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Netanyahu’s tale of Iranian deception debunked by British diplomat

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the UN General Assembly. (Photo: Prime Minister of Israel/Flickr)

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the UN General Assembly. (Photo: Prime Minister of Israel/Flickr)

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sauntered up to the world stage yesterday, he asserted that his views about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were “facts,” which are “stubborn things.”

But a British diplomat writing in LobeLog casts considerable doubt on one of Netanyahu’s central claims: that Rouhani himself wrote that he duped the West while negotiating with them over Iran’s nuclear energy program. The assertion is part of the prime minister’s drive to convince the U.S. that Iran’s willingness to talk is a cover for furthering a nuclear weapons program.

Here’s what Netanyahu said about Rouhani’s book yesterday:

You know why Rohani thinks he can get away with this? I mean, this is a ruse. It’s a ploy. Why does Rohani think he – thinks he can get away with it? Because – because he’s gotten away with it before, because his strategy of talking a lot and doing little has worked for him in the past.

He even brags about this. Here’s what he said in his 2011 book about his time as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, and I quote: “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.”

Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rohani boasted, and I quote, “By creating a calm environment – a calm environment – we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.” He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.

You see, Rohani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too.

Netanyahu is referring to talks between Iran and Europe in 2003 over Iran’s enrichment of uranium. His telling of how they went down–ostensibly based on Rouhani’s own words–is misleading at best. Here’s what Peter Jenkins, the UK Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency at the time of the 2003 negotiations, has to say:

The agreement that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his French and German counterparts (the E3) reached with Rouhani on 21 October 2003 specified that Iran would suspend “all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities as defined by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]”.

The E3 hoped that Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, would produce a definition of enrichment that would stop work at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Isfahan, which was due to start converting uranium ore (yellowcake) into uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for centrifuge enrichment, in the course of 2004.

Instead, ElBaradei defined enrichment as the operation and/or testing of centrifuges; the installation of centrifuges; the introduction or use of material in any facility capable of isotopic separation; and the construction, testing or operation of any isotopic separation facility.

In doing so, ElBaradei opened the way for Iran to complete, hot test and start up production at the UCF without breaching the Tehran agreement with the E3. Iran also continued to manufacture, assemble and test centrifuge machines — while honouring its commitment to suspend the activities specified by ElBaradei…

As soon as the E3 could, they set about trying to renegotiate the Tehran agreement to close these loop-holes; but it was only in November 2004, in Paris, that they finally got Iranian agreement to extend the suspension to “all enrichment related activities, and specifically the manufacture and import of gas centrifuges and their components; the assembly, installation, testing or operation of gas centrifuges; and all tests or production of any uranium conversion installation”.

It follows that Rouhani is entitled to claim that the agreement he negotiated in October 2003 allowed Iran to complete and start up the UCF. This achievement, however, stemmed from ElBaradei’s judgement that a narrow definition of enrichment would be more accurate than a broad definition. The achievement was not the result of trickery or deceit.

Facts are indeed “stubborn things,” as Netanyahu said at the UN yesterday. He should stop trying to bend them to suit his narrative.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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29 Responses

  1. doug
    doug
    October 2, 2013, 12:58 pm

    Facts are stubborn things. Netanyahu is stubborn. That’s a fact.

  2. frankier
    frankier
    October 2, 2013, 1:27 pm

    That’s farcical… replace Rohani’s name with any Israeli PMs, and replace nuclear whatever with settlements and there you have it, including the bragging part….

  3. Tuyzentfloot
    Tuyzentfloot
    October 2, 2013, 1:29 pm

    Peter Jenkins is a former british diplomat actually. Or is that something you get for life. Anyway he’s
    not wearing his ambassador hat.
    He also talks sense generally. Or maybe always..

    • lysias
      lysias
      October 3, 2013, 11:30 am

      If he was still a serving diplomat, he would presumably have to follow the official UK line. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has a lot to say about such things on his blog. Then there’s le Carre’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth, also about British diplomats.

  4. James Canning
    James Canning
    October 2, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Great piece.

  5. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    October 2, 2013, 2:42 pm

    On the same day I find out that the Pope is Catholic, I find out Netanyahu is a liar. Will wonders never cease?

