Gareth Porter discusses an investigation by The Grayzone into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation of documents purporting to prove to the Trump government that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons program. The new investigation, however, suggests that this was nothing more than an attempt to trigger U.S. military conflict with Iran using documents that had been entirely fabricated, rather than obtained by Mossad, as claimed. As usual, it is only months or years later that we discover the truth behind plots like this, even while we narrowly avoid large-scale armed conflict in the moment.
Discussed on the show:
- “With Apparently Fabricated Nuclear Documents, Netanyahu Pushed the US Towards War With Iran” (Antiwar.com Original)
- “To Pressure Iran, Pompeo Turns to the Deal Trump Renounced” (The New York Times)
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on the national security state, and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. Follow him on Twitter @GarethPorter and listen to Gareth’s previous appearances on the Scott Horton Show.
This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: NoDev NoOps NoIT, by Hussein Badakhchani; The War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.com; Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom; ExpandDesigns.com/Scott; Listen and Think Audio; TheBumperSticker.com; and LibertyStickers.com.
The following is an automatically generated transcript.
Scott Horton 0:00
For Pacifica radio, may 3 2020. I’m Scott Horton. This is anti war radio.
All right, y’all welcome it’s Scott Horton Show. I am the director of the Libertarian Institute editorial director of antiwar.com, author of the book Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan. And I’ve recorded more than 5000 interviews going back to 2003, all of which are available at ScottHorton.org. You can also sign up to the podcast feed. The full archive is also available at youtube.com/ScottHortonShow. Right now introducing my very favorite reporter, the great Gareth Porter, this time, writing for the grey zone at the grey zone calm and also reprinted at anti war.com. With apparently fabricated nuclear documents, Netanyahu pushed the us toward war. with Iran Oh say it ain’t so. Gareth Porter. Welcome back to the show, sir.
Gareth Porter 1:05
I’m glad to be back. Thanks again, Scott.
Scott Horton 1:08
Netanyahu telling lies to increase tensions between the US and Iran. Who could have imagined. But you reminded me, I guess I had forgotten this, that when Donald Trump took America out of the Iran nuclear deal in May of 2018, that was just a couple of weeks after Benjamin Netanyahu, his big press conference, or well, publicity stunt anyway, I don’t know if he took any questions, his big publicity stunt where he revealed all of Iran’s nuclear documents, he claimed, and that’s what you’re talking about here. These apparently fabricated nuclear documents. So those documents certainly played a role then in changing the narrative in the time leading right up to When Trump repudiated the deal, so we can talk about the consequences of that. But first of all, tell us why you’re so sure, then, that these documents were not in fact liberated by the Mossad from a top secret facility in Iran.
Gareth Porter 2:15
Right. You know, this is this is a story that I love, in part because I’m able to show that there are multiple levels on which the Netanyahu tale of the Mossad going in, in dark of night, and stealing half a time supposedly of the most highest classified top secret nuclear documents from out from under the noses of the Iranians is totally false. And, and, of course, the first one, the first level, which I think is really crucial here, because if you accept the idea that he was really fabricating this story about the Mossad going on. going in and, and stealing these documents, then obviously, the entire the fabric of this entire story is highly questionable itself. I mean all the documents themselves become highly questionable, but we can talk about more about that. The point that I make in starting out the story is that there is really no good reason to believe the Netanyahu tale of Mossad’s stealing the documents, mainly because they make such an extravagant claim, has to essentially make it impossible to believe the claim being that they were able to find these documents, because they had such a sensitive source within the Iranian government, who was among only a handful of people, according to both Netanyahu himself and a Mossad official who briefed Ronan Berg Men who was writing at that point for an Israeli newspaper, but who then joined with New York Times staff to write a much longer account later on. The explanation was that they had this source who was so sensitive that he was among only a handful of people who knew the building in which the the warehouse in which these documents supposedly resided. And not only that, but could steer them precisely to the two or three safes that were