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Tangled Web of Simplicity: Nukes, Iran, Spies, and the IAEA

As tangled as the web may be, often spun so for public consumption and confusion, at the end of the day dealing with the Iranian nuclear weapons program comes down to trust. Do you trust Iran with a nuclear program? The rest is confusing clutter, and we engage ourselves in heady, time-consuming intellectual debate over the incredibly simple.

The Washington Post's Lally Weymouth had a conversation with Ehud Barak, Israel's defense minister. He addressed Iran, Hamas and the potential of a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists "within 10 to 15 years." Regarding Israel's understanding of the Iranian nuclear program - in stark contrast to the minority opinion proffered by the December Iran NIE - Barak shared the following.

"We think that they are quite advanced, much beyond the level of the Manhattan Project. We suspect they are probably already working on warheads for ground-to-ground missiles..."

Before dismissing, one must ask why the IRGC had a significant contingent inside North Korea to observe their nuclear weapons test, which was most likely a plutonium device. Plutonium production is what heavy water nuclear reactors are built to produce, and Iran is continuing construction of one at Arak.

Iran's nuclear program need not be exclusively in Iran. Syria and North Korea are both fertile grounds for an extended program and - in the particular but not exclusive case of Syria - beyond the horizon of the IAEA.

And, just to tangle the web spun, consider recent accusations by a Russian defector and former Deputy Resident of Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service (successor organization to the KGB) New York City operations. Having run Russia's post-Cold War espionage program in the United States, defector Sergei Tretyakov charges that the UN's top IAEA verification official is a Russian spy.

The top U.N. official responsible for monitoring the clandestine nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan is a Russian spy, according to a new book on Moscow’s espionage operations in the United States and Canada. The official is identified only by his Russian code name, ARTHUR, but other sources identified him as Tariq Rauf, 54, a Pakistani-born Canadian who is chief of verification and security-policy coordination at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Too sensational to believe? Read on.

Tretyakov’s description of ARTHUR all but names Rauf as his spy.

“When Sergei had recruited ARTHUR [in 1990],” Earley writes, “he worked at the Canadian Centre for Arms Control,” a think tank for experts on nuclear weapons.

Later, ARTHUR was “a project director at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, part of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a California think tank,” he relates.

A few years later, when Tretyakov became deputy chief of Russian intelligence in New York, he renewed his relationship with ARTHUR, who had become “a U.N. senior verification expert,” who specialized in the clandestine weapons programs of “rogue states” such as Iran, Libya and his native Pakistan.

“I know that he is still employed at the agency and I have no reason to believe he has stopped working for Russian intelligence,” the one-time master spy says in the book.

“He hated America.”

Rauf’s résumé is identical to Tretyakov’s description of ARTHUR’S career. They are one and the same, according to multiple sources.

A former Russian diplomat and arms control specialist who knew Tretyakov well in New York, reviewed the description of ARTHUR and said it appeared to describe Rauf.

“The fingered Canadian guy, well, you know only too well who could theoretically fit this reference,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Another former Monterey arms expert, when asked whether Rauf might be the spy code-named ARTHUR, said, “Yes, the name you provided is correct.”

As part of The China-Russia-Iran Axis, Russia is a critical part of the Iranian Protectorate, with veto power inside the UN Security Council and perhaps its own loyal operative within the heart of the IAEA itself.

There are many reasons the IAEA's many voluminous Iran reports provide little confidence one way or the other regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program. This only potentially adds to the mix of the incredulous.

We should be wary of trusting Russia regarding Iran, to say the least, regardless of the specific veracity of the above claims. Likewise, we should be wary of the straightforwardness of IAEA reports when the Director General states in an interview that his primary charge is not to inspect, identify and verify nuclear programs, but rather to avert a war with Iran at all costs.

So at the end of the day the individual is left with a decision to make regarding Iran: Do you trust Iran with nuclear technology?

Coming up with the answer to that fundamental question is not terribly difficult, is it? If so, perhaps you have been in Washington, DC for far too long.

For my money, there's no need to qualify a stance against an Iranian nuclear program with hard evidence of X or Y or proof of collusion, gerrymandering or accuracy within or without the IAEA. It's a simple matter of trust and consequences.

Iran defiantly gives no reason to trust and the consequences are too great, making the risk unacceptable. Yet, we appear on a path that will leave difficult consequences to be dealt with by others at a later time. And that is wholly irresponsible.

But then again, perhaps I simply have not been in Washington, DC long enough. Surely one day I will come to my senses and enjoy the new Great Game.