I’m in Mourning

I’m in Mourning

by

Howard Adelman

Here you are rejoicing. Two days have passed and you have not had to feel guilty for not reading Howard’s blog. While you are grinning from ear-to-ear, I am in mourning. Not only have I lost my old computer and now have to type on the backup that, luckily, I had purchased in Victoria, but I keep making errors with my two-fingered typing. Though this is a Dell laptop like my previous one, the delete is in a different place so when I hit what I think is the delete key, the cursor goes to the end of the line. When I try to type “ee”, I type “rr” so feel comes out as frrl. When I do type delete in the new location, a period appears. And this computer skips in a different way than my last one. So this paragraph took five minutes rather than two minutes to type. Is there anything worse than clumsy fingers being soaked by tears falling on them as you try to write a blog?

And now I have to retype the second paragraph because I pressed the wrong key and the paragraph was deleted. You already know that I lost the blog I wrote for the day before yesterday. What you do not know was that the blog contained what I believe was the most significant analysis I had done on the Iranian nuclear negotiations. You also do not know that I also lost the blog I wrote yesterday, not as important as the previous one, but a blog that I felt very proud about as well. Worst of all, I lost all the research materials I had collected in one file for my next series of blogs on Libya. I had not backed up any of these files yet on my other computer. You not only do not know about these losses, but what happened and why I think it happened.

Yesterday, Nancy drove me several towns away (a drive of about 30 minutes) to our local computer repair shop. Then drove me back to the computer shop. Then back again. We left at 9:30 a.m. We did not get back home until almost five. What had happened? On Tuesday morning, as I told you, as I was completing that morning’s blog, it disappeared from my screen. What actually happened was that some strange material suddenly appeared on my screen. I thought it was a pop-up ad and, without looking at it closely, deleted it. The deletion then wiped out all my open files – the research file for the next day’s blog, the back-up research material for the blog I was writing and the blog itself.

I spent a good part of Tuesday searching for that file to no avail. I am computer challenged, but not terribly so. I have lost material before and somehow I usually find it after an intensive search for an hour or two. I could not find the missing material this time and shifted to re-creating the research file on the anticipated effects of a signed nuclear deal with Iran on Israel-U.S. relations for the next day’s blog. It was far easier re-assembling that material than recollecting the material I had used for that day’s blog that had disappeared. It dealt with the analysis of material revealed on Monday of a highly secret Mossad report dated October 2012 to the Israeli government on the status of the Iranian nuclear program. The hardest material to re-create would be the one page detailed summary I had prepared of the contents of that report. In any case, I was hoping I would still find my missing blog.

Tuesday evening, lo and behold, and to my chagrin and Nancy saying, “I told you so,” my blog reappeared. It, as well as numerous other autosave documents from the last few weeks, suddenly were there on my screen. And I cannot tell you whether it was the result of something I did or this was simply manna from heaven delivered by the collective memory of the computer cloud in our contemporary heaven. But there it was. Not the final version, but probably the version from about fifteen minutes before I lost the document. So a quick read and a half an hour of work and the blog was ready for sending out in the morning. I actually tried to send it out Tuesday evening, but I was not able to connect to the internet and decided to leave it overnight and try to send it out on Wednesday morning. The material that had re-appeared also included the appendix which contained my analysis of the Mossad 2012 report. I had saved that in a separate file. So I had the full blog.

I also had the material for Wednesday morning’s blog and the material I had reassembled that day with a great deal of overlap, but with some additional material as well. I would get up the next (yesterday) morning, send out the blog from the day before and then write my blog for that day.

It was not to be. When I awoke, I could still not connect to the internet. So I wrote that morning’s blog and waited until Nancy or one of our guests woke up to help me get on the internet. I finished the second blog, everyone woke up, but no one was able to help me get connected. My computer (the old one) showed that I was connected, but I was unable to upload Firefox or Xplorenet and send out my blogs. The blogs were there on the computer, but I could not share them in the usual way.

That is when we decided to take the computer to the hospital. We got to the computer store and the proprietor opened up the computer and tried to connect me to the internet. The material was there in front of him to send out, but somehow the computer would not allow him to make a connection. He said he would have to back up my files and reconfigure the system. He asked if I had saved my files. I said I had. He asked permission to close the files, a procedure necessary for his backing up my files and figuring out why I was not connecting to the internet. I said, “Sure.” Big mistake! I should have copied the opened files first before closing them, but you know what they say about hindsight.

After spending time shopping for gifts to bring back to Toronto, going to the bank and having lunch, we returned to the computer store. He said that the computer was not ready. He would need a few more hours. We came back later and again he said it was not ready. The long and the short of it in the end was that he said he had been unable to either fix my computer or even backup my files. He had never seen anything like it. He asked if I had smashed the computer on the floor or against a wall. I assured him that I had not.

He said that he would have to get hold of a much more powerful system to try to access and back up my files. He would also have to order a new hard drive. Not only was my software system a mess, but the hard drive would now be useless. He asked me to phone him and he would let me know when he would have the far more powerful machine and when he could get a new hard drive delivered. He said that alone would cost about 2,000 pesos. But he was frank. He was very doubtful if he would ever be able to back up my files from my destroyed hard drive and software systems. As much as I insisted, he refused to charge me for the time he had spent on my machine.