  6. eljay
    eljay
    October 2, 2013, 3:07 pm

    You know why Rohani thinks he can get away with this? … because he’s gotten away with it before, because his strategy of talking a lot and doing little has worked for him in the past.

    He even brags about this. …

    … Rohani boasted, and I quote, “By creating a calm environment – a calm environment – we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.” He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.

    You see, Rohani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too.

    Sounds a lot like Israel’s strategy with respect to its on-going colonization of Palestine: Talk (“negotiate”) a lot, but never stop expanding the supremacist “Jewish State”.

    You see, Israel thinks it can steal the pizza AND eat it, too!

  7. talknic
    talknic
    October 2, 2013, 3:09 pm

    Netanyahu is full of cr*p. It has been widely known since at least 2003 that the facility at Natanz will hold 50,000 centrifuges. http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iran/natanz03_02.html

    The main reason states become IAEA members is to get IAEA assistance. The facility was designed and built with the advice of the IAEA.

  8. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    October 2, 2013, 3:10 pm

    I just listened to the first minute of NuttyYahoo’s speech. I couldn’t stand it any longer.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCDcdnEjJHA
    At first, he says that he “represents the citizens of the state of Israel”. He also claims that “we are an ancient people”. Then he uses the term “Jewish people”. Clearly, he believes that German Jews and US Jews are Israelis and that Palestinian Israelis are foreigners.

  9. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    October 2, 2013, 3:37 pm

    RE: “But a British diplomat writing in LobeLog casts considerable doubt on one of Netanyahu’s central claims: that Rouhani himself wrote that he duped the West while negotiating with them over Iran’s nuclear energy program. The assertion is part of the prime minister’s drive to convince the U.S. that Iran’s willingness to talk is a cover for furthering a nuclear weapons program.” ~ Kane

    MY COMMENT: As to Netanyahu’s assertion that Iran’s willingness to talk is a cover for furthering a nuclear weapons program, this appears to be yet another instance of ‘psychological projection’*! ! !

    * FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    [EXCERPT] . . . Israel’s vice-premier, Moshe Ya’alon, was candid when asked in an interview this year: ‘Why all these games of make-believe negotiations?’ He replied:

    Because … there are pressures. Peace Now from within, and other elements from without. So you have to manoeuvre … what we have to do is manoeuvre with the American administration and the European establishment, which are nourished by Israeli elements [and] which create the illusion that an agreement can be reached … I say that time works for those who make use of it. The founders of Zionism knew … and we in the government know how to make use of time.**

    SOURCE – http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n05/alastair-crooke/permanent-temporariness

    ** REGARDING ISRAEL’S MAKING USE OF TIME SPENT “MANOEUVRING”, SEE: “The ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley”, By James Elliott, Mondoweiss.net, 2/19/13
    LINK – http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/ethnic-cleansing-valley.html

  10. Sycamores
    Sycamores
    October 2, 2013, 4:16 pm

    thanks for this, i was trying to prove (or disprove in this case) the said ‘quotes’ that netanyahu was using.

  11. marc b.
    marc b.
    October 2, 2013, 4:27 pm

    brilliant analysis by yahoo. and so six months after rouhani deceived the Europeans and engineers completed work at Isfahan, the Iranians went on to build a nuclear bomb. this all took place in 2004. look it up in ‘Facts on File’ at your local library. That is, and I quote, “the year Iran got the bomb.”

  12. October 2, 2013, 4:36 pm

    Is your hatred to Natanyahu and Israel totally blocking your mind? Nothing is debunked. It is actually and totally CONFIRMED. Read again this article. It confirms explicitly that Iran was making all the efforts to advance the nuclear program and succeeded there due to Rouhani smart behavior. It used ElBaradai incompetence (or complicity?) which “opened the way for Iran to complete, hot test and start up production at the Uranium Conversion Facility. Iran also continued to manufacture, assemble and test centrifuge machines — while honoring its commitment to suspend the activities specified by ElBaradei…”

    What does it matter if Natanyahu had it wrong in details about the way it happened. It happened and Rouhani was clever to agree and stay calm (rather than protesting) knowing that this will not prevent Iran from doing what they intended to. And that was what Rouhani boasted about in his book.