in that warehouse that held the most important documents from the point of view of Israelis, that the ones that the Israelis would find most politically important, most lucrative, shall we say, to get an exploit once they were able to, to translate them and everything. So I mean, this is the story that one has to believe in order to credit the entire family brick of the yarn about the the documents that Netanyahu talks about in his in his briefing is on camera briefing. And I am able to quote two former senior CIA officials. Both of them were the top CIA analyst on the Middle East at different times over the past few decades. Paul pillar was the top middle east analyst. He was the national intelligence officer on the Middle East, in the period around 2003 to 2000 to 2002 to 2005, something like that. 2001 to 2005 excuse me, and Graham fuller was had the same position National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, much earlier back in the 1980s in the mid 1980s. So so they are very far apart in terms of timing. But both of them agreed in emails to me in response to my queries, that, that there was something really not quite right and wasn’t believable about the story specifically about the notion that the Israelis had this very sensitive source, who then they blew, they burned as, as the intelligence people call it, they burned their source publicly by bragging about it to the press and to the public. And that simply wasn’t credible to either one of them. Because if they did, indeed, if they had had such a source, they would never have burned the source because he was so valuable. I mean, he would be able to give them presumably, the most highly classified documents having to do with Iran’s nuclear program, or perhaps other aspects of Iran’s defense, defense policies. as well. And of course they chose according to the story, they chose to burn the source in order to prove, you know just how important these documents were and how sensitive they were and everything. And both Graham fuller and Paul Piller agreed that it simply was incredible. I quote, Paul pillar is saying that this is seems somewhat fishy. And Graham fuller says that this seems somewhat fabricated. The story seems somewhat fabricated. So I think that’s a quite extraordinary set of parallel responses by people who are in a very good position to judge this kind of this kind of problem, which, which really discredits the story quite definitively.
Scott Horton 7:53
Yeah, and now what did they say about the location of this warehouse on the outskirts of town there? That’s either A perfect hiding place or a completely ridiculous one?
Gareth Porter 8:03
Well, I mean, you know, I don’t talk about that in my story. But the fact is that there were plenty of places where documents could have been stored that would be highly secure, obviously. And unlike this warehouse, which was out in the middle of nowhere, and supposedly, again, according to Netanyahu was a story. They didn’t even have any security at night. There were no guards at nighttime. You know that that just doesn’t hold water. It’s not believable in the least. And to my mind, it’s just totally incredible that that nobody in the news media in the United States who covered this story, all the major news media stopped to think you know, how credible is this story, but it was simply given a pass obviously, that’s the way they operate, to cover these kinds of stories routinely, so nobody even gave it a second thought. But But definitely, it does add to the, in credibility of the story that they were supposedly stored in this, in this warehouse in the middle of nowhere in a part of town that was was not used by the government very much at all, and basically lacked the security for the kind of sensitive documents that they supposedly represented. And they could have had them in in the A Li, the Atomic Energy organization of Iran, which would have been the logical place for anything that had to do with a nuclear program. Or, or they could have had them in the defense ministry. If indeed they had nuclear weapons work that they wanted to hide, they could have hit it in the in the defense ministry, that would have been the logical thing to do. But no, it had to be somewhere that they could sort of unfurl This yarn about sending a Mossad team in and, you know, breaking the lock on the door and then you know, sort of using presumably using blue torches to open up these specific safes and finding precisely the folders that they want to take back home to make public.
Scott Horton 10:17
Yeah, man. All right now. So it’s Gareth Porter. Talking about the Israelis lies about Iran’s nuclear program, as per usual. In this case, we’re talking about Netanyahu his big reveal back two years ago, supposedly about all these documents they claimed that they got out of Iran. And then so what did those documents supposedly say that was so damning about the Iranians that it helped lead to Trump withdrawing from the Obama 2015 nuclear deal, Gareth?
