‘Operation Merlin': Another Self-Serving CIA Project against IRAN

TEHRAN (FNA)- The jury is still out in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling for allegedly having leaked the story of “Operation Merlin” – the covert CIA effort to lure Iran into working on phony plans for a key component of a nuclear weapon – to New York Times reporter James Risen.

But “Operation Merlin” itself was also on trial. The CIA was hoping that testimony by prosecution witnesses and a series of declassified CIA cables introduced as evidence would show that Risen’s account was wrong in recounting that the CIA’s human asset “Merlin” had immediately spotted a flaw in the plans to be turned over to Iran that Iranian engineers might be able to spot as well.

The cables reporting the incident and “Merlin’s” testimony both indicate that what “Merlin” saw was not a flaw in the schematics of the device, but a discrepancy between the schematics and the parts list accompanying it that would cause the Iranians to doubt the asset’s cover story.

But the evidence also reveals a larger story of a half-baked operation dreamed up by weapons specialists and managers who were ignorant of the most basic facts about the Iranians and their nuclear program. They created a cover story or “legend” for the Russian émigré scientist “asset” now known as “Merlin” that was so questionable that he never believed the Iranians would fall for it.

The exercise was pointless, moreover. The CIA did not claim that Iran had a nuclear weapons program when the planning of the operation began in 1996, and continued to offer no firm conclusion about Iran’s nuclear intentions through 1998.

Only in mid-1999, when the CIA needed to justify the operation to get White House approval for it, did it insert one reference to “Iran’s nuclear weapons research and development program” into its regular half-yearly intelligence assessment of Iran’s WMD policy for the first time.

The cables show that sometime in 1996, the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division (CPD) came up with the idea of getting experts at a national laboratory to design a key part in a nuclear explosive device called a “fireset” or “firing set”, among other terms, that was so seriously flawed that it could not be made to work. The device would then be dangled in front of Iran, in the belief that the Iranians would snap it up and expend huge amounts of time, money and manpower to try to get it work.

In September 1996, the CPD started looking for a Russian émigré nuclear weapons specialist “asset” who knew about “fireset” technology. As a result, CPD recruited a former senior Russian engineer identified in redacted CIA documents and testimony at the trial only as “Merlin”.

During 1997 and 1998, while the false set of plans for the “fire set” was being created by experts at one of the national laboratories, “Merlin” was busy writing e-mails and letters to organizations and individuals in Iran who might have some interest in the subject. He was signing his own name and identifying himself accurately as having worked at the Soviet Arzamas 16 nuclear weapons laboratory.

That remarkable feature of the operation reveals the hypocrisy of the prosecution argument, presented by former national security adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, that the exposure of the operation endangered the life of the asset.

At a meeting in San Francisco in November 1998, Merlin was introduced to the schematics of the “fireset” and the parts list to accompany it for the first time.

The secret hovering over the meeting was that Merlin’s case officers were “steering him away from any notion that the design is flawed,” as they were instructed to so, according to a 28 May, 1997 CIA cable. Thus the CPD was seeking to deceive both the “target” and the “asset”.

The deception began to fall apart immediately. Merlin testified on video last week, hidden from journalists in the courtroom by a high screen, that when he saw the schematics and the parts list for the fireset, he told the operation’s manager and two control officers that the most important parts were missing from the schematics. In one of the three interviews Merlin had with the FBI, he was more emphatic. “It’s fake. It will not work. Some parts are missing,” he recalled telling his CIA handlers, according to the FBI report read by defense counsel.

The “case officers” assured Merlin that the omission was “on purpose,” in keeping with the “incompleteness” of the fire set plans, according to the CIA cable reporting the meeting. Merlin was told to acknowledge the omission and to explain it as part of what the Iranians would get once they paid for the package.

What they did not tell Merlin, however, was that they had not realized that such a discrepancy had existed until he spotted it, and that they found out upon further inquiry that the original Russian émigré scientist who had worked on the falsified device did not even know how to make the missing parts.