    Read Natanyahu
    1. Rouhani said
    “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.” That is indeed what happened as is confirmed by the British diplomat.

    And then (read Natanyahhu)
    2. Rouhani boasted, “By creating a calm environment – a calm environment – we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.” This is again true and confirmed. He did not protest EU demand but rather understood that ElBaradai definitions create a loop hole and he calmly used it. He fooled EU and the world. And he is proud of this. Of deceiving EU and the world.

    Don’t you see that UNFORTUNATELY Natanyahu is right. Iran is actually making uranium enrichment, trying to get to weapon graded levels, it is not a fantasy, like is claimed on another “opus” on MW by one Ellis. They are ready to deceive (or use loop holes) to achieve this and Rouhani is proud that he stood at the head of this.

    • Bumblebye
      Bumblebye
      October 2, 2013, 6:12 pm

      So what? Iran isn’t a nation destroying bunch of paranoid racist supremacists, such as Israel is. And nuclear to boot! You really think they’re dumb enough to get one or two bombs and fling them at Tel Aviv, in a country with several hundred nukes? Try being rational, ‘prof’.

      • Donald
        Donald
        October 2, 2013, 7:41 pm

        The funny thing is that in a saner world everyone would recognize why Iran might want nuclear weapons–as a deterrent. The US supported Saddam Hussein when he attacked them and provided targeting information when Iraq used poison gas on Iranian troops. The US and Israel were happy to see the Iranians and Iraqis killing each other. Now the US is openly bragging about how sanctions aimed at civilians supposedly pressured Iran into serious negotiations–whether that is true or false, look at the mindset of the great “humanitarian” West. It’s okay to target civilians, to cause economic misery (which inevitably means a higher mortality rate among the poor), so long as it is done by Westerners. Both the US and Israel openly declare their right and their willingness to attack Iran if not satisfied by Iranian compliance with their demands. Why wouldn’t the Iranians want a deterrent? Look at the moral level of the people demanding that they comply.

        There is something about having power that not only corrupts people–it makes them stupid.

        That said, I sincerely hope that Iran doesn’t obtain a bomb, simply because we have enough countries with bombs as it is, and the more countries there are that have them, the greater the odds of an accidental nuclear war.

      • Bandolero
        Bandolero
        October 2, 2013, 8:39 pm

        Donald

        I thank you for your critisism against the Zionist warmongering.

        However, I would like to inform you that your statement, that “the funny thing is that in a saner world everyone would recognize why Iran might want nuclear weapons–as a deterrent” is not based in reality.

        In Iran the very most of the people, and certainly the elite, believe in Ali Khamenei to be the marja of our time, and therefore his behaviour and opinions are the ones the people of Iran try to imitate. Ali Khamenei ten years ago ruled in a no uncertain way that WMDs are haram – forbidden in any way for all those who follow him as the marja.

        If you’ld know a bit more on Shia culture you would understand the utter nonsense of saying that Iran might be persuing to get a nuclear bomb when the marja has forbidden it. If you’ld know that you could easily see that these zionist accussations are nothing than a scam.

        Of course, if you would only know, the Shia culture is a culture of resistance, as it was in 680 when Ali stood in Kerbala against the forces of oppression, you would understand tat the Shia culture will never give in to submission. Therefore Iran counters the fabricated threats on it’s nuclear programm – as Imam Ali did it – with resistance against the oppressors. Not to submit to tyranny is the reason Iran is advancing it’s nuclear programm, that’s all.

      • Sammar
        Sammar
        October 3, 2013, 1:29 am

        Another funny thing is that Israel is not actually a “Western” country, no matter how much they claim to be. They picked a place in the ME to establish their state. According to wikipedia:

        “Most Jews in Arab countries eventually immigrated to the modern State of Israel,[94] and by 2003 they and their offspring, (including those of mixed lineage) comprised 3,136,436 people, or about 61% of Israel’s Jewish population.”

        Add to this the Israeli Arabs and it looks like the big majority of Israelis actually has Arab roots. For Israel to call itself a “Western state” is more wishful thinking than reality, regardless of their participation in Eurovision and European football games.

