Friday, January 06, 2006

Nuclear Iran 

I'd like to know more about this incident that Ross mentions on AndrewSullivan.com. It reads like it could be the screenplay for Munich Part II:
Matt Yglesias flags an excerpt from James Risen's new book, in which it's revealed that the CIA may have given the Iranians defective blueprints for a nuclear bomb, in the hopes that this would send their nuclear program down a primrose path to failure. The excerpt casts the whole incident as a fiasco that may have actually helped the Iranians, though as Matt points out, it's hard to tell from the details whether the plan backfired or succeeded. And the story seems a little fishy in any case. But either way, it's not terribly shocking that we'd attempt something like that. As my Atlantic colleague, Terrence Henry, pointed out in last month's issue, this kind of skullduggery is an obvious way to sabotage a nuclear program that can't be stopped by diplomacy or direct action. It's quite likely that we've tried to sell Iran defective parts, ensured that certain ships bound for the Persian Gulf have found their way to the bottom of the ocean, and plotted acts of sabotage against Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities.

What's less likely, however, is that we've taken up the Israeli approach to covert anti-nuclear action:

Iraq bought the cores for the Osirak reactor from France. Originally they were to be shipped to Iraq in April of 1979, but shortly before their departure an explosion ripped through the warehouse that held them. An organization calling itself the French Ecological Group, which had never been heard of before (and hasn't been heard from since), claimed responsibility. Shipment was delayed for six months while the cores were repaired.

The next year Yahya al-Meshad, an important scientist in Iraq's nuclear program, arrived in France to test fuel for the reactor. The morning he was to return home a maid entered his Paris hotel room and found that he had been stabbed and bludgeoned to death. (The only person known to have seen the scientist the previous night, a prostitute who called herself Marie Express, was killed a few weeks later in a hit-and-run accident. The culprit was never found.) Soon afterward workers at firms supplying parts for the reactor began to receive threatening letters from a mysterious group called the Committee to Safeguard the Islamic Revolution. Bombs went off at the offices of one of the firms, in Italy, and at the home of the company's director-general. Over the next several months two more Iraqi nuclear scientists died in separate poisoning incidents.

Not that Israel ever claimed responsibility for any of this, mind you. And it's worth noting that even after all this effort, it still required an air strike to permanently take down the Iraqi nuclear program


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