On the return home through the mountain highway, I was not the best of company. In my head, I replayed what had happened over the last 60 hours. I tried to recall what had happened when my blog disappeared from my screen. On one side, I had the purloined Mossad material. On the other half of the screen – at home I work much more efficiently with the equivalent of seven screens – was my blog on which I was working. When I sent out the message that there would be no blog that day, I received several notes commiserating with me. But I also received a note from a former graduate student of mine in Calgary who wrote, “It must be the work of the Israeli-American intelligence hacking community.” I, of course, thought he was joking.

I thought again. I knew something about Israel’s skills in computer sabotage. After all, they had penetrated the computer systems of the Iranian nuclear program on at least three different occasions, one time with a devastating effect on cascades of their centrifuges. What if malware had been built into their intelligence report so that if anyone who was unauthorized accessed the secret material, their computer would become infected and their software system destroyed. After all, the computer store guy had said that he had never seen anything like it. Perhaps Mossad had destroyed my computer.

I also wondered why there were no detailed reports in the media on this purloined material dubbed “The Spy Cables” since I had found the one document that I had read to be quite sensational. After all, this reported leak of hundreds of secret intelligence papers from agencies all over the world, not only offered “a glimpse into the murky world of espionage,” it also provided a check list to compare public political claims with the information their own intelligence services were providing. The cable that interested me was relayed to South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) shortly after the September 2012 address in which Netanyahu had displayed a cartoonish diagram of a bomb with a fuse, marked with a 70 percent line and another “red line” at 90 percent as described in the Al Jazeera news story on Monday headlined, “Mossad contradicted Netanyahu on Iranian nuclear programme.” Perhaps the material was bogus. But even that would merit a major story. Besides, on reading the document, it seemed to be totally consistent with what I had read in IAEA reports as well as with the style of another Mossad report I had read years ago. Al Jazeera wrote:

Less than a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 percent of the way to completing its ‘plans to build a nuclear weapon,’”, Israel’s intelligence service believed that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”…A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a “bottom line” assessment of Iran’s nuclear work. It appears to contradict the picture painted by Netanyahu of Tehran racing towards acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic’s scientists are “working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment reactors”. Such activities, however, “will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given”. That view tracks with the 2012 US National Intelligence estimate, which found no evidence that Iran had thus far taken a decision to use its nuclear infrastructure to build a weapon, or that it had revived efforts to research warhead design that the US said had been shelved in 2003. Netanyahu had told the UN General Assembly that, “by next spring, by most at next summer at current enrichment rates, [Iran] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” to enrich uranium to weapons grade.

Perhaps the absence of detailed follow-up stories was a result of those media agencies having their computers discombobulated as mine had been. So when I thought of trying to access once again the one document from the reams of intelligence material from the U.S., Russia, South Africa, Israel, Britain, etc. that Al Jazeera had obtained and shared with The Guardian on Monday, I had second thoughts. I had read only a very tiny portion of the material – that which dealt with the Mossad’s October 2012 report on the Iranian nuclear program. It was a sepia-coloured document that I found hard to read, but did manage and made detailed noted which I digested and summarized. In my blog, I had reprinted the internet address to find the material again. That was lost, but I could get it back by following the same route I had on Monday. But what if I found it, accessed the material with the same result – an infected computer with a destroyed software system? I decided I could not take a chance at this time. I would have to tell you what the sensational parts of the report contained from my memory, but if anyone cares to access the material and test whether my memory is accurate, the Al Jazeera story will provide the leads to the actual document.

  1. The report said that although Iran had conducted research on weaponizing nuclear material, no program was underway, nor had a program even been designed, to create a weaponized missile for delivering a nuclear explosive.
  2. The Arak plutonium reactor would not be ready for operation until mid-2014 and even then no plutonium-based nuclear weapon could be created until a necessary complementary plant was built to decommission nuclear material.
  3. Even if Iran had everything in place, it would only be able to produce one plutonium bomb per year.
  4. Mossad intelligence had been excellent since its reports on the amount of both 20% enriched and 5% enriched nuclear material, as well as on the numbers of active and passive centrifuges (10,000 + 9,000) and their types (first generation and advanced) were totally consistent with what IAEA found in its 2014 inspections.
  5. Most importantly, in October 2012, it was unlikely that Iran would be able to make a nuclear device for several years.
  6. There was no evidence to indicate that Iran was trying to upgrade its uranium stock beyond a 20% enrichment level needed for a nuclear device.
  7. Nevertheless, the pattern of Iranian behaviour remained suspicious with respect to an ultimate aim of making and owning nuclear weapons.
  8. The report was silent on Iran’s support for terrorism, its search to become a regional power and its determination to exterminate Israel.

The bottom line – Iran’s immanent emergence as a nuclear power had been grossly overstated.

With the release of this report as well as the leaked contents of the immanent negotiated deal on Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Bennett panicked. They held a joint press conference to reiterate their fears of Iran as a nuclear threat and a threat to the whole world. What they said was grossly misleading even though most individual sentences or clauses were not specifically false. I showed how the statements were not lies – it depended, for example, on what was meant to be “on the verge.” But they were very far from the truth. Tomorrow, I will analyze their statements and suggest the reasons for their panic and the implications of the fallout on American-Israeli relations, especially on the legitimate fears of Iran’s rise even if it never becomes a nuclear power in the next 10-15 years. The evidence seems to be that Israel had held onto the position of Iran as a nuclear power as a way to rally the world to Israel’s side in trying to prevent Iran emerging as a power at all, even a non-nuclear one.

Had Netanyahu gambled and lost? What are the consequences?

Tomorrow: The Consequences of an Iranian Nuclear Deal on U.S.-Israel Relations

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