      • miriam6
        miriam6
        October 2, 2013, 8:36 pm

        [email protected];

        And nuclear to boot! You really think they’re dumb enough to get one or two bombs and fling them at Tel Aviv, in a country with several hundred nukes?

        What makes you think that if Iran acquired a few nuclear weapons that they wouldn’t seek to acquire yet more?
        That is how it generally goes with arms races.
        Anyway one bomb would pretty much destroy a tiny country like Israel- and it would inflict damage on neighbouring countries.

        Did the Americans or Russians really need to be a ‘ nation destroying bunch of paranoids’ to amass vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry on both sides?
        And what about the Pakistanis and the Indians?
        On both examples their desire to acquire nuclear weaponry is/ was determined by realpolitik as much as by ideology.

        You are either too young or have forgotten and become blasé about the spiralling – out – of – control deadly potential of the sort of arms races that existed between America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War years – or for that matter in recent years between Pakistan and India – both nuclear powers.

        During the Cold War there was also the so called ‘balance of terror’ and the military theory of Mutually Assured Destruction as developed by Robert Mac Namara in the early 1960’s.
        The theory was that fear of Mutually Assured Destruction helped prevent direct conflict between the Soviet Union and America because both sides – having amassed such vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry would not dare contemplating attacking one another because the result would be total destruction on both sides.
        So the protagonists were naturally encouraged to amass as many weapons as possible in order to avoid the temptation of some leaders threatening a limited nuclear exchange from which one side might hope to survive with an intact advantage.

        But the end of the Cold War hasn’t removed the nuclear warheads. Relations between Russia and the West have deteriorated in recent years. China, whose nuclear programme is little understood in the West, is doubling its military spending. India and Pakistan remains a potential flashpoint.
        So why don’t people fear nuclear war as they used to? For many analysts the world is now a less stable place than it was during the Cold War.
        And all the major geopolitical confrontations still revolve around nuclear weapons, says Dr Nick Ritchie, lecturer in international security at the University of York.
        For many analysts the world is now a less stable place than it was during the Cold War. And all the major geopolitical confrontations still revolve around nuclear weapons, says Dr Nick Ritchie, lecturer in international security at the University of York.”
        At least several hundred American and Russian nuclear missiles remain on ‘hard alert’ capable of being launched within minutes. Even if that isn’t necessarily the policy or intent, the systems and practices remain in place.”
        The ghost of MAD ( Mutually Assured Destruction) remains even if people would rather not think about it.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17026538

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        October 3, 2013, 8:56 am

        “The theory was that fear of Mutually Assured Destruction helped prevent direct conflict between the Soviet Union and America because both sides – having amassed such vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry would not dare contemplating attacking one another because the result would be total destruction on both sides.”

        I’m still trying to figure out how this is a bad thing. If Iran acquires nukes and that keeps the israelis from bombing and murdering Iranians, how is that bad? Unless you believe that the israelis have a god-given right to murder Iranians…

      • Bumblebye
        Bumblebye
        October 3, 2013, 10:46 am

        m666
        You’re comparing world threatening sabre rattling superpowers to a belligerant nuclear armed minnow and its 10x larger (by population) NON nuclear armed, nor planning to be, regional neighbour. Then attempting to scaremonger with their history. Fail.

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        October 3, 2013, 6:24 pm

        Unless you believe that the israelis have a god-given right to murder Iranians…

        Was that ever in doubt?

    • Eva Smagacz
      Eva Smagacz
      October 2, 2013, 6:30 pm

      ” Iran is actually making uranium enrichment, trying to get to weapon graded levels”

      Rubbish.
      Uranium enrichment to the level Iran is enriching does not mean it must be destined as a fuel for a nuclear weapon – nuclear weapons need lots more enrichment.

      What Iran is producing can be used as a material to produce fuel rods for nuclear reactors – including those that produce isotopes for nuclear medicine: investigations and radiotherapy.

      It also must be remembered, that Iran tried to a) purchase fuel rods, and b) exchange it’s enriched stocks for fuel rods, without success ( Guess who scuppered the deal).

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        October 3, 2013, 2:53 am

        Yes, leave it to the US and Israel to refuse to accept “yes” for an answer to their own proposal.

