Operation Merlin is an alleged United States covert operation under the Clinton Administration to provide Iran with a flawed design for building a nuclear weapon in order to delay the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
In his book State of War, author and New York Times intelligence correspondent James Risen claims that the CIA chose a defected Russian nuclear scientist to provide deliberately flawed nuclear warhead blueprints to Iranian officials in February 2000. Operation Merlin backfired when the nervous Russian scientist noticed the flaws and pointed them out to the Iranians, hoping to enhance his credibility and to protect himself against retaliation by the Iranians, while still advancing what he thought was the CIA plan to use him as a double agent inside Iran. Instead, the book alleges, Operation Merlin may have accelerated Iran's nuclear program by providing useful information, once the flaws were identified, and the plans compared with other sources, such as those presumed to have been provided to the Iranians by A. Q. Khan.
James Risen, State of War : The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, Free Press, January 2006, ISBN 0-7432-7066-5