Gareth Porter 10:50
Well, there were two big two big fines supposedly, that were given a lot of publicity and recovered in the in the US Global Media one was the story that somewhere around the late 1990s into 2000, there was a report that was written up that called or a plans without a plan that called for Iran to have five nuclear weapons, fabricated, designed, fabricated, tested by the year 2003. And that was obviously a spectacular claim that would show that in fact, they had these designs on having nuclear weapons way back when, before they ever even began to spin the centrifuges Not a single centrifuge it started spinning. And and indeed, I mean, that that’s such an totally incredible tale because Iran was nowhere near having the capability to think about that far ahead, to have nuclear weapon, I mean, they they would have had to be much farther along in terms of their plans for actually enriching uranium. You know, unless they were, of course, they had access to enriched uranium, which they didn’t and nobody has claimed did did X to ever have have such an access to high enriched uranium. But, you know, at that point, it simply, it would have been completely out of nowhere and makes no sense whatsoever. The other document that was even given more publicity was one that that claimed that there was a decision by the defense minister in spring of 2003, which said late spring 2003, which said, Okay, now we’re going to hide that part of our nuclear weapons program that would cause us some problems, potentially with the West and we’re going to keep them covert. We’ll only have an overt program that has to do with the, with the part of it that is legal and aboveboard. And, and under IE a supervision. And, of course, that makes no sense either because, in fact, you know, they were already, you know, they had nothing already that was known about by the West, there was nothing to hide. There was no, there was no part of the program here that had been revealed by anybody. It was it, it simply was, was making no sense whatsoever under those circumstances. So both of these documents highly lacking and credibility. Were the ones that they were pushing with the media and again, successfully, they got quite a bit of coverage of those things.
Scott Horton 13:54
Hey, guys, Scott Horton here from my Swanson scrape book, The War state. It’s about the rise of the middle Terry industrial complex and the power elite after World War Two, during the administration’s of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and jack kennedy, it’s a very enlightening take on this definitive era on America’s road to world Empire. The war state by Mike Swanson, finding the right hand margin at Scott horton.org. Hey, yo, Mike Swanson is a successful Wall Street trader with an Austrian School understanding of the markets, and therefore he has great advice to share with you check out Mike’s work and sign up for his list at Wall Street. window.com. And that’s what you’ll get a window into all of Mike’s trades. He’ll explain what he’s buying and selling and expecting and why. I know you’ll learn and earn a lot. wallstreetwindow.com that’s wallstreetwindow.com. And then, but you and your CIA experts all say that you don’t even believe in the documents anyway. Just the paperwork itself.
Gareth Porter 15:02
Yeah, I mean, I think that I have to take primary, if not exclusive responsibility for actually calling the documents fabrications, because as nobody else thus far has been able to speak up and express this. And I can tell you that there are a couple of people who have talked to who in the past have expressed a lot of reservations about the documents in terms of their authenticity. But But at this point, nobody’s willing to go public and say that, man, I think, you know, there’s a lot of ways in which the system, the US and its allies have ways of reaching people around the world to make it more difficult for them to essentially impose costs, personal costs on them, so it’s not too surprising to me that that’s the case. But what What I have done is essentially shown that up to two things I think are really important one is that there is no evidence of authenticity that has been provided. Normally, a document is shown to be authentic by having people have access to the original, because only with really forensic analysis, which would look at the paper, the ink, the typewriter used and so forth. The absence or presence of evidence of government, official government sponsorship of the document, and whether that is provided and how credible it is. All those things would make up a forensic analysis of the authenticity. And in this case, we know from Netanyahu himself as well as from visitors to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. That nobody has actually been given access to the originals. Nobody’s even been allowed to go through them, you know, to give them a binder and say here, you can sit here and look at these and examine. Now, you know, none of the people who visited Tel Aviv you know, the people from the Harvard Belfer Center, or David all brights, ISIS, what he calls the good ISIS, the International I can’t even
Scott Horton 17:30
it’s the Institute for Science and International Security, Gareth.
Gareth Porter 17:35
That’s it. That’s right. That’s the one. Those people who have
Scott Horton 17:38
not muck better than the other ISIS. Not really, but go ahead.
