Israel may be behind a series of leaks implicating Iran in nuclear weapons experiments, Western diplomats say, stressing that in doing so Tel Aviv could have compromised the ongoing UN investigation into Tehran's nuclear activities and ambitions.
In its efforts to raise international pressure on Tehran, Israel supposedly carried out leaks of several documents from an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation, The Guardian reported on Monday citing Western diplomats.
The latest leak, published by the Associated Press last month, showed a diagram representing the results of a computer modeling of a 50-kiloton nuclear device. The chart was leaked by an unnamed official from “a country critical of Iran's atomic program," AP said.
However, the report came under fire shortly afterwards, with critics pointing out that the diagram was not only flawed but based on unclassified information. “This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax,” nuclear scientists Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress declared on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists website.
The IAEA stressed that the leaked graph was only a small part of a much broader collection of data in the inquiry into Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The leak's principal impact, a European diplomat told The Guardian, was that it compromised the UN nuclear watchdog's ongoing investigation.
"This is just one small snapshot of what the IAEA is working on, and part of a much broader collection of data from multiple sources," the diplomat said. "The particular document turns out to have a huge error but the IAEA was aware of it and saw it in the context of everything it has. It paints a convincing case."
Despite increasingly heated rhetoric from Tel Aviv and Washington, the international community still lacks evidence that Iran has been working on nuclear weapons since 2003. However, the IAEA’s publication of summary intelligence on an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program helped the US and EU to impose a new round of sanctions against Tehran.
Now, the “amateurish hoax” is said to threaten the position of the IAEA's inspectors.
"Whoever did this has undermined the IAEA's credibility and made it harder for it to do its work," David Albright, a nuclear expert at the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, said, as cited by The Guardian.
Talks between the international community and Iran have been fruitless so far, with the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program continuing to create tensions in the region.
Iran's critics say it wants to create a nuclear weapon under the guise of its civilian industry. They want to force Tehran to stop uranium enrichment, claiming that the country is hoarding fissile material for an eventual bomb.
Iran denies the allegations, saying it is pursuing peaceful nuclear development, maintaining that it says it needs uranium as fuel for research reactors and eventually for nuclear power plants. Iran currently has one Russian-built power plant in Bushehr, but Russia both supplies the fuel rods for it and processes the spent fuel.