Former Israeli officials now admit that Netanyahu’s Iran policy was a failure and a lie; will they admit the “secret Iran nuclear archive” he pushed is also a lie?

In the 40+ years I’ve been following the Iran-US conflict closely, I’ve come across a few really funny and silly items that I try to keep for future reference. I was going to write about these later but there’s an article behind a paywall on Haaretz entitled “Three years late, Israelis finally hear the truth about Trump” that’s motivated me to write about one particular document published by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School entitled: Commentary on “The Iran Nuclear Archive: Impressions and Implications” | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

I didn’t want to write about this just now, but since we’re on the topic of “it was all a lie”…

First, bits from the Haaretz article by Amir Tibon:

When Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, Israel’s then-prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, turned the decision into a political celebration. Israeli media outlets received detailed briefings on how a daring Mossad operation to steal Iran’s “nuclear archive” from a secure location in the Islamic Republic was the final straw that convinced Trump to break the international agreement.

The author goes on to quote former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, “the man who commanded that operation,” who, when asked at a Haaretz-UCLA conference on Israeli national security whether ever since Trump got out of the deal, Iran has significantly increased its uranium enrichment., he replied “That’s true”.

This is the same Cohen who, when departing his position under Netanyahu, was singing praises for Netanyahu and boasting how Israel had supposedly penetrated and exposed Iran’s nuclear program

The Haaretz piece also mentions Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon who was at the same conference as Cohen, and “who strongly opposed the nuclear deal at the time of its signing when he was still in office”; he now calls it “the main mistake of the last decade” in Iran policy.

The author of the Haaretz article summarizes:

It took two more years, however, for the men who worked closest to Netanyahu in those critical moments – his former Mossad chief, defense minister and top general – to publically acknowledge that it was all a big lie.

That the Trump’s policy has failed is hardly ever a secret unless you’d drank the Koolaid and were into Trumpian “alternative facts”, and it would require willful blindness to reality to suggest otherwise. But sadly the author doesn’t mention whether the “secret Iranian nuclear archive” that the Mossad supposedly “Torched it way in the dead of night” (New York Times fanboy title) to find in Iran, was part of this “big lie”.

The story of the “secret Iranian nuclear archive” started out when in April 30, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was shown delivering a speech whilst posing in front of several book cases with shelves full of binders and CDs that the Mossad had supposedly managed to steal from a warehouse inside Iran & containing all its secrets about hidden nuclear weapons programs. (Netanyahu had a thing for appealing creating spectacles with stage-acting and props, who can forget his cartoon nuclear bomb which is also on my list of funny things?)

FWIW here, is an example of one of the pages from this secret stash of Iranian nuclear weapons documents stolen by Israel’s Mossad from a secret hidden warehouse in Iran – note that the document is just a handwritten page which could have been written literally by anyone.

The material was supposedly conveniently collected together in a warehouse, and was also left unguarded (supposedly because guards would attract attention, see) and these documents magically confirm not just everything Netanyahu and the pro-war Hawks were claiming about a secret Iranian nuclear weapon which happens to also contradict both the IAEA’s findings as well as the US National Intelligence Estimate that had caused so much grief in Israel (and caused President Bush to throw his own 16 intelligence agencies under a bus to satisfy Israel) but also claimed that Iran had actual nuclear weapons and was ready to test them in 2003.

Ok so here’s the funny bit:

I highly recommend reading this article published by the Belfer Center at Harvard for a good laugh, entitled The Iran Nuclear Archive: Impressions and Implications

The oh so very serious authors Ernest J. Moniz (former Secretary of Energy) and Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall (former Deputy Secretary) along with a few other folks (Matthew Bunn, Aaron Arnold etc – a half-dozen people) were invited by Israel to go and check out this heroically stolen archive for themselves…

Except that they didn’t but they agreed with everything the Israelis had to say anyway.