Gareth Porter 17:41
not real. But anyway, none of them have the ability to really do any forensic analysis, nor do they have the desire to do it. Nevertheless, none of those people were given access to the originals and we know that the night State Government and the IAEA have been provided copies. But again, no one from IAEA nor from the US government has been given access to the originals. So again, there there is reason for suspicion on that level of the Israeli government simply not being willing to have anybody have access in a way that would allow them to do that sort of analysis. And the other thing is that I have been able to analyze one of the key documents which shows up in the Netanyahu videos video the show Intel slideshow, one of the slides shows this cutaway this technical drawing of a Shahab three missile supposedly with a it shows and this picture is in the document that in the in the article and it shows the actual drawing that that is in the document themselves. It shows a Shahab three with the dunce cap design of the re entry vehicle, which is shaped like a dunce cap just straight sort of coming to a point at the end. And we know from the studies that have been done on the Iranian missile program, and from other evidence that the Iranians had already discarded that design of the Shahab three in redesigning the missile from 2000 to 2004. The first thing that you redesigned is the re entry vehicle. And that means that the reentry vehicle that was shown in this drawing which is dated By the way, 2003, according to the IAEA, in an unpublished paper that David Albright published on his site, supposedly 2003 is when this was done and by that time, it’s called clear that the Iranians have moved on. And they had a new reentry vehicle design, which had a baby bottle shape, which bore no resemblance whatsoever to the shape that’s shown in this drawing that is now public. So I mean, this is really strong evidence that it wasn’t the Iranian secret team of missile designers and nuclear weapons designers who came out with this drawing in 2003. It was a foreign intelligence agency that didn’t know the truth about what the Iranians were doing. And part of the storyline is that that I tell in this article is that the Iranians deceived the outside world, the Americans and the Israelis in particular by making it look like I mean, they announced that they were producing the Shahab three in 2003 and 2004, sorry, 2002 in 2003, and instead they had no intention. have really making that their, their main weapon. They had, as I’ve already said they had abandoned it in favor of a new design, which they finally tested for the first time in 2004. And no one had ever laid eyes on the new design. So they didn’t know that it had a completely different re entry vehicle shape. And and so this is the this is the evidence that I put forward here. No one has ever refuted it. I’ve published this story before and no one has ever refuted it. Although, you know, people have certainly did their done their best to ignore it.
Scott Horton 21:37
Yeah, well, and I’m kind of sad that the Israelis would go ahead and use the same lie again, after you’ve completely debunked this in your book manufactured crisis. And in previous reporting that you’ve done. Once we know
Gareth Porter 21:51
I’m shocked, shocked that that they would do so.
Scott Horton 21:54
Yeah. You know, I I’d like to give them a little bit more credit that they’d at least for Some new documents come up with a new lie that hasn’t already been debunked. But you’ve already shown where the IAEA admitted that they got the documents from the Mujahideen II calc. And that means from Israeli Mossad CASE CLOSED already right there. So that’s another strong indication that this whole thing this two years ago, this publicity stunt that Netanyahu did, that none of this was legitimate at all. These papers weren’t stolen from Iran fact, I remember there were people out front on Twitter and whatever on YouTube, the next day at the place where this supposedly all went down. laughing and mocking the idea that this was a top secret government facility of any kind, are full of any kind of documents or anything like that, this whole warehouse, this whole building that they were in. But then, so we got to talk about the import of all of that because they got us out of the nuclear deal. And they instituted a policy of maximum pressure in order to To bring the ayatollah to his knees and force him to sign a whole new deal, that would include limits on their missiles, no sunset provisions, a suspension of all support for Hezbollah. And so how’s that working out?
Gareth Porter 23:14
Well, yeah, this is a key point. I’m glad you’ve come back to really the larger picture because it is very important for your lunch, and just how really the Israelis and their friends in the United States, were using this supposedly revelation of the secret Iranian nuclear planning and so forth. Nuclear Weapons are planning to advance a strategy to maneuver the Trump administration into military confrontation with Iran. That’s what really, that’s what they were after. Of course, we know. I wrote about this in my book, at some length that Netanyahu tried every which way to maneuver the Obama administration into a kind of confrontation with militarily with Iran failed to do that. But that had been the intention of the Netanyahu government for many, many years. And they found in the Trump administration, a much better opportunity to do it. And in fact, in 2018, when Netanyahu was carrying out this plan in the spring, they were also getting no one else. But Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, that’s when he was stepping in and, and going to work. And so pail was helping the Israelis, from then on to advance a strategy of trying to maneuver Trump into a military confrontation to use force against Iran if at all possible. And we know of course, that that he was successful in doing that on a couple of occasions, in conjunction with Netanyahu in one case and without even the other case, to persuade Trump to respond to us. situation with with Iran by threatening or actually using force. In one case, Trump changed his mind and decided not to do it. And the other case he did with regard to the soleimani assassination. And so, you know, this this little plan that they had cooked up with regard to the Iran nuclear documents was was part of a much larger design, which was put into effect at various levels, and in various ways over the next year and a half. And it’s very important to understand the full impact of that, and it’s not over yet. I mean, Pompeo.