Merlin was also disturbed to find that the parts list was in English – obviously an odd choice for a former senior Russian engineer whose collaborators were all supposed to be former Soviet engineers as well. “I told them I preferred to see the parts list in Russian,” he testified.

Merlin continued to express concerns about the credibility of his “legend” and his own personal security. He complained about the resume he had cooked up, which claimed scientific experience at Arzanas 16 that the Iranians could easily learn was untrue if they checked. Sterling dismissed the danger, making the wholly unconvincing argument that once the Iranians realized that he was offering a business deal involving nuclear weapons, they would feel no need for an extensive investigation,” according to a 4 February, 1999 cable.

But Merlin continued to fret about Iranian scrutiny. He began refusing to use his real name in letters and e-mails. In February 1999, he fretted that some of the emails he had gotten back from his many attempts to make contact with someone who might be connected with nuclear matters may have come from Iranian intelligence. Merlin informed his handlers that he had twice gotten error messages telling him that intrusions had been detected on his Hotmail account. He even raised the possibility that the Iranians could track him through his e-mails to his residence.

In January 2000, Merlin threatened to quit the project altogether, and walked out of a meeting in February to go over the details of the trip to Vienna he was to take shortly to deliver the plans to the Iranian mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency. When his handlers suggested that he was afraid of having to meet the Iranians, he did not disagree.

Merlin’s account of the operation after his trip to Vienna in early March makes it clear that he contrived to avoid any encounter with an Iranian official. He claimed he couldn’t find the Iranian mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, although he had the address and directions. He said that when he finally found the office the following day he didn’t have the package with him, and that when he returned later that day and the following day, the office was closed. That was his explanation for simply dropping his package in the Iranian mission’s mail slot instead of handing it over to an Iranian official as planned.

CPD’s managers nevertheless declared the operation an initial success. In early May, CPD wrote in cable with the titled, “Iranians Take the Initial Bait” that the Iranian mission had couriered the package to Iran rather than tossing it in the trash, adding, “We are off to a good start.”

Meanwhile, CPD officials were already thinking of using Merlin as bait for at least one other country, according to a CIA cable on 5 April, 2000. They somehow managed to keep the operation running to 2003, according to testimony at the trial, despite the lack of any Iranian response.

The operation was bumbling and pointless, but the CPD believed that it was good for its business, expanding the range of its services and putting it on the front lines of central national security issues. “Operation Merlin” provides a dramatic illustration of how a bureaucracy serves its own institutional interests by pushing its pet program or operation in the name of national security.

By Gareth Porter

This article originally appeared in the Middle East Eye on January 23.
Source: Fars News

Tomcat Fights: Vigorous Iranian pilots’ skill and valor-Part 2 : Tomcats VS MIG25s

This documentary depicts the courage and skill of Iranian F-14 tomcat pilots despite the harsh sanctions during the Iraqi imposed war.

Tomcat VS MIG25
The Tomcat was one of the best jet fighter of its time and the only one non US air force who fly them at the time was the Iranian Air force. It could fly at Mach 2.35, and had the most sophisticated embarked combat system : the Hughes AWG9 radar combat system associated with the AIM54 Phoenix missile.
The Radar of the F14 could follow and engage 24 targets at the same time, then the radar would select 6 of them, lock-on them, and it would fire 6 missiles at the same time to destroy them. All this from a distance of 250 kms and at a speed of Mach 5.

80 units were sold to Iran at the time of the Shah.Yet when the Iraqis started the Iraq-Iran war, the sanctions imposed on Iran by the two Super Powers (USA and USSR) prevent them to maintain supply of F14 parts, Phoenix missiles and even G-suits to fly at high altitudes.

The MIG25 was the fastest jetfighter at the time, it could reach Mach 3. Initially designed to chase the Mach 3 flying SR-71Blackbird spy plane, some 24 MIG25 were sold to Iraq.

