.” What is new here ?

_Time_ certainly implies that there is new evidence, but it’s hard to know because the article doesn’t say a damn thing about previous data-sharing reports. Methinks someone likely got spun.

I don’t know any authoritative sources discussing exactly how much flight test data-sharing could substitute for actual flight-testing. Moreover, a State Department official commented on the available evidence for such cooperation “18 August”:

bq. Asked about press leaks from U.S. officials that Iran is conducting flight tests for North Korea, the State Department official said that it is “always a possibility” but added that the United States does not have solid information that such cooperation is happening. It is not clear that North Korea “would depend on Iran for anything,” the official added.

The _Time_ article also contains this misleading section:

bq. [Under Secretary of State John Bolton] warned, Iran could soon have missiles capable of delivering payloads to Western Europe and the U.S. And if that isn’t scary enough, CIA director Porter Goss said in congressional testimony last week that North Korea’s new, untested Taepo Dong-2 missile “is capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear-weapon-sized payload.”
The implications of a North Korea-Iran deal to share and test these missiles are grim. Equally ominous, Goss said, intelligence shows that North Korea is seeking to raise hard currency by peddling its missile technology to new clients beyond Iran.

To me, this implies that Goss testified that Iran and North Korea are sharing flight testing data. But he didn’t mention it in either his prepared statement or the hearing Q&A.

It is, at the very least, poorly written.

Yeeeaahhhh, great.

Bolton’s Mouth: Writing Checks His Ass Can’t Cash

Bulletin to “Anne Applebaum”: and others who argue that John Bolton’s “blunt” manner makes him “an ideal candidate to be America’s U.N. ambassador”: your boy has a history of doing stupid things. Competence matters, kids.

Case in point: “Bolton’s fave strategy”: of naming countries who
(the US thinks) are violating international arms control agreements. Additionally, he simultaneously derides such agreements as ineffective, apparently appointing the US as judge of who’s behaving correctly and who isn’t.

The Iraq debacle obviously proves why this is asinine, but there is another example: Libya.

Before Libya decided to get rid of its WMD programs in December 2003, Bolton said several times that Tripoli was pursuing a biological weapons program. For example, he “told the BWC Review Conference”: in November 2001 that:

bq. The United States believes that Libya has an offensive BW program in the research and development stage, and it may be capable of producing small quantities of agent.

He made a similar statement to the HIRC in June 2003. And in several other places.

Bolton even went so far as to issue a veiled threat against Libya in April 2003:

bq. we are hoping that the elimination of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction would be important lessons to other countries in the region particularly Syria, Libya and Iran, that the cost of their
pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high.

The problem is that Libya had no BW program, just chemical and nuclear wepaons programs. A senior administration official “said at the time”: that Libya “admitted to past intentions to acquire equipment and develop capabilities related to biological weapons” and had dual-use facilities.

As with Iraq, the administration might say “Well, seemed like a good idea at the time,” but the publicly available evidence suggests that the intel didn’t quite jibe with Bolton’s spiel. The public “CIA 721 reports”: from that time said that “Evidence suggested that Libya also sought dual-use capabilities that could be used to develop and produce BW agents”

Yes, we should be concerned about proliferation if/when the intel warrants such a concern. And sometimes intellligence is ambiguous/inaccurate. Fair play. But it’s just moronic to shoot your mouth off in public when you’re wrong AND simultaneously decrying everyone else’s inability to see the truth.

In case you were wondering, Bolton’s blunt BW talk accomplished exactly nothing when it came to Tripoli’s disarmament. Even the US doesn’t make that argument. [“more here”:].

P.S. There are 3 ACT interviews “here”: for all you Bolton junkies.