Let the authors describe what happened themselves:

In January 2019, the authors traveled to Israel to receive a briefing on the archive from senior Israeli intelligence officials. The Israeli officials provided a detailed summary of their conclusions on the archive’s history, contents, and implications, which included showing copies of some archive documents and photographs along with a few origiinal documents that Israeli officials believed to be critical to a broader understanding of the archive. Officials also provided us with copies of selected documents and photograph

Got that? That’s the set-up for the joke: A half-dozen former US gov’t officials were invited to Israel and presented with “documents and photographs.”

So what did they conclude from the Israelis?

Broadly, what the archive shows is that in the period 1999-2003 Iran had a well-organized, purposeful, and impressive nuclear weapons program that had made considerable progress.

They go on to claim that Iran was acutally about to test a nuke in 2003 and a variety of other nonsense, all contrary to the both the US National Intelligence Estimates, and IAEA’s conclusion that whatever ‘nuclear weapons program’ Iran had up to 2009 consisted of “scattered and incomplete…feasibility studies” which were merely “suitable for…relevant to” nukes but which involved no diversion of nuclear material, making it perfectly legal under the term of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. (Note that the IAEA’s very job is to promote nuclear technology that indeed could be “relevant” to nukes simply because nuclear technology is inherently dual use, and so this “relevant to” standard is not a legal standard that the IAEA is charged with verifying or enforcing, again confirming the complaints by Non-Aligned IAEA member state that the IAEA Director General was using “nonstandard verification language” in its Iran report.)

In fact the Iranians had admitted to nukes studies years earlier, so the IAEA in 2015 only vindicated what the Iranians had been saying all along. That of course didn’t stop the US media from blaring in headlines – quite falsely – that the IAEA had concluded Iran had a nuclear weapons program. (The New York Time’s totally uncritical and adoring fanboy coverage of the Mossad is funny, “How Israel, in the Dead of Night, Torched its Way to Iran’s Nuclear Secret“)

But here’s the funny part: the authors themselves admit that they have no idea what they were shown by the Israelis, and so are simply relying on the Israelis and their conclusions:

We did not have access to the entire archive. Nor did we have any authentication experts in our group. Moreover, many of the documents shown or provided to us are written in Farsi, and our group did not include Farsi speakers. For these reasons, we cannot validate the authenticity of the materials with certainty. Moreover, we cannot judge whether or not exculpatory information for some portions of the acitivities covered might exist within the archive.

So basically a bunch of former govt officials went on a junket and agreed with everything the Israelis showed them on a supposedly secret Iranian nuclear archive, even though they admit they have no idea if any of it is true nor would they be able to determine that.

This, is what gets published by the Harvard Belfer Center. I mean, you just have to laugh that this is the sort of hogwash so blatantly fed to people.

Hey, but it was a great all-expenses paid trip to Israel, and I’m pretty sure this article itself was ghostwritten by the Israelis for the authors to sign-off on, after a nice 6-course meal and other light entertainment etc etc.

It is too bad that Harvard’s Belfer Center does not require authors to disclose their compensation and other conflicts of interest as scientists are now required in most respectable institutions. But hiring former govt’ officials to carry your water and lobby for you, is standard operating practice and how the system “works” in the US.

Now that Netanyahu is out of the office, the “Iranian nuclear archive” may die a quite death for the bit of embarrassment that it was. The US media uniformly refused to engage in any sort of critical analysis or consideration of Netanyahu’s claims about the supposed Mossad operation in Iran; they not only simply acted as mouthpieces to promote Netanyahu’s obvious PR gambit, they even further embellished the story before passing it on uncritically. No one was allowed to raise any question of the veracity of Netanyahu’s claims, not a single article raised that.

[The technical stuff in the report is equally silly, and would take a book to debunk in detail. Much of the nonsense and rubbish has been repeated before and has been debunked already by among others actual nuclear weapons expert Robert Kelley, for example the claims that Iran used tungsten as a substitute for uranium in its secret nuclear weapons program, thus conveniently explaining away why the IAEA found no contamination in place like Parchin, where Iran had supposedly be conducting these secret experiments in a super secret explosive testing chamber…according to the Israelis.]