Pentagon Nixed 1998 US Nuclear Scientists’ Probe of Iranian Program
In 1998, the Defense Department vetoed a delegation of prominent U.S. nuclear specialists to go to Iran to investigate its nuclear program at the invitation of the government of newly-elected Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, according to the nuclear scientist who was organizing the mission.
The Pentagon objected to the delegation’s mission even though it was offered the option of including one or more scientists of its own choosing on the delegation, according to Dr. Behrad Nakhai, the nuclear scientist who was organizing it.
The Pentagon veto of the nuclear scientists’ delegation eliminated the Khatami government’s most promising initiative to promote a thaw in U.S.-Iran relations by weakening a key U.S. argument for viewing Iran as a threat.
The Bill Clinton administration had been accusing Iran of wanting nuclear weapons, based not on intelligence on the nuclear program but on the assumption that Iran would use enriched uranium for nuclear weapons rather than for civilian power.
In a series of interviews with IPS, Nakhai, an Iranian who had come to the United States after high school, got a PhD in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and was a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, provided a detailed account of the episode.