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      October 2, 2013, 7:04 pm

      Is your hatred to Natanyahu and Israel totally blocking your mind?

      No, you are the one suffering blindness here. There is no one iota of evidence Iran ever tried to get enrich to weapons grade level. They didn’t even attempt enriching to 20% (not even close to weapons grade level) until 2010 after they first tried to source 20% enriched fuel from the international community. It was at that stage that the US thought they had Iran on the ropes, confident the Iranians didn’t have the capacity to enrich to 20%. This led the Iranians to do it themselves, which infiriated Washington and Tel Aviv.

      So given that Washington and Israel didn’t think Iran could enrich to 20% in 2010, it is clearly a fantasy that they were “get to weapon graded levels” in 2003/2004.

      It used ElBaradai incompetence (or complicity?) which “opened the way for Iran to complete, hot test and start up production at the Uranium Conversion Facility

      Rubbish, it was Washington’s and the E3s. You clearly don’t have a clue about what the Paris Agreement was about. Nor do you hasbarats ever seem o get your heads around the fact that enrichment is an inaliable right under the NPT.

      The E3 proposed that in return for temporary suspension of enrichment, they would come up with a proposal that would include trade inducements security guarantees and a solution for providing Iran with nuclear fuel. It wasn’t ElBaradai that was incompetent, it was the E3 and Washington. Asking an NPT signatory to suspend entichment is asking them to give up their right, so he knew Iran had to agree to the terms and definitions.
      When the E3 missed their first deadline (6 months) and Iran kindly agreed to extend the deadline. At no stage was Iran required to stop development of enrichment facilities.
      It came as no surprise when the E3 missed the second deadline. Washington had set up the deal to fail by refusing to participate in negotiations but insisting on having the final say, and behind the scenes they were stalling or sabotaging the proposal.
      Neyenyhau lied through his teeth throughout the entire speech. The Isfahan facility is NOT an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program because there isn’t a nuclear weapons program. Isfahan is also under full IAEA oversight, so cannot be used for any nuclear weapons program.

      Read Natanyahu
      1. Rouhani said
      “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.” That is indeed what happened as is confirmed by the British diplomat.

      That is indeed what happened and the IAEA and the E3 were informed of these activities, so to pretend that Iran was deceiving anyone is BS. No one was fooled.

      The claim that Rouhani boasted is a fabricated narrative created by Israeli apologists.

      He did not protest EU demand but rather understood that ElBaradai definitions create a loop hole and he calmly used it.

      He did not protest it because it was part of ongoing negotiations. Iran could just as easily have rejected it.

      This entire story is based on spin to create a crisis out of nothing.

      So you see that UNFORTUNATELY Natanyahu is lying, which is the only thing he seems to be able to do with any competence and consistency these days.

      And let’s not even address how Israel deceived the world about it’s own nuclear weapons program. Is it any wonder half the seats were empty when Bibbi got up on his soap box?

    • Justpassingby
      Justpassingby
      October 2, 2013, 7:08 pm

      lol you are a liar! Iran is a member of NPT they have the right to enrich and they dont have weapon grade levels like Israel, Israel have 90% grade, Iran 20%.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      October 2, 2013, 9:28 pm

      fnlevit says: “Iran is actually making uranium enrichment, trying to get to weapon graded levels, … They are ready to deceive (or use loop holes) to achieve this …”

      Sounds excactly like Israel and its Dimona deception. So what’s your point?

      Read Security Council resolution 487:
      http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/d744b47860e5c97e85256c40005d01d6/6c57312cc8bd93ca852560df00653995?OpenDocument

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        October 3, 2013, 1:16 am

        “Iran is actually making uranium enrichment, trying to get to weapon graded levels ”

        That’s a blatant lie. Al 16 US intelligence agencies, the IAEA and Mossad all refute this.

    • amigo
      amigo
      October 3, 2013, 9:53 am

      “Is your hatred to Natanyahu and Israel totally blocking your mind? Nothing is debunked.”levit

      levit , go stick your head back in the sand.

      When Israel gives access to it,s 200 -400 nukes come back here and shout your ziokoph off.

      Tiresome Troll-ope.

      Netanyahu is a war criminal and all peace loving people hate war criminals.

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