Robert Kelley Pt2: The report misleads and manipulates facts in attempt to prove a forgone conclusion
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. American calls and Israeli calls for tougher sanctions against Iran at the United Nations are being backed up by a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which some people say more or less concludes that there is an active weapons program, nuclear weapons program in Iran. The question is: is there any new evidence about that in this report? Now joining us to talk again about the report is Robert Kelley. He’s a nuclear engineer who has carried out IAEA inspections in many countries, including Iraq. He worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States. And he’s currently a senior research fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He joins us from Vienna. Thanks for joining us again, Robert.
ROBERT KELLEY, NUCLEAR ENGINEER, FORMER IAEA INSPECTOR: Nice to see you.
JAY: So when I listen to you and other critics of this report, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the IAEA set out to prove that there was some kind of weapons program–at least to suggest it strongly, if not come right out and say it. And then they kind of fit the facts to that conclusion. Am I being too harsh here?
KELLEY: No. I think what you’re saying is what I would call kind of the law enforcement model where you identify a suspect, you exclude the other suspects, and you try to pin it on them. I ran into that a few times when we were dealing with espionage in the United States. The scientific method says you try to look at all the information available to you and try to figure out what fits it best. This report doesn’t do that very much. It says, well, we think we know the answer, so we’re going to selectively tell you what fits.
JAY: So in our previous interview, we did kind of overview of the report. And for anyone watching this that hasn’t seen that, you’ll see that player beneath here, and you can watch the part one of this interview. But now let’s drill into a few other aspects of the report that you think are important for people to understand.
KELLEY: Well, one thing I think is important–and I think the IAEA knows it, but they didn’t write it very well in the report–is they emphasize that they have been focusing on a uranium implosion nuclear weapon, because that’s where most of the action is, and that they really haven’t paid much attention to plutonium. I think we really need to stop and think about that, that Iran is building a reactor that will be capable of making a lot of plutonium for a military program and it should start up quite soon. And so I think that we all need to expand any concern that we have to that reactor, and also to thinking if any of the weaponization information we’re getting is more applicable to plutonium than it is to uranium.
JAY: So what’s the significance of that? Does that mean that it suggests that there is a program or isn’t? I’m not sure what to conclude from that.
KELLEY: There’s no question that they’re building a plutonium production reactor in a place called Arak. That was revealed by the National Council of Resistance of Iran around 2004–don’t hold me to that date. And we’ve watched that reactor under construction for years. For a long time we didn’t think it was a very important thing, because it was years from being completed. But now many years have gone by. It’s getting close to being completed. Plutonium gives them a second route to a bomb should they need it, and plutonium allows you to make a smaller bomb that fits into a reentry vehicle better. So I’m not saying that the IAEA has been wrong in looking at uranium implosion, but they need to realize that maybe within a year or two there are going to be two different paths, and they need to pay attention to both. This report says they’re only paying attention to one.
JAY: What else is significant in the report?
KELLEY: Well, one of the things I think everybody wanted to know: what is the source of this information that you’re dumping on us? Okay? And the IAEA said to us, well, we we got information from at least ten different member states, and all of this information, we’re putting it together, and it’s very consistent. So I went through and figured out who the ten member states must be, and I came up with a list that included states that involved police information that was provided to the IAEA six, seven years ago related to the A. Q. Khan network. You can only get to ten if you bring in states like that. This has nothing to do with this thousand pages of alleged weapons studies that the US provided. If you go through the report line by line, after a while you’ll see the vast majority of what they’re citing in this report comes from the US-alleged studies. The US-alleged studies were given to them in 2004. There’s nothing new since then. So I think there, again, we’ve got kind of an effort to pad the results and to say, well, we want you to believe it came from a lot of different sources, when in fact, if you do the homework yourself, you see it didn’t.
JAY: Yeah, there are references [incompr.] other places, I think, to two states about some of the specific information. I guess everyone’s assuming that’s the United States and Israel.
KELLEY: Well, I can only assume what I can assume. I have looked at most of the information that’s come out on this topic. A large part of it is from leaks. And what you see is that most of the information they’re citing comes from the sources that people didn’t trust, and the sources ended around 2004, so it matches the national intelligence estimate.
