Iran 'hoodwinked' CIA over nuclear plans
By Tim Shipman in Washington, Philip Sherwell and Carolynne Wheeler
The Sunday Telegrapg (UK) Last Updated: 1:39am GMT 09/12/2007
British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear
weapons programme, as a US intelligence report claimed last week, and
believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran.
Analysts believe that Iranian staff, knowing their phones were tapped,
deliberately gave misinformation
The timing of the CIA report has also provoked fury in the British
Government, where officials believe it has undermined efforts to impose
tough new sanctions on Iran and made an Israeli attack on its nuclear
facilities more likely.
The security services in London want concrete evidence to allay concerns
that the Islamic state has fed disinformation to the CIA.
The report used new evidence - including human sources, wireless intercepts
and evidence from an Iranian defector - to conclude that Teheran suspended
the bomb-making side of its nuclear programme in 2003. But British
intelligence is concerned that US spy chiefs were so determined to avoid
giving President Bush a reason to go to war - as their reports on Saddam
Hussein's weapons programmes did in Iraq - that they got it wrong this time.
A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US
intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that
British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defence chiefs that Iran was
still pursuing nuclear weapons.
The source said British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff,
knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation. "We are
We want to know what the basis of it is, where did it come from? Was it on
the basis of the defector? Was it on the basis of the intercept material?
They say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They
say black is white. They will say anything to throw us off.
"It's not as if the American intelligence agencies are regarded as brilliant
performers in that region. They got badly burned over Iraq."
A US intelligence source has revealed that some American spies share the
concerns of the British and the Israelis. "Many middle- ranking CIA veterans
believe Iran is still committed to producing nuclear weapons and are
concerned that the agency lost a number of its best sources in Iran in
2004," the official said.
The Foreign Office is studying a new text of a third United Nations Security
Council resolution that would impose tough travel bans on regime figures and
penalise banks that do business with Iran.
But diplomats say the chances of winning Chinese and Russian support for the
move are in freefall. A Western diplomat said: "It's created a lot of
difficulties because of the timing, just as we were about to go for a third
Bruce Reidel, who spent 25 years on the Middle East desks at the CIA and the
National Security Council, said: "By going public they have embarrassed our
friends, particularly the British and the Israelis. They have given our foes
insights into our most secret intelligence and taken most of the options off
Ephraim Sneh, until recently Israel's deputy minister of defence, warned
that military action would be the only option if the world community did not
institute robust sanctions. "No one can rule out with high confidence that
somewhere in Iran, 70 times the size of Israel, there is one lab working on
the weapons programme," Mr Sneh told The Sunday Telegraph.
"[Military action] is not a desired option; it is a last resort. That's why
sanctions are so important. We have to urge the international community to
be serious about sanctions and to take necessary measures to defend the