US and Israel fear Iran may be capable of a nuclear test this year
Shahram Amiri's voluntary repatriation to Iran and a second close look at the nuclear data he passed to the CIA are raising grave doubts about its value, debkafile's intelligence sources report. There is mounting suspicion in Washington and Jerusalem that Tehran employed the scientist to strew red herrings in their path, namely, out-of-date material for concealing and misdirecting their attention from the rapid progress taking place secretly in Iran's nuclear program.
A high-ranking intelligence source in Washington remarked Monday, July 19, that he would not be surprised "if we woke up one morning to find the Iranians had conducted an underground nuclear test." This was not to say Iran had a bomb or nuclear warhead ready packed for delivery, he said, "Only that it was a lot closer to this option than the Americans and Israelis had been led to believe."
Therefore, as of now, their forecast of a nuclear test capability has been brought forward to within the five months remaining of 2010.
Our sources report this revised forecast has emerged from US intelligence analysts' examination of two new premises regarding Amirir's input in the years he served as US informant:
1. That he was an Iranian double agent and his apparent defection to the United States just over a year ago was fake, engineered by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
2. That Shahram Amiri, the nuclear scientist, was a made-up identity. After he landed to a heroes' welcome in Tehran last Thursday, July 15, Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi said: "Shahram Amiri is not a nuclear scientist and we reject it." Another Iranian official called him a clever spy who had managed to infiltrate US intelligence and deceive them for years.
Even if real nuggets were mixed in with the false data - a common ruse for making false intelligence appear credible - it still meant that Iran's leaders controlled the flow of factual information to the West and were in a position to change it in good time - so that when Amiri was asked by his US handlers to amplify on a piece of real information, it was no longer valid; Iran had moved on and created a new set of facts, unbeknownst to the Americans.
A striking example of this tactic was the secret enrichment plant in a mountain near Qom, which became the subject of a dramatic joint appearance on Sept. 25, 2009 in Pittsburgh by President Obama, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and George Brown, then British prime minister.
Only in recent months, have US and allied agencies begun to appreciate that this technique of misdirection allowed Iran to pursue its nuclear and missile programs out of sight of spies and monitors. While the West and Israel relied on Amiri to keep them abreast of Iran's activities, nuclear development work went forward at still unknown locations and may have progressed a lot further than is suspected in the West.