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On paper, MERLIN was supposed to stunt the development of Tehran's nuclear program by sending Iran's weapons experts down the wrong technical path. The CIA believed that once the Iranians had the blueprints and studied them, they would believe the designs were usable and so would start to build an atom bomb based on the flawed designs. But Tehran would get a big surprise when its scientists tried to explode their new bomb.
Senior CIA officials played an important role in the Clinton administration's efforts to downplay evidence of Iran's terrorist ties in the late 1990s, according to several CIA sources. In 1996 or 1997, a well-placed officer with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Iran's foreign intelligence service, was cooperating with the CIA. In meetings in Europe, just months after the Khobar attack occurred, the Iranian source provided the CIA with evidence that Iran was behind the bombing, according to CIA officials. The Iranian told the CIA he had been meeting with several senior Iranian officials after the bombing, and they were celebrating their successful operation.