"It's a hole in a mountain"
The supposedly explosive revelations that Iran has another nuclear facility have turned out to be a damp squib, and perhaps not quite so
The supposedly explosive revelations that Iran has another nuclear facility have turned out to be a damp squib, and perhaps not quite so deserving of the immediate action some were calling for.
"We found nothing to worry about," says the IAEA's Mohamed el Baradei.
Despite Israel's loud claims that the Qom facility was undeniably for weapons purposes, the IAEA has concluded that it was just a hole in the mountain.
"The idea was to use it as a bunker under the mountain to protect things."
Many had greeted the initial revelations with some scepticsm anyway, but just as the Qom story fades, fresh allegations have replaced it.
"Sources" have provided The Guardian with what it calls "previously unpublished documentation" claiming Iran has tested a "two-point implosion device", apparently an advanced warhead design.
"The development was today described by nuclear experts as "breathtaking" and has added urgency to the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis."
As with the Qom story, the timing of these "revelations" will raise a few sceptical eyebrows. It will also raise old questions about where this evidence is coming from. The Guardian doesn't give many clues in that regard, but it seems clear that, despite the breathless tone of the article, this is not new material.
"The dossier, titled "Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program", is drawn in part from reports submitted to it by Western intelligence agencies. "
And despite having labelled it "previously unpublished", the Guardian then says:
"Extracts [...] have been published previously, but it was not previously known that it included documentation on such an advanced warhead."
I might be misreading this, but the suggestion here seems to be that these "breathtaking" details were there all the time, but were simply overlooked by the IAEA and concerned western powers.
Given the major international outcry over Iran's nuclear programme, such an oversight seems ... odd.
I would guess that the most likely source, once again, is the "laptop of mass destruction", the legendary smoking gun that is said to prove Iran's nuclear weapons intent, but which the US will not allow anyone to see.
Now commonly referred to as "the alleged studies", this document has provided regular and timely nuggets of fresh accusations against Iran, and constant political pressure has led the IAEA to make a series of confusing and often conflicting comments regarding its content and it's veracity.
However, Mohamed el Baradei himself has maintained a fairly consistent personal line, which he re-iterated in a long interview at the Council on Foreign Relations in the US this week.
"Well, I keep saying, you know, we have no indications, no concrete proof that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapon program. That is my view. That is the views of the agency. That's the view that's supported by the NEI, the nuclear National Intelligence Estimate here, who have said that Iran developed weaponization studies, not a weapon and that they stopped in 2003."