The Iranian pilots had to use all their imagination, skill, and courage to engage the MIG25s when defending Iranian airspace during the imposed Iraq war.
This is their story.

General Suleimani: US, ISIL Destined to Failure

The redoubtable commander of IRGC Quds forces has predicted a debacle for conspirators of bloody terrorist acts in Syria and Iraq, Mehr news agency reported.

Major. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting held for the memory of IRGC Ground Forces fallen commanders, said resolvedly that “any movement, either small- or large-scale, such as US military campaign or ISIL terrorist actions are predestined to failure, since they lack a crucial element as truth; anything with origins other than truth would not produce any definite outcome, neither would it embrace triumph in the end.”

Suleimani believed that any campaign against Islam and Iran would fail since they had no truth of themselves. “The real factor of success of Islamic Republic of Iran and Islam is this internal truth,” the IRGC commander asserted.

Suleimani predicted a failure as the ultimate destination of what he emphasized to be ‘bloody terrorism in Syria and Iraq,’ for the forces behind such campaigns in the region. “What is important is the end of events; you should wait and see the end; terrorists had not ever come victorious with enduring impact in the history, since they relied upon strategies devoid of truth,” he told reporters.

Source: Al Manar

Rouhani: israel Preventing Iran’s Medical Aid to Gaza

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the recent Israeli attacks on the defenseless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and said Tel Aviv does not allow Iran’s medical help to reach the Palestinians.

“They (the Israelis) kill children, women and the elderly people and unfortunately do no allow us to help them,” President Rouhani said on Tuesday.

He noted that Iran is ready to send medicine and medical teams to Gaza to treat the wounded people, and said, “We are ready to accept the injured Palestinians in Iranian hospitals.”

On Tuesday, a large number of Iranian students and teachers joined a rally in front of the UN mission in Tehran to extend their full support for the Palestinians who have been under Israeli attacks for 16 consecutive days.

The marchers chanted “Down with israel”, as they were categorically condemning murder of Palestinian student Mohammad Abu Khadir.

The protesters also blasted silence of other countries on killing of innocent Palestinians, and called for Muslims’ unity to confront Israeli crimes.

“The Zionist occupying regime once again confirmed its barbarous nature with cruel killing of defenseless Gazans, especially women and children,” the protesters said in a statement.

Israel has been pounding the blockaded Gaza for 16 consecutive days, killing at least 670 people and injuring more than 3,700 others.

Source: Fars News

Yeah, Whatever: US State Dept’s Jen Psaki mixes Iraq with Iran, gas with oil during briefing

16 juin 2014 – Long-suffering State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki endured another torrid press briefing, as she was forced to earnestly defend some distinctly unsavory language from Ukrainian politicians, and struggled with the difference between Iraq and Iran.

IRGC to Use RQ-170 (Drone) for Bombing Missions

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian version of the RQ-170 which has been manufactured through the reverse engineering of the US drone which was tracked and hunted down in Iran late in 2011, has been equipped by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) with bombing capability to attack the US warships in any possible battle.

This capability was revealed during Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei’s Sunday visit to an exhibition of the latest achievements of the IRGC Aerospace Force. The Supreme Leader had a two-hour tour of the IRGC’s Aerospace Exhibition where state-of-the-art equipment and hardware were showcased.

The advanced radar-evading US RQ-170 drone downed by the IRGC more than two years ago and its indigenized model developed by Iranian experts through reverse engineering were among the most important sections of the exhibition.

The US army uses the drone for reconnaissance missions but the IRGC Aerospace experts have equipped the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with bombing capabilities, enabling it to operate as a bomber aircraft against the US warships in any possible showdown between the two countries.

In December, Lieutenant Commander of the IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Salami announced that the Iranian version of the US drone, RQ-170, would be unveiled to the public soon.

“The construction of this drone will finish soon and most of the job has been done now,” General Salami told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran in December, 2013.

