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Historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter discusses how fabricated documents from Israel are used to show that Iran is a dishonest negotiating partner and wants to produce nukes

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group are underway. Center stage at this round of negotiations will be one main issue raised by the United States: how many centrifuges will Iran be allowed to maintain, and how much time will it take for Iran to gain the capabilities to develop a nuclear weapon? U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice recently said, “We all have a responsibility to give diplomacy a chance to succeed. But America won’t be satisfied by mere words. We will only be satisfied by verifiable action from Iran.”

Now joining us to discuss all this is Gareth Porter. He’s a historian, an investigative journalist, and he writes regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Iran. He’s also the author of five books, including the latest, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Thanks for joining us, Gareth.


DESVARIEUX: So, Gareth, first of all just give our audience a quick [update]. Where are we at in terms of these negotiations?

PORTER: Well, this week, of course, is really the start of the most important phase of the negotiations, which is when the two sides, the U.S. and its negotiating partners, the P5+1, and Iran begin to actually draft a comprehensive agreement. And so this is the longest of the sessions so far and by any measure the most important. And whether they can really, you know, make great progress in this particular five days, I think, is going to be all-important in terms of whether there is in fact going to be an agreement.

And my own view, based on what I have picked up over the last several weeks, is that there are going to be very serious problems in this round of negotiations because of the already telegraphed in advance intention of the United States, of the Obama administration, to demand that Iran give up as much as 80 percent of its centrifuges, its capability for enriching uranium, on the ground that the United States must have a minimum of six months lead time once the Iranians have made the decision (the theoretical decision, of course) to go for a nuclear weapon, to try to enrich as much uranium as fast as they can at weapons grade. And, of course, this is going to cause great difficulties, and I would suggest that in fact it’s a deal breaker if the United States does not back off the intention to do that.

DESVARIEUX: So, Gareth, what sort of evidence already exists, in terms of political statements by leaders, physical evidence that shows that Iran is actually seeking to build a nuclear weapon?

PORTER: Well, the evidence thus far consists, as far as I know, based on my pretty intensive research, over the past year and more, in particular, it consists almost entirely, if not solely, of some documents which surfaced initially in 2004. I’ve called them the laptop documents because they’re allegedly from the laptop computer of one of the Iranian scientists who was involved in this purported Iranian nuclear weapons program. So that was the first set of documents. And then a later set of documents were turned over to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, in 2008 and 2009, and we know who turned them over because ElBaradei, the director general of the IAEA at that point, has said in his memoirs that it was Israel who turned over the entire set of the new set of documents, which then were used for a very damning report by the IAEA, issued in November 2011. To my knowledge, that really constitutes the sum total of the evidence that Iran has had a nuclear weapons program at any time.

And in my book I really show, I think, in great detail, and based on very solid evidence, that both of those sets of documents were fabricated, were not truthful, and really can be easily seen as fabricated by both the internal evidence as well as the circumstantial evidence surrounding them.

DESVARIEUX: How do you know that, Gareth?

PORTER: Well, in the case of the so-called laptop documents, the giveaway, as I call it, is that the key set of documents, the ones that were used to greatest political effect by the Bush administration in the 2005 to 2009 period, was a set of documents that supposedly showed Iran attempting to redesign the reentry vehicle of the Shahab-3 intermediate-range missile in order to accommodate a nuclear weapon. And so that, of course, was a very sensational story in the news media when it was leaked to them in those years, 2005 to 2007.

But it turns out, when you really dig into it, that what was depicted in those studies was the reentry vehicle of a model of an Iranian ballistic missile which had already been abandoned as early as 2000. In other words, the decision had been made by Iran that they had to replace that missile with a new version that would be much improved, a missile that had a reentry vehicle that did not resemble in the slightest the reentry vehicle that is shown in those drawings. So, again, if you compare what was said about those documents, the way they were described–and this was confirmed to me by the head of the IAEA directorate of safeguards Olli Heinonen in an interview–if you compare that information with independent information on the ballistic missile program, you find that it simply could not have been authentic documents. It was done by somebody who wasn’t aware of the shift that Iran had made in its missile program, which was only revealed in mid 2004, too late to change those documents.

DESVARIEUX: Gareth, let’s turn and talk about a recent report released by a UN panel of experts. It says that Iran used its petrochemical industry as a cover to transport valves for the heavy water reactor there in Iran. Does this finding–I mean, you’re going to have people, specifically, more neoconservatives, saying, hey, this means Iran’s not a trustworthy, honest negotiating partner. What do you say to those folks?

PORTER: Well, first of all, of course, as I think most of your viewers by now are aware, the false narrative surrounding Iran has been built around this central, core notion that Iran can’t be trusted because they’ve been practicing nuclear deceit for almost three decades. And, you know, that’s based on a whole series of episodes which have been related in a way that simply falsifies the real history. I won’t go into the details, but I just want to point out that there is a false narrative that is built around that central notion.

And in this case, the idea that Iran is being deceptive in some fashion that indicates that it is trying to get nuclear weapons simply doesn’t hold up. It doesn’t pass the laugh test. I mean, of course Iran is going to do whatever it has to in order to get materials for its nuclear program. The United States is trying to prevent it from doing so. It has for the last 30 years. And Iran does not accept the right of the United States–indeed, the United States has no right under international law–to have prevented Iran from getting the material necessary for its peaceful nuclear program.

So what the Iranians are accused of doing is, of course, simply not evidence at all of any dishonesty that has to do with their intentions in terms of the nuclear program. It simply means that they’re doing whatever’s necessary to get around restrictions that the United States and its allies have been placing on there ability to procure this material.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Gareth Porter, thank you so much for joining us.

PORTER: Thanks very much, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.