Jeffrey LewisLeverett Op-Ed

The New York Times has printed the redacted version of Flynt Leverret and Hillary Mann’s op-ed on US policy toward Iran, as well as a second op-ed by Leverett and Mann that contains citations for public domain discussions of all the material to which the White House objected.

I’ve placed the full text of all the stories in a single file. (The New York Times has links to the stories, but some are subscription only.)

I didn’t include Leverett’s 34 page paper for The Century Foundation, which is available on-line.

Will post on my guesses about the redactions after lunch.


  1. hass (History)
  2. Michael Roston (History)

    My colleague Ron Brynaert at RAW STORY attempted his own guesses, which should be linked to my name in the comment form.

    Basically, this all comes back to the Rumsfeld camp getting behind the MEK and refusing to turn these terrorists over to the Iranians for prosecution. For some reason, the White House doesn’t want that well-treaded-over dirty laundry aired in public.

  3. hass (History)

    Any Comments on this?

    Prospects of nuclear power plants for sustainable energy development in Islamic Republic of Iranby Amir Hossien Ghorashi; Energy Policy, March 2007. Volume 35, Issue 3 page 1643

  4. hass (History)

    Any comments on this?

    “In fact, says proliferation expert Henry Sokolski, such reactors [Bushehr] produce hundreds of tons of reactor-grade plutonium, which can be reprocessed into nuclear fuel for as many as 60 Nagasaki-type bombs in a matter of weeks. The Russians promise to safeguard the nuclear fuel. But the reactor’s uranium pellets can be secretly removed by substituting dummy fuel rods and then quickly enriched to weapons- grade material in Iran’s centrifuge cascades, without foreign inspectors ever being the wiser. Iranian scientists will also gain invaluable nuclear know-how simply by operating a civilian reactor.

    FROMWho’s Tough on Tehran? Wall Street Journal December 21, 2006 Correction

    Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr will produce about 330 kilograms of plutonium, sufficient for about 60 nuclear weapons. Yesterday’s editorial, “Who’s Tough on Tehran?”, overstated the amount of plutonium the reactor could produce.

    (WSJ Dec. 22, 2006)

  5. Robot Economist (History)

    hass – I’m not a nuclear physicist, but I think that WSJ article you cited has gotten two things wrong.

    According to CEIP, the Bushehr reactor is going to be a light water reactor. LWRs convert their U-238 fuel into Pu at very slow rates, which leads to high levels of Pu-240 contamination. Since Pu-239 and 240 can’t be chemically separated, anything with more than 7% of the 240 isotope is can’t be used for bombmaking. To avoid this, Iranians would have to swap out the fuel rods of LWRs every like 3 months instead of every 12-18 months – so the constant shutdowns would make proliferation pretty obvious. Reprocessing also isn’t an option because LWRs produce only tiny amounts of Np-237.

    I also believe that Pu is chemically separated from fuel rods, not enriched via centrifuge. Uranium is generally the only fissile material that can be enriched.

  6. Steven Dolley

    “anything with more than 7% of the 240 isotope is can’t be used for bombmaking.”

    This is an overstatement at best, incorrect at worst. For discussion of the issues, see

    NB: I no longer work for NCI.

  7. Alex W. (History)

    Ah, there is always something wonderfully productive about secrecy when the act of removing is made apparent! Nothing stirs the imagination, nor the hopes of something juicy, like knowing that the government doesn’t want something.

    I’m surprised they would be so heavy-handed with the NYTimes like this, especially in relation to a topic which doesn’t seem to have any real security implications except in that it would be somewhat embarassing to the government (it seemed fairly clear to me, at least on a first pass, that the redacted information was mostly about the US reneging on various cooperations and agreements with Iran).

    At least with nuclear issues, it was decided pretty early on (I have telegrams articulating this stance rather explicitly as early as 1946) that the government should avoid trying to censor that which is produced wholly outside the classified sphere, as it would both “validate” the apparent importance of the information as well as attract attention to it. It is for this (fairly straightforward) reason that the government very rarely comments on supposed releases of secrets in the weapons arena, though I know things are a bit different in their relations to the press. For a good hands-on explanation of how security-important issues are mediated between the press and the government, Barton Gellman’s “Revealing a Report’s Relationship with Secrecy and Sources” (2004), is fascinating:

  8. Robert Zarate

    The WSJ editorial draws many of its arguments about LWRs from “A Fresh Examination of the Proliferation Dangers of Light Water Reactors,” a study which Dr. Victor Gilinsky (a Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner under Ford, Carter and Reagan), Marvin Miller and Harmon Hubbard conducted in 2004. The study is available here: