Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 08, 2011

The RAND Report That Wasn't One

Updated below

A somewhat curious news piece appeared yesterday in the Israel Ynetnews, the British Daily Mail and was picked up at the Weekly Standard and elsewhere.

The Iranian regime is closer than ever before to creating a nuclear bomb, according to RAND Corporation researcher Gregory S. Jones.

At its current rate of uranium enrichment, Tehran could have enough for its first bomb within eight weeks, Jones said in a report published this week.

He added that despite reports of setbacks in its nuclear program, the Iranian regime is steadily progressing towards a bomb. Unfortunately, Jones says, there is nothing the US can do to stop Tehran, short of military occupation.

The researcher based his report on recent findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), published two weeks ago. Making the bomb will take around two months, he says, because constructing a nuclear warhead is a complicated step in the process.

While one Gregory S. Jones is a RAND staff member, I first failed to find the report he allegedly published. His last one listed on his RAND publications page is from 2009 and headlined "The Global Technology Revolution China, In-Depth Analyses: Emerging Technology Opportunities for the Tianjin Binhai New Area (TBNA) and the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA)". Hmmm ... Mr Gregory Jones' academic qualification is a BA in biology. While he has written for RAND about proliferation years ago I find nothing there that lets me assume that he ever worked on the Iran issue.

But what is even more curious is that RAND indeed published a report on Iran yesterday: Iran's Nuclear Future - Critical U.S. Policy Choices. The authors are Lynn E. Davis, Jeffrey Martini, Alireza Nader, Dalia Dassa Kaye, James T. Quinlivan and Paul Steinberg.

No Gregory S. Jones there.

The report, financed by the U.S. Air Force, is not about stopping Iran's civil nuclear program but about policy alternatives on how to handle the country in general. It contains the usual boilerplate but certainly nothing about "military occupation". Indeed it recommends selective engagement of Tehran on several issues. Marc Pyruz at Uskowi on Iran thinks its good but finds the RAND report's selectiveness in engaging schizophrenic:

While the policy advocacy of limited cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran is encouraging, one wonders why such advocacy is not also inclusive of Iran's nuclear program, such as adopting or building upon one of Iran's numerous compromise offers such as the one outlined in the Tehran Declaration of 2010.

But back to the issue of Mr. Jones. I finally found his report via a link at Business Insider. It is a simple five pager issued on June 2 without any letterhead or mentioning of RAND. It does some very simplified calculation of possible enrichment scenarios Iran could take in Natanz or elsewhere. Its exaggerated time-line calculations totally ignore that any higher enrichment in the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz would require a serious reconfiguration of the enrichment cascades working there as well as the need to solve other technical problems and details of building a bomb. Jones also includes this falsehood:

since the FEP is not continuously monitored by the IAEA, the process could be well along or even completed before it was discovered.

Anyone with a bit of knowledge on the issue knows that the plant is Natanz is under 24/7 IAEA video observation. There are radiation detectors installed which immediately would let ring bells in Vienna should they sniff some higher enriched stuff and IAEA inspectors regularly visit the plant unannounced. Joshua Pollack, who certainly knows more about nuclear stuff than any BA program in biology will have taught, finds that safeguards at Natanz are sound and cheating them impossible.

Jones' short paper also quotes Bibi Netanyahoo, which might hint to who paid him for writing it. It was published at the website of the Nonproliferation Education Center which is led by the hawkish rightwinger Henry Sokolski.

My guess here is that someone wanted to preempt the real RAND report, which recommends to:

Pursue bilateral dialogues related to areas of common interest, such as instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, narcotics trafficking, natural disaster relief, refugees, and other humanitarian crises.

This by playing up an amateurishly moonlighted report by Gregory Jones. Ynetnews and others are scare quoting an unqualified RAND member's private report while on the same day a real RAND report is issued which includes the recommendation to engage Iran. That real report and its recommendation for engagement will of course be ignored by the very same news sites.

