The CIA has been telling American presidents since the Bush administration that Iran was not building a nuclear weapon, that it ended its nuclear weapons program in the late 1990s and was pursuing peaceful uses for nuclear power.
Many outside analysts, including Israel’s Mossad, scoffed at that analysis. As it turns out, that may have been the CIA’s second-biggest intelligence blunder in its history, the first being 9/11.
Unbeknownst to the CIA, Israel had burrowed deep into the Iranian government and nuclear program. And what they found shows that Iran’s nuclear program was hardly peaceful.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was able to obtain a recording of recently-assassinated Iranian nuclear weapons chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in a discussion with a colleague talking about the Iranian government wanting him to “build five warheads” but not giving him the resources to carry out his orders.
The recording was made in 2008 and played for President George W. Bush during a visit to Israel. A report detailing the meeting and the secret recording appeared in Yedioth Ahronoth, a daily newspaper with the largest circulation in Israel.
Israel intelligence managed to recruit an Iranian official close to the recently assassinated Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and recorded the nuclear scientist speaking about his efforts to produce “five warheads” on behalf of the Islamic Republic, according to a Friday report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.
This top-secret recording was played in 2008 by former prime minister Ehud Olmert for then-president George W. Bush during a visit by Bush to Israel and was a key element in convincing the Americans to step up efforts to combat Iran’s nuclear program, the report said.
After playing the recording, Olmert asked Bush point-blank if he would help Israel attack the Iranian nuclear program. Bush declined but agreed to Olmert’s suggestion that they carry out intelligence operations against the Iranian program.
But Fakhrizedeh, who claimed in public that he had nothing to do with the Iranian nuclear program, had not been unknown to the Israelis. They had been following his career for decades.
According to the Yedioth report, written by the newspaper’s well-connected investigative reporter Ronen Bergman, Israel had been compiling a dossier on Fakhrizadeh for nearly three decades, long discounting the scientist’s claims that he had nothing to do with any weapons program.
For Israel, the recordings were the final proof that Iran’s nuclear program was not peaceful, as Tehran repeatedly claimed.
The Israeli government did not share this recording with the U.S. government, only with Bush, who swore to Olmert he’d never reveal it. Would history have turned out differently if he did?
According to the report, Fakhrizadeh could be heard giving details about the development of Iranian nuclear weapons. However, the Yedioth report only quotes selected phrases, without the word nuclear. The scientist complains that the government is not providing him with sufficient funds to carry out his work. On the one hand, Fakhrizadeh says, in an apparent reference to his superiors, “they want five warheads,” but on the other, “they aren’t letting me work.”
Fakhrizadeh then goes on to criticize colleagues in the defense ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the report.
Bush told Olmert that he would never support an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and said, “I will tell you that the United States does not intend to act, either, as long as I serve as president.” Not exactly the warmonger the hysterical left was claiming during Bush’s tenure where we were ready to attack Iran every other week.
The Mossad raid on the warehouse in Tehran in 2018, where they made off with thousands of documents related to the nuclear program, only confirmed what Fahhrizedeh said on the tape. Iran never gave up its efforts to build a nuclear bomb and is almost certainly continuing those efforts today.