In a widely reprinted story, the February 8 Washington Post reported that Iran has completed drawings of an underground shaft that could be used for testing a nuclear weapon. Citing unnamed US officials who claimed to have examined classified documents held by US intelligence for 20 months, the drawings included sensors for measuring heat in the envisioned 400-metre tunnel.
The Post's report stated: "Drawings of the unbuilt test site, not disclosed publicly before, appear to US officials to signal at least the ambition to test a nuclear explosive. But US and UN experts who have studied them said the undated drawings do not clearly fit into a larger picture. Nowhere, for example, does the word 'nuclear' appear on them. The authorship is unknown, and there is no evidence of an associated program to acquire, assemble and construct the components of such a site."
A week earlier, Agence France-Presse had provided a clue to the source of the drawings when it reported: "Iran is building a secret tunnel north of Tehran as part of efforts to conceal a clandestine nuclear weapons program, an exiled opposition leader charged ... The tunnel complex was being built in mountainous slopes in an area identified as Mini City, northeast of Tehran, supervised by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, opposition figure Alireza Jafarzadeh told reporters" at the National Press Club in Washington.
According to his website biography, Jafarzadeh is the founder and president of Strategic Policy Consulting, which describes itself as "an independent firm, whose purpose is to provide expert advice and analysis on geopolitical developments in the Middle East". Jafarzadeh's biography also described him as "a FOX News Channel foreign affairs analyst" and "a well-known authority in issues relating to terrorism".
Not disclosed in his web bio is the fact that Jafarzadeh was the public spokesperson for the National Council of Resistance of Iran until its office in Washington was closed by the US State Department in 2002 on the grounds that the NCRI is a front group for the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
Also known as the People's Mujahedin of Iran, the MEK was described as follows in the US State Department's Pattern of Global Terrorism 2002: "Formed in the 1960s, the organization was expelled from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and its primary support came from the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein starting in the late 1980s. The MEK conducted anti-Western attacks prior to the Islamic Revolution. Since then, it has conducted terrorist attacks against the interests of the clerical regime in Iran and abroad ...
"In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the premier's office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajaei, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar.
"Near the end of the 1980-88 war with Iran, Baghdad armed the MEK with military equipment and sent it into action against Iranian forces.
"In 1991, the MEK assisted the government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north.
"In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group's ability to mount large-scale operations overseas."
Since 1997, the State Department has classified the MEK as a terrorist organisation. However in January this year, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the MEK to reporters as a "dissident" group that had been "helpful" to Washington's campaign alleging that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program.
The February 9 San Francisco Chronicle reported that the "MEK has been a major source of US intelligence on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, producing evidence of clandestine centrifuge production that has proved accurate when checked by UN inspectors. Other allegations by the MEK have been proved wrong, however, and experts warn that the Bush administration is making the same mistakes on Iran as it did before leading the 2003 invasion of Iraq."
"There is an eerie similarity to the events preceding the Iraq war", David Kay, who directed the CIA's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion, wrote in an op-ed in the February 6 Washington Post. "Now is the time to pause and recall what went wrong with the assessment of Iraq's WMD program and try to avoid repeating those mistakes in Iran."
Kay warned that information from the MEK and other Iranian exile sources was as untrustworthy as that provided by Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi about Iraq's alleged WMD. "Having gone to the Security Council on the basis of flawed evidence to 'prove' Iraq's WMD activities, [the US] only invites derision to cite unsubstantiated exile reports to 'prove' that Iran is developing nuclear weapons", Kay wrote.
Kay's warning, however, did not deter the Washington Post from reporting as reliable information coming from US intelligence the MEK's unverified claims about Iran building a tunnel to test a nuclear weapon.
From Green Left Weekly, February 22, 2006.
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