Friday, August 23, 2013

Is This The Most Pathetic Sting Operation the U.S. Government Ever Concocted?

Ali Baba by Maxfield Parrish (1909)

It is well-known that the law enforcement and national security arms of the United States government routinely hatch and orchestrate elaborate sting operations, and then claim victory over thwarting nefarious plots that they themselves manufactured, planned, coordinated, funded and sometimes even led.

An extensive 2011 Mother Jones investigation by journalist Trevor Aaronson found that, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, “with three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.” As a result, agencies like the FBI continue touting their own successful defense of our sacred homeland from the over-hyped scourge of domestic and international terrorism, while fabricating the very schemes they themselves gallantly thwart and racking up convictions based upon clear entrapment.

Aaronson, who is the author of “The Terror Factory: Inside The FBI’s Manufactured War On Terrorism,” has said that the United States’ massive counter-terrorism budget would be better spent “identifying real threats and gathering intelligence rather than finding potential threats and trying to make them real.”

In its endless efforts to cast Iran as the most fearsome nation in the world and its internationally safeguarded and regularly inspected nuclear program as an ever-looming threat, the U.S. government’s sting industry went one step further down the rabbit hole this week when “US prosecutors have charged a man from Sierra Leone with trying to sell undercover agents 1,000 tonnes of yellowcake uranium,” Reuters reported today.

Apparently, the suspect – 33-year-old Patrick Campbell of Freetown – is the stupidest wannabe black market uranium dealer on the planet. He was “arrested at John F Kennedy airport on Wednesday after he arrived from Sierra Leone with the sample of uranium concealed in the soles of shoes in his luggage.”

Here’s the rundown:
Campbell said he was affiliated with a company engaged in mining and selling of uranium, gold, and diamonds for export and communicated via telephone, Skype and email that he was seeking to buy processed uranium 308, also known as yellowcake, to be delivered to Iran, [Homeland Security agent Louise] Miller said.
Yellowcake uranium, when enriched, can be used in the manufacture of nuclear fuel and weapons.
The uranium was to be disguised in a mix with other types of ore. The shipment for delivery to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas was to yield 1,000 tonnes of yellowcake, according to the criminal complaint.
After his arrest Campbell admitted to agents that he had engaged in talks for “a contract for the sale of uranium to be delivered to Iran”, the complaint said. He admitted having a sample with him.
So how did all this go down?

Well, according to the Homeland Security affidavit, Campbell “allegedly responded to an ad in May 2012 on the website seeking to purchase uranium that was placed by an undercover US agent posing as an American broker representing persons in Iran.”

Yes, he responded to an online ad. On a website called (How’s that for a little unintentional Orientalism?) The website is run by the Alibaba Group, “a family of Internet-based businesses which makes it easy for anyone to buy or sell online anywhere in the world.”

Where else would a devious Iranian mineral trader go for all his nefarious, sanctions-busting, nuclear weapons-making needs?

Quite simply, the story is preposterous. That Mr. Campbell would be lured by a fake broker for Iranian buyers to the United States, of all places, to make a secret uranium deal is embarrassing and sad.

Never once, in the series of events revealed through this case, is any actual connection to Iran ever made. With this in mind, the sensational headline accompanying the report – “Man caught in ‘uranium for Iran’ sting” – is all the more misleading and disingenuously alarmist.

Campbell is charged with violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, in addition to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which regulates trade involving foreign countries deemed by the President of the United States to pose an "unusual and extraordinary the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States." Iran has been deemed such a threat by every Commander-in-Chief since 1979.

If found guilty, Campbell - who was never contacted by anyone from or in Iran or with any connection whatsoever to that country - faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for moronically doing what an American intelligence agent asked him to do.

Such a bogus scare story about yellowcake being transferred from Africa to a Middle Eastern country accused of having a nuclear weapons program is eerily reminiscent of the claims made in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. Similarly silly allegations have been made about Iran obtaining aluminum tubes and magnets for its nuclear work – another echo of the Iraq narrative.

That Iran would even need to purchase black market yellowcake makes no sense considering Iran currently has adequate uranium ore resources of its own and the facilities to process it. Nevertheless, allegations about Iran acquiring yellowcake from Africa have proliferated for years.

This sting operation is the latest evidence of the utter waste of time and energy wasted on fear-mongering about an Iranian nuclear threat that literally does not exist.


Originally posted at Muftah.



August 24, 2013 - In response to reports about the U.S. government's sting operation, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Chairman of Iran's Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said today that this "US scenario" was a "joke."

He stated that because Iran has no need to buy yellowcake from the private citizens from other countries, the entire operation (or perhaps just its publicity) appears manufactured with the intent to undermine diplomatic overtures made by Iran toward the United States since the June election of Hassan Rouhani.

"Iran is among the producers of yellowcake; therefore, the claim has been designed with the aim of affecting Iran's talks with the P5+1 group under the new administration," Boroujerdi said, according to PressTV.

"Instead of waging a psychological war, Washington should seize the emerging opportunity in the new Iranian administration and pursue constructive dialog for putting an end to the issue of Iran's nuclear energy program,” Boroujerdi added.



Amir said...

The Islamic Republic does not have ample reserves of uranium:

Nima Shirazi said...

Good catch, Amir. Iran has long suggested it has reserves enough to meet its needs.

You are right, though, I should have written "adequate" rather than "ample."

I have updated the post.


Anonymous said...

Hardly "adequate".

The VVER-1000 at Bushehr alone will takes 150 tons of yellowcake a year.

Ardakan produces 60-66 tons of yellowcake annually.

According to the Red Book, Bandar Abbas can produce 21 tU, or about 25 tons of yellowcake annually.

That's the extent of their yellowcake production facilities.

So not adequate. Not even close. Especially if they are doing 20% enrichment for medical isotopes, which will disproportionately use more of their yellowcake.

I do agree, though, that the sting operation is better proof that there are clandestine sellers out there, rather than that Iran was specifically looking for that seller. But there is a big demand gap in uranium in Iran that is not being met.

So it's certainly a possibility. If you think that clandestine acquisition of uranium is a silly idea... then I'd suggest getting some historical perspective on the issue. Perhaps look at the history of Israel's program? (Or many other candidates...)