UPDATE: Via claudio in comments here, RAND now officially distances itself from Mr. Jones' paper: Paper on Iran Nuclear Materials Not Produced by RAND

A paper regarding Iran's efforts to produce nuclear materials has been erroneously referred to in some media reports as a RAND study. It was written by Gregory Jones, a part-time adjunct staff member, on his own time, and was published by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. The paper was not related to a RAND project and not reviewed for quality and objectivity by RAND. RAND has a considerable body of research on Iran and related topics which may be found here:

Some media outlets have gone so far as to suggest that RAND, via the paper, advocated an attack on Iran to halt its development of nuclear materials. RAND has done no such thing. RAND is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to rigorous research and analysis, and we believe it is important to correct such errors in coverage.

I somewhat doubt that Mr. Gregory Jones will be welcome for further studies at RAND.

Posted by b on June 8, 2011 at 15:43 UTC | Permalink


Thanks to b for a rather convincing bit of analysis. Of course, this sort of psy-op-cum-propaganda smokescreen is the norm for the neocon hasbara brigade. What seems to be interesting here, is the exposure of yet another skirmish in ongoing struggle between the unbeholden U.S. intelligence community, and the American spear carriers for extreme Israeli rightists. That battle has in recent years not seen even a small local victory for the politically overmatched Yankee spooks.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Jun 8 2011 16:20 utc | 1


Great catch on this "report". Thanks.

Posted by: joseph | Jun 8 2011 17:11 utc | 2

Very good piece of analysis. It does raise a number of 'peeling the onion further' type questions. Is/was Gregory Jones still at RAND or did someone wanted a 'RAND' name and he being a former affiliate and his price was cheap enough? Certainly he can't be there today after the torpedo job on RAND's real report. Also, who had an early copy of the RAND report and was part of the group that did this pre-emptive report? Without insiders it would be difficult to get this type of information but if possible it may unearth some of the people who are part of this network out to get Iran.

It is worthwhile to look in on MoA daily.

Posted by: Khalid | Jun 8 2011 18:19 utc | 3

@Khalid - Also, who had an early copy of the RAND report and was part of the group that did this pre-emptive report? Without insiders it would be difficult to get this type of information but if possible it may unearth some of the people who are part of this network out to get Iran.

Sokolski once was a deputy something under Paul Wolfowitz at the of DoD. He will have informal pre-access to RAND reports as will others have.

It is worthwhile to look in on MoA daily.


Posted by: b | Jun 8 2011 18:51 utc | 4

Great piece b, that won't be seen anywhere else.

More disinformation, that some neo-con somewhere, can quote as a real article to sway public opinion.

Posted by: ben | Jun 8 2011 18:57 utc | 5

now there's an official disclaimer: Paper on Iran Nuclear Materials Not Produced by RAND


It is worthwhile to look in on MoA daily

@ben -

More disinformation, that some neo-con somewhere, can quote as a real article to sway public opinion
yes, propaganda has become an art; a real Jones of Rand, a real Jones report on Iran, a real Rand report on Iran become a fake Rand report on Iran;

Posted by: claudio | Jun 8 2011 19:10 utc | 6

compliments to b for once again disentangling this web of deception

Posted by: claudio | Jun 8 2011 19:10 utc | 7

IMHO, it's worthwhile checking in on MoonofAL at least twice daily -- and the comments are usually very useful as well.

So glad the bar's open again!

Posted by: jawbone | Jun 8 2011 22:34 utc | 8

The problem is really the IAEA and it's press releases and statements. The are always vague and when pressed to prove claim that it was never intended to say this or that. The Zionist hasbara organisations are in cahoot with the leaders of IAEA and this is what must be exposed.

Posted by: hans | Jun 9 2011 9:51 utc | 10

ATimes 'parallel' story- Link

Posted by: Biklett | Jun 10 2011 19:08 utc | 11

@Biklett - it seems that Kaveh L Afrasiabi is reading MoA :-)

Posted by: b | Jun 10 2011 19:56 utc | 12

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