In relevant remarks in October, Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that Iran moved as much as 35 years ahead in building drone engines by reverse engineering the US drone, RQ-170 which was tracked and hunted down in Iran late in 2011.

The RQ-170 engines are the fifth generation and the engines of Iranian unmanned planes are the third generation, Hajizadeh said, adding that to produce the engine we had to spend 35 years on the project.

He said that the home-made version of the US drone RQ-170 captured by the IRGC would make its maiden flight in the near future.

In April, 2013, a senior Iranian parliamentary official announced that Iran has reverse engineered the RQ-170, adding that the Iranian version of the drone would soon have a test flight.

“The brave personnel of the Armed Forces hunted down the drone with their knowledge and science and the Americans protested immediately and called for the return of the UAV,” Chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said in the Northern city of Rasht last April.

Iran has downed several US drones so far and Boroujerdi did not mention which one he meant, but explained, “The reverse engineering started immediately (by the Iranian experts after hunting down the US UAV) and the Iranian type of the US drone will fly in Iran’s Aerospace Organization soon which shows the Islamic Republic’s might and power.”

Boroujerdi’s remarks referred to RQ-170. The drone has special coatings and a batwing shape designed to help it penetrate other nations’ air defenses undetected. The existence of the aircraft, which is made by Lockheed Martin, has been known since 2009, when a model was photographed at the main US airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The unmanned surveillance plane lost by the United States in Iran was a stealth aircraft being used for secret missions by the CIA, US officials admitted in December. The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA’s fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.

Iran has downed many other US drones as well, and they have always started reproducing them after conducting reverse engineering on them.

Iran announced on December 4, 2011 that its defense forces had downed a US RQ-170 aircraft through a sophisticated cyber attack. The drone was the first such loss by the US. US officials have described the loss of the aircraft in Iran as a setback and a fatal blow to the stealth drone program.

The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA’s fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.

Since December, 2011, Iran has hunted down several more US drones of various types.

In January 2013, a deputy commander of the Iranian Navy announced that the country’s Army had hunted two more advanced RQ type UAVs.

“The air-defense units of the Army have hunted two enemy drones,” Deputy Commander of the Iranian Navy for Coordination Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari told FNA.

“These drones were from 11th series of the RQ class, and one of them was hunted in Shahrivar 1390 (August 21-September 19, 2011) and the other one in Aban (October 22-November 20, 2012),” Rastegari said, adding that the Army research center is now studying the two UAVs.

“Much of the data of these drones has been decoded by the Army’s Jihad and Research Center,” he said, but did not provide any further detail.

The remarks by the Iranian commander came after Iran announced on December 4, 2012 that the IRGC Navy had hunted a US UAV over the Persian Gulf after the drone violated the country’s airspace.

The IRGC navy commander announced at the time that the hunted UAV was a ScanEagle drone, adding that “such drones are usually launched from large warships”.

ScanEagle is a small, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.

Iran later reproduced its own model of ScanEagle through reverse engineering techniques.

Source: Fars News

Matthias Chang speaks about MH 370 flight

16 avr. 2014Matthias Chang Wen Chieh (60) is a former political secretary to former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad .

He has been active in anti-war movement – Premier Foundation. In 2009, Mathias Chang participated in the convoy Viva Palestina . Of religion Roman Catholic and lives in Kuala Lumpur .
On March 25, 2010, Judge Noor Azian Shaari at the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled Mathias Chang guilty of contempt of court. He was fined RM20, 000 or a month in prison. Cahang be the first witness in a defamation suit against American Express in 2002.

Fault is that he failed to apologize to the court after going quarrels between him, a judge and a lawyer in cross-examination by counsel in the proceedings of a defamation suit against American Express (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd on Thursday, March 25, 2010. Subsequently, Chang out of the witness box and to complain to the Chief Justice . arrested him.

Chang is a lawyer Manjit Singh. Zainur Zakaria act for Chang in contempt proceedings. American Express is represented by Prakash Menon.