The accusation by US and other Western diplomats that Iran has been "stonewalling" the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) investigation of alleged past nuclear weapons work has been a familiar theme in mainstream media coverage of Iran's relations with the IAEA for years.
What remains virtually unknown, however, is how a brazen deception by the George W. Bush administration and a key official within the IAEA created the false narrative of Iranian refusal to cooperate with the IAEA and was used to justify harsh international sanctions.
The initial deception was the suggestion by the IAEA that Iran had acknowledged that the activities portrayed in controversial intelligence documents purportedly from an Iranian nuclear weapons project were real, but had claimed they were for non-nuclear purposes. The IAEA then used that brazen falsehood as a pretext to demand that Iran provide sensitive military information on its missile program - a demand that the US officials behind the scheme knew would be rejected. That ploy thus offered the Bush administration a crucial rationale for pushing for new international economic sanctions against Iran.
The story of that highly successful deception, assembled from the public record, interviews with former IAEA officials and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, shows the conscious misleading of the public was central to US policy at a crucial turning point in the nuclear issue.