JAY: Now, you’ve done some work on what’s happening in Burma and the fact that there is some evidence that there’s an active nuclear weapons program in Burma, but nobody seems very interested in it.
KELLEY: Well, it’s a strange situation that in Burma you have a defector who came out, much as, apparently, we have in Iran. The defector came out. He brought photographs and all kinds of information with him. He shows his face on television. He writes reports. He’s made himself available for interviews. And people say, well, he’s not trustworthy. In the case of Iran, we have defector information that’s come out on the so-called laptop. We don’t know who brought it up, we don’t know who made it up, we don’t know what the information looks like, and we have no train of custody to know where this stuff came from. So I’d say there’s a certain amount of hypocrisy here in saying information that is very easy to substantiate is less valuable [than] the information that’s very vague.
JAY: Right. In terms of what this report says, is there any reason to think if there is continuing work on a program, that it goes past the idea that they’re seeking knowledge, and/or they are sort of preparing [so] that they could if they ever wanted to, versus actively trying to realize a weapon? And I guess the short of what I’m saying is: are we any less than several years away before–even in the sort of worst-case scenario, that there’d actually be a real threat there?
KELLEY: Paul, I worked for years on Iraq, and we argued and argued, even after we got into Iraq and took their program apart, blew buildings up, seized documents, and people still couldn’t agree on how much longer it was going to take. And there we had lots and lots of information. What you’re asking I think, is quite political. I’ve been reading a lot besides the technical information in the last few days. People are saying, well, Germany could do this or Japan could do this, and they’re comparing Iran to Germany and Japan because they have the capability but they don’t have the intent. I don’t go there. I’m not a political scientist. That’s the context. The context is maybe they could do it if they wanted to. But I’m not going to try to make a judgment like that.
JAY: But in terms of the timeframe, is there a judgment that can be made on that? Or you’re saying there’s not enough known to give a timeframe?
KELLEY: Oh, I don’t think there’s enough known to give a timeframe. If the program really ended in 2004 and they’ve been doing some things since then that they’ve decided to keep some paper studies going or, for all we know, experimental studies, they could be very far along. Let’s put it this way. Where they were in 2004, if they had continued in a very aggressive way since then, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have solved a lot of the problems that would face a nuclear weapon developer. We just don’t have any information. The information cuts off for the IAEA with the alleged studies. There’s not much since then, certainly nothing that we can trace where it came from. And the national intelligence estimate has told us they had a window that they really trusted that said, look, this thing stopped. So maybe there’s a little bit of work going on in the background. Hard to say. But you don’t have enough information.
JAY: Add how legitimate are the charges by the IAEA that Iran is not cooperating enough and that’s why there isn’t enough information?
KELLEY: I’m not going to answer that question. I’m not in the shoes of the deputy director general. He’s a very solid, very highly qualified individual to go and meet with Iran. He’s the one who knows how much cooperation there is, and it’s not for me to say that he’s right or wrong.
JAY: What other issue do you think jumps out at you?
KELLEY: Well, the kind of things I see is that there’s not enough breadth in the analysis that’s going on. The IAEA report tells us that this warhead is going to have an air-burst option; that is, it’s going to go off way above the surface of the earth and spread its nuclear blast over a larger area, which is what people try to do with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, when you look at parade photos and things of these missiles being moved, you don’t see a radar window on the reentry vehicles. Well, if there’s no radar window, then there’s no radar. So how does this warhead know how to go off when it’s above the surface of the earth? You need some kind of a sensor. I think the answer is there. I think they know the answer. They’ve either chosen not to tell us the answer or they’ve realized that the answer is so silly that it shows that the program was not very advanced and was pretty amateurish, the uranium program, as of 2003.
JAY: And that’s the answer that’s there, you’re saying, that it’s clear that they weren’t so advanced.
KELLEY: Well, I’m saying that the information that’s been presented in the board report is they say this is going to be an air-burst. But actually, if you look at the data, you say, I don’t think they can do an air-burst with the system that we see marching in parades. So why is the IAEA telling us that? Why aren’t they being more critical? Why aren’t they analyzing the data and saying, a-ha, they actually didn’t know what they were doing? So this is an incredible piece of the alleged studies.
JAY: Okay. Thanks very much for joining us, Robert.
KELLEY: Okay. It was good.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
End of Transcript
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