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UPDATED Experts Say AP Report That Iran Is Working On Nukes Is Based On ‘Shoddy’ Evidence

By Hamed Aleaziz  

"UPDATED Experts Say AP Report That Iran Is Working On Nukes Is Based On ‘Shoddy’ Evidence"

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An Iranian nuclear scientist at Natanz (Photo: Reuters)

Two physics experts say a document obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday, which the news organization said “suggests” that Iran is “working on” a nuclear weapon, contains a “massive error” and might be a “hoax.” The AP’s publication of the document generated headlines on Tuesday because the graph, according to the AP, showed that Iran was running “computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.” But Yousaf Butt and Faronc Delnaki-Veress, writing in the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists, say that the massive error contained in the document is “unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level.” To Butt and Dalnaki-Veress, the document “does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax.”

In the AP article, titled “Graph suggests Iran working on bomb,” the news organization claims that the document was obtained from officials of “a country critical of Iran’s atomic program.” The AP also states that a “senior diplomat” confirmed that the International Atomic Energy Agency “cited” the diagram in a report from last year. Butt and Delnaki Veress, however, say the graph contains key errors and that “the level of scientific sophistication needed to produce such a graph corresponds to that typically found in graduate or advanced undergraduate-level nuclear physics courses.” If the IAEA did indeed use the graph, it couldn’t have revealed much because, according to Butt and Delnaki-Veress, “the image does not imply that computer simulations were actually run” and the graph’s findings are “neither a secret, nor indicative of a nuclear weapons program.”

“The diagram leaked to the Associated Press this week is nothing more than either shoddy sources or shoddy science. In either case, the world can keep calm and carry on,” the Bulletin article summarizes.

Glenn Greenwald, a columnist at the Guardian, points out that similar documents were brandished in the early 2000s:

“The case for the attack on Iraq was driven, of course, by a mountain of fabricated documents and deliberately manipulated intelligence which western media outlets uncritically amplified.”

When it comes to the nuclear issue in Iran, the Obama administration continues to pursue a diplomatic solution, which they believe is the “the best and most permanent” way to end the stand-off. Indeed, former Israeli officials have said that a strike on Iran could potentially accelerate Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The U.S. finds a nuclear armed Iran to be unacceptable, but the window for diplomacy remains open as U.S. and Israel intelligence believe that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon.

Today, however, the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, said that he could not confirm that Iran’s nuclear work was peaceful with “credible assurance.” And Reuters reports today that “the United States effectively set a March deadline…for Iran to start cooperating in substance with a U.N. nuclear agency investigation, saying it would otherwise urge reporting the issue to the U.N. Security Council.”

Update

The AP reported on Friday that the “leaked diagram suggesting that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon is scientifically flawed, diplomats working with the U.N. nuclear agency conceded Friday.”

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