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April 21, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

China-Iran ties
President Bush this week sought help from Chinese President Hu Jintao to help resolve Iran's defiance in its nuclear program, which the Bush administration thinks is moving toward nuclear weapons in the next few years.

What is being played down by U.S. officials who are seeking closer ties with China is the fact that China has been directly involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs for more than a decade. National security officials tell us the effort to enlist Beijing's support on Iran is like Samuel Johnson's quip about a second marriage: the triumph of hope over experience.

Classified U.S. intelligence reports dating from the early 1990s reveal that Beijing has been covertly backing Iranian nuclear efforts, as it did in Pakistan, with training and equipment.

One October 1991 report disclosed that the state-run China Nuclear Energy Industry Corp. was working with Iran's government to supply nuclear technology for a reactor facility being planned in western Iran.

A top-secret U.S. intelligence report from April 1996 revealed that a Chinese delegation of technicians traveled to Iran to take part in building a uranium enrichment facility at Isfahan. The report said: "The plant will produce uranium products that Iran can use to make fissile material for nuclear weapons." The technicians were the advance team who were planning construction of several nuclear-related plants. A month earlier, in March 1996, a group of Iranian nuclear technicians traveled to China to study technical documents for the nuclear construction.

Then in January 1999, the Pentagon's Joint Staff produced a classified intelligence report that revealed new details of how China was supplying Iran with materials and equipment for Tehran's nuclear and missile programs. The same month, the CIA revealed that China had concluded a deal to sell Iran special materials used in making nuclear fuel rods. In March 1999, a group of Iranian technicians were sent to Beijing University for training in missile guidance and development. That year, China also supplied the Iranians with advanced C-801 anti-ship cruise missiles.

By early December 1999, the National Security Agency reported that technicians from China and Pakistan were working at the Iranian underground nuclear laboratory at Isfahan. The site had not been declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency until 2003.

China was not the only nuclear supplier. Russia and North Korea also were helping the Iranian nuclear and missile programs.

Details of Chinese covert support were first reported in this newspaper and in Bill Gertz's 2004 book: "Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies."

Harassment month
The Naval Academy women's crew officer representative sent a memo to staff and faculty yesterday listing events for the school's observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The topic has become particularly touchy in Annapolis in the wake of several rape charges against school athletes.

A number of anti-sexual harassment events are planned:

•Statistics will be released by the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention (SAVI) group. It also plans to show the movie "North Country."

"While the movie primarily focuses on the harassment of women working in coal mines, there are many themes that are similar to sexual assault cases," the memo says.

SAVI also will sponsor a poster contest with the theme, "It's our issue, so let's take a stand."

•The English department is sponsoring "Under Covers 2006: Midshipmen's Perspectives on Gender."

"This is a midshipman-written, midshipman-performed event that uses theater to examine and openly discuss gender issues at the Naval Academy," the memo says.

•The academy will show a production of "Can I Kiss You," which puts "the responsibility where it belongs, on the person taking the action of touching another person."

Secrecy culture
Eliot A. Jardines, assistant deputy director of national intelligence for open source, has set five goals for improving open-source intelligence. The first and most important, he said recently, is to get U.S. intelligence agencies to rely on unclassified intelligence.

"The goal is to make open-source [intelligence] the source of first resort and to make it an enabler for the other intelligence disciplines," Mr. Jardines said.

"Our culture is one that values secrecy, and we need to move beyond the notion that the higher the classification the better the intelligence, when in reality classification is only an indicator of how well we need to protect that information," he said.

Other goals include hiring more open-source specialists; setting up a single network made up of the current six open-source databases in government; and creating a group of specialists who develop new ideas for open-source intelligence.

Mr. Jardines' comments appear at odds with harsh secrecy policies of the Bush administration, promoted by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, among others.

Mexico's Hugo
We wrote last week of a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assessment of Mexico that warns of the country's "vulnerability to continued insurgent activity and occasional, localized, violent upheavals."

There are fears that outgoing President Vicente Fox may be followed into power by a leftist anti-American in the mold of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who has all but declared war on the United States.

But we've checked with a few senior administration officials. They reassure us that Mexico has come too far with economic and political reforms to ever embrace Mr. Chavez's new form of socialism.

"Mexico's participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] will make the transition to a market economy irreversible," the DIA said in a more positive conclusion. "Northern Mexican states increasingly will become integrated with the U.S. economy — reflecting new direct foreign investment, substantial infrastructure improvements, and slowly expanding free trade arrangements with the rest of the world — while southern states will continue to lag in job and income growth."

Officials hope that NAFTA will one day lead to the production of so many jobs in Mexico that millions will not have to cross the U.S. border illegally.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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