Scott Horton 25:39
well, it was in early March, or was it late February, early March, where there were some strikes against American forces. Some rockets launched toward American forces in Iraq, which were blamed on Iranian backed militias, and some reports had it that pompeyo and Esper the Secretary of Defense, we’re both pushing for strikes, and that Trump refused just because he said it would look Too bad from a public relations point of view to hit Iran when they’re in the midst of such a bad Coronavirus crisis not to lift the sanctions or anything like that. But then he turned down their push for war at that point.
Gareth Porter 26:12
And that was the second time around for this kind of ploy by by pompeyo. Because, you know, he had done the same thing back in 2019 in the fall in sorry, in December of 2019, and had succeeded in maneuvering Trump into a position where he was then able to push the idea of the assassination option. And, you know, we know that the Iranians responded to the assassination with their own very clever, I call it clever, but I mean, it’s it was nuanced, on one hand, showing the capability to kill Americans clearly, and at the same time, making it clear that they were not intending to do so in their response in tackling this Iraq. Bass where the present. So so basically this is this is part of a much broader fabric of, of Israeli strategy in which Pompeo plays a key role. But they’re not the only one who pompeyo is not the only one. They also had somebody who had been at FTD, the foundation for the defense of democracies, who was moved into the White House at around the same time, and who was the one who was designing the all out pressure campaign. That was clearly a part of the Israeli strategy to put the maximum pressure on the Iranian economy in the hope that that this would bring about would be much more likely to bring about a military confrontation between the United States and Iran. And of course, that’s exactly what we have. We have seen we saw it in the spring of 2019.
Scott Horton 27:52
Alright guys, so one more thing here real quick, and we’re almost out of time, but there’s this piece by the hated David Sanger in the New York Times from a few days ago about Pompeo’s new scheme to get America back into the Iran deal in order to accuse Iran of breaking it now, is that going to work?
Gareth Porter 28:09
That’s the craziest idea that I’ve heard so far. I must say, I can’t believe that anybody, even in the New York Times would find that even minimally credible. How do you stay in the agreement and outside the agreement at the same time? You can’t be? I mean, it’s just it’s a such a stretch that I don’t see that anybody would take it seriously. Certainly the Iranians wouldn’t take it seriously. I don’t think the Europeans would take it seriously for a moment. I just think it’s dead in the water from the very beginning.
Scott Horton 28:38
Well, complete nonsense. No wonder David Sanger believes in it makes perfect sense.
Gareth Porter 28:43
I suppose you’re right. Yeah.
Scott Horton 28:44
That’s extremely reasonable. Okay, well, thank you very much. We’re all at a time but everybody that is the great Gareth Porter. He wrote manufactured crisis the truth behind the Iran nuclear scare. And with john Kiriakou, this CIA Insiders Guide to the Iran crisis. Here he is at the gray zone and anti war.com. With apparently fabricated nuclear documents. Netanyahu pushed the us toward war with Iran. Thanks again, Gareth.
Gareth Porter 29:15
Thanks, Scott as always my pleasure.
Scott Horton 29:17
All right, you guys, and that is anti war radio for this morning. I’m your host, Scott Horton on the editorial director of antiwar.com and the author of the book Fool’s Errand Time to End the War in Afghanistan. You can find my full interview archive more than 5000 of them now going back to 2003 at ScottHorton.org and at youtube.com./ScottHortonShow. I’m here every Sunday morning from 830 to 9 on kpfk 90.7 FM in LA. See you next week.