Putting a Face on Iran Policies a Study in Frustration

Mark Hibbs, now of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a nuclear-journalism legend: no one tracked the AQ Khan-nuclear black market with more tenacity and in more depth. At Arms Control Wonk, he writes, regarding the difficulty determining exactly who makes the decisions about Iran’s nuclear program that it is far from

… clear who key personel [sic] in Iran–including Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading scientist–are taking orders from. And it would appear that difficulties experienced by the [International Atomic Energy Agency] in assigning personal responsibility or authority for directing nuclear activities in Iran involving military-affiliated personnel and organizations–in particular the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)–may be similar to problems the U.S. government is currently facing in trying to establish a watertight connection between suspects it says were planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, and higher-ups at the top of the Iranian government. [Emphasis added.]

The line we heard from the U.S. last week that there was a direct connection between the alleged perpetrators of the foiled assassination plot and Iran’s top leadership has since been qualified by some U.S. officials who acknowledge that that relationship might not be so direct after all. In the IAEA’s nuclear investigation, similar forensic problems have arisen over the last five or six years.

In other words, just as it’s impossible to trace the assassination plot to the IRGC

… there’s no slam-dunk record on file showing that someone at the top of the Iranian regime authorized scientists or procurement agents to go for broke and steer the nuclear program in the direction of nuclear weapons.