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.
(Page 3 of 4)
"I think this is politically motivated ... to challenge the integrity of the IAEA," says Olli Heinonen, the head of safeguards at the IAEA until mid-2010, referring to the Iranian allegations.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"Certainly the IAEA had some names, but I don't think we have ever interviewed anyone," says Mr. Heinonen, now at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "So these [names] are coming mainly from the public [profile]. They have published items which are relevant to this nuclear program. Most of the names certainly are known to any intelligence agency in the world. So I think the targets come from there, and not from the IAEA."
The latest case, of Roshan, "is a different thing," adds Heinonen. Involved in procurement, he was not the type of person the IAEA would normally meet at Natanz.
"Why would he become a target? I can make an educated guess," says Heinonen. As one tasked with acquiring equipment, "he roams around all over the world and sends faxes and telexes, and is close to this black market that tries to buy things for Natanz, and maybe he was the one buying them for Qom. I have no evidence, but I think this is the way his name [became known to his assassins]. I think the IAEA learned his name when they read the newspapers after the assassination, and were probably surprised."
'He suddenly detected the lock was changed'
The IAEA also has a very different way of working than the ad hoc weapons inspection teams deployed by UNSCOM in Iraq, for example, which relied on nations to provide their own specialists, who often also reported to – or were agents of – their home intelligence service.
The IAEA only uses its own staff inspectors, and Iran rules out certain nationals for nuclear inspections, as permitted under its safeguard agreement with the IAEA.
"There is no American on those teams, because the Iranians don't accept Americans, Germans, British," notes Heinonen. The same goes for Canadians and Australians, among others. "There is no way that the US can place their guy on this team and go to Iran, because the Iranians don't accept them."
The same was not true of UNSCOM in Iraq, which in fact worked closely with intelligence agencies from Tel Aviv to Washington, and was considered the UN’s first-ever “intelligence gathering” operation. For years in the 1990s, Iraqi officials complained that the intrusive inspection process conducted by UNSCOM was also being used to spy on the regime.
Those claims were widely dismissed, until the Washington Post reported in 1999 that the CIA had for years been infiltrating agents and espionage gear into Iraq, unbeknownst to UNSCOM, to eavesdrop on Iraqi military communications.
The Post story described how CIA technicians officially working for UNSCOM had surreptitiously built a parallel listening network onto the UN's remote monitoring system, which used a series of antennas and repeater stations to beam real-time imagery from up to 300 suspect sites across Iraq to the Baghdad headquarters.
Mr. Ekeus, a veteran Swedish diplomat and UNSCOM director at the time, was livid when he found out. He recalls that a Swedish admiral at the headquarters building in Baghdad let him know.
"He suddenly detected that on one big installation, the lock was changed," says Ekeus, contacted in Stockholm. The American engineer refused orders to open it.