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Iran nuclear talks: Why the trust gap is so great

Part of the reason for Iran's distrust lies in the CIA's infiltration of a UN weapons inspection team in Iraq in the 1990s.

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Iranians point to a high-profile example from the past, when UNSCOM was tasked with disarming Iraq in the 1990s. The CIA used UNSCOM for its own purposes, to create a secret parallel communications network to spy on Iraqi military moves, and in 1996 even planned a coup attempt against Saddam Hussein to coincide with an UNSCOM inspection.

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Did IAEA expose Iran nuclear scientists to assassins?

Experts on the IAEA say that despite numerous past leaks by the agency, that confidential information may not have pinpointed scientists, who could have been identified by other means.

Yet Iran formally complained to the IAEA in June 2010 that "leakage of confidential information" had gone on "quite a while," and was "profoundly in violation" of Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which requires protection of such "secrets."

The first scientist to be killed, a senior physics professor, died in January 2010, when a bomb-rigged motorcycle blew up near his car.

In November 2010 – the same month that another Iranian nuclear scientist was killed, and yet a third wounded in back-to-back bomb attacks in Tehran – IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano circulated an internal note on information security.

Following up in a March 2011 speech, Mr. Amano said the IAEA "continued to raise staff awareness of the vital importance of respecting confidentiality." He noted that 2,000 staff and contractors from the agency had passed a "mandatory information security test," and declared that the IAEA followed the "best practice in all aspects of information security."

Since then, in July 2011 in Tehran, gunmen on a motorcycle killed an Iranian electronics student, described in some news reports as working on high-voltage switches with a nuclear weapons use.

And in January, chemistry expert Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who was also a procurement director of Iran's largest uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, was killed by a magnetized bomb stuck to his car while in traffic.

After that killing, Iran's deputy UN ambassador Eshagh al-Habib condemned the “terrorist attacks” and told the UN Security Council that Mr. Roshan had recently met with IAEA inspectors, "a fact that indicates that this UN agency may have played a role in leaking information on Iran's nuclear facilities and scientists."

Senior Iranian lawmaker Zohreh Elahian charged that there was "credible evidence" of IAEA involvement in "espionage on our nuclear activities."

The IAEA would not confirm or deny any previous inspector meetings with Roshan to the Monitor, and referred instead to a quote that IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor gave to Reuters shortly after the assassination: "The Agency has not released this man's name. We do not know him."

Two unnamed senior US officials confirmed to NBC News last month that operatives of the opposition Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK, or MKO) who were trained and financed by Israel, had carried out the killings. Such reports confirm earlier claims by Iran – and foster deeper mistrust that pressure on the nuclear issue is a pretext for regime change.

How Roshan may have become a target

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "categorically" denied any American role in the assassination of Roshan. The names of those scientists would have been available by other means to intelligence agencies hostile to Iran, experts say.

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