Jeffrey LewisA History of Concealment and Deception

Jacqueline Shire at ABC News obtained an unclassified State Department briefing—entitled Iran’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities: A Pattern of Peaceful Intent?—being used to make the case that Iran is up to no good.

The briefing is divded into three sections: an examination of Iran’s concealment efforts using unclassified satellite imagery, an econometric analysis of Iran’s fuel cycle facilities and a comparison of Iran’s facilities with other states of, shall we say, concern.

The unclassified satellite images contain new images for me, including the mysterious uranium mine at Gchine (above). Gchine, Gehine, Gachin, it all transliterates as sketchy.

Dafna Linzer reported US officials presented the briefing—she reported the title as A History of Concealment and Deception, which is the title of the first section—to diplomats in Geneva “to win allies for increasing pressure on the Iranian government…”

Linzer also notes that the briefing has an usual provenance:

The presentation has not been vetted through standard U.S. intelligence channels because it does not include secret material. One U.S. official involved in the briefing said the intelligence community had nothing to do with the presentation and “probably would have disavowed some of it because it draws conclusions that aren’t strictly supported by the facts.”

The presentation, conducted in a conference room at the U.S. mission in Vienna, includes a pictorial comparison of Iranian facilities and missiles with photos of similar-looking items in North Korea and Pakistan, according to a copy of the slides handed out to diplomats. Pakistan largely supplied Iran with its nuclear infrastructure but, as a key U.S. ally, it is identified in the presentation only as “another country.”

Shire learned “the unclassified presentation is the work of two Energy Department labs: Los Alamos National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories.”

I think—maybe—the Los Alamos contribution is drawn from a talk given by Frank Pabian, project leader for “Rest-of-World” Nuclear Nonproliferation Infrastructure Analysis within International Research, Analysis and Development, Los Alamos National Laboratory. Pabian analyzed unclassified satellite imagery in a presentation to the Nuclear Suppliers Group entitled Concealment and Deception in Iran: A Pattern for Peaceful Intent?

Pabian’s talk is on-line, behind a firewall.


On a related note, I am a long time fan of Edward Tufte, attending one his seminars in Arlington, VA. ET will have, no doubt, something devastating to say about this PP presentation, as he did about Colin Powell’s foray into PowerPoint.

Writing in The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, ET concluded with this advice to an audience:

As a consumer of presentations, you should not trust speakers who rely on the PP cognitive style. It is likely that these speakers are simply serving up PowerPointPhluff to mask their lousy content, just as this massive tendentious pedestal in Budapest once served up Stalin-cult propaganda to orderly followers feigning attention.


  1. Cheryl Rofer (History)

    I haven’t been able to download the abc file yet—too much traffic or something wrong with my machine?

    Anyhow, the photo you present is interesting. The green line called out as “tailings pipeline” appears to originate in a brushy, undeveloped area. It’s doubtful that the Iranians would have put it underground: I can’t think of anyone who does, and if it were, you’d see evidence of disturbance above it.

    That red dust is kind of gorgeous. I’d like to see the open pit that it’s supposedly coming out of.

    The ore receiving area looks like it has been plausibly identified, but it’s not possible to tell from this photo what might be going on inside the buildings of the “Production area.”

  2. AHM (History)

    Pakistan largely supplied Iran with its nuclear infrastructure? Centrifuge designs and some parts, yes… but the UCF is from a Chinese blueprint, as is a lot of nuclear tech at Isfahan. Unless Pakistan helped Iran with Gehine, this is news to me.

  3. Allen Thomson (History)

    If you put the coordinates shown in the slide of Mine M_26_13 (27.08755 N , 55.9545 E) into GoogleEarth, you land on Kuh-e Gachin near a suspicious white spot. The resolution is too low to tell for sure if it’s the site.

    There are similar dark mountains (granitic intrusions??) nearby, and one wonders if they might not also be uranophoric.

  4. Josh Narins (History)

    I don’t think the Iranians can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Ahmadinejad has a secret, singing. tap-dancing frog. As a confidence building measure, he should be more open to inspectors and CIA trained people posing as inspectors.

    I look at the before and after pictures of Natanz, which I’d learned about before, but it isn’t clear to me that (2?) story buildings have been buried, as alleged. Is there anything more concrete around?

  5. Josh Narins (History)

    Concerning your comments on PublicOrgTheory, I was not impressed with the presentation.

    The first section resembled neo-con fear-mongering.

    Then there was some pure free marketeering. Totally ignoring both the very long term market numbers (10,000+ year availability of nuclear fuel) and the mercantilist/protectionist/nationalist strain of economics which demands that high-technology, if available, should be developed internally.

    Lots of vagueness. Why would pointy up bits or a 40m wide reactor have to be something illegal? Nothing supportive, but that might be my own ignorance there.

    America is such a free-marketeer ruled State that the idea of developing domestic industries is alien to us?