The London Times claims to have obtained documents showing Iranian work on nuclear weapons. Iran’s “nuclear diplomacy”, the Times states, is “one lie after another”, and calls the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that stated that Iran had ended its (alleged) nuclear weapons program “worthless”.
The supposed smoking gun in question has to do with a “nuclear initiator”, “the component of a nuclear weapon that triggers the explosion”. One document mentions “uranium deuteride”, or UD3, which, the Times tells us, “has no possible civilian application. It makes sense only for a programme to develop a nuclear weapon.”
In characterizing Iran as a threat, the Times repeats the obligatory line that “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks the annihilation of Israel”. This claim stems from the oft-repeated assertion that Ahmadinejad threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”, a quote used endlessly by the media to suggest he was threatening to nuke Israel. This is a lie. Ahmadinejad has never threatened Israel militarily. That quote, first of all, is a dubious translation. Secondly, the actual context of that statement was the need for oppressive regimes to fall — he listed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Shah’s Iran as two other examples along with Israel (a fact never noted when the “wipe Israel off the map” quote is thrown around to characterize Iran as a nation on the verge of obtaining the bomb in order to nuke Israel).
The Times states as further evidence of Iran’s bad intentions that it “invariably seeks to aggravate regional disputes”. Not so in the case of Afghanistan, where Iran had long opposed the Taliban. Or in Iraq, where Iran used its influence to encourage the Shiite militia under the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to unilaterally lay down their arms — a factor that played a significant part in the reduction of violence the U.S. constantly (and falsely) claims was a result of the “surge” of troops.
The Times also states that Iran’s apparent determination to obtain the bomb “is not a defensive reaction to any supposed Western provocation.” This is a curious denial in light of the constant threats from Israel to bomb Iran, as well as veiled military threats from the U.S. (keeping the military option “on the table”), which now has military bases in countries on either side of Iran.
It was these threats, for instance, that Iran said led to it begin constructing another uranium enrichment facility near Qom, which it voluntarily declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Times paraphrases British Foreign Secretary David Miliband as asserting that “Iran was still pursuing an enrichment programme that had no obvious civilian application”, implying this as though it were a fact. It is not. Iran’s nuclear program does have an obvious civilian application, needless to say.
Another Times article calls Iran’s alleged work with UD3 “a key final component of a nuclear bomb”, implying Iran is presently only one or two steps from having a bomb.
The claim rests on “intelligence documents” that “Foreign intelligence agencies date … to early 2007”. The Times states that “Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint”, implying Iran obtained a blueprint for a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. This is an assertion for which, while theoretically possible, there is no evidence to support.
The IAEA is in possession of the documents in question, the Times says, and they “have been seen by intelligence agencies from several Western countries, including Britain.” It seems likely that these are among the documents from the infamous laptop allegedly smuggled out of Iran showing evidence of work on a nuclear weapon. The IAEA refers to this body of documents as “the alleged studies” — “alleged” being the key word. The agency has so far not verified the authenticity of the documents. On the contrary, serious doubts have already been cast on their authenticity.
The Times quotes a statement from a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman acknowledging the fact that these documents have not been verified: “We do not comment on intelligence, but our concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme are clear. Obviously this document, if authentic, raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions” (emphasis added).
As further indication that the series of articles from the Times on what is being portrayed as a smoking gun revelation of Iran’s work on the bomb is nothing more than propaganda is its repetition of the theme that “In September, Iran was forced to admit that it was constructing a secret uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom.” The problem with this statement is that there is absolutely no evidence to support it. Iran, as noted above, voluntarily declared the site to the IAEA four days before Western leaders spoke out condemning the then-not-so-secret site.
The Times makes another notable remark, that the documents in question “provide the first evidence which suggests that Iran has pursued weapons studies after 2003 and may actively be doing so today” — in other words, the Times admits that its history of previous articles suggesting Iran has a nuclear weapons program were not based on any evidence! Whoops. Slip of the tongue, apparently.
And it bears repeating that the authenticity of this “first evidence” is admittedly unverified.
A third article from the Times on the documents also acknowledges that, according to “a Western intelligence source”, “the order to build a bomb” “does not appear to have been made, and there is no evidence that it will.” Whoops. That’s hardly reconcilable with the Times editorial characterizing the documents as a smoking gun that not only has that order been given, but that Iran is in the very final steps of producing a bomb.
This article also states that “the recent discovery of a nuclear facility near Qom, which was due to come online next year as a back-up enrichment plant, has renewed fears that Iran may have other secret sites where it is enriching or preparing to enrich uranium.” Notice the use of the word “discovery”, again falsely suggesting the “secret” site was uncovered by the West — rather than having been declared to the IAEA in accordance with Iran’s obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
The final paragraph states that “last week President Ahmadinejad said that Iran would begin enriching its uranium to a higher grade, bringing it a step closer to producing the 90 per cent weapons-grade fuel needed for a bomb.” This is a factual statement, but misleading. The level of enrichment Iran seeks is 20 percent — a far cry from the 90 percent needed for a nuclear weapon.
But wait, there’s more. Yet another article from the Times states that one of the documents identifies a man named Mohsen Fakhrizadeh “as the chairman of the Field for the Expansion of Deployment of Advance Technology (Fedat).” Next sentence: “Intelligence sources say that this is the most recent cover name for the organisation running Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.”
Now get this. Next sentence: “The United Nations’ atomic watchdog has long believed him to be the head of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme, but Tehran, which jealously guards his secrets, has repeatedly rejected attempts to interview him” (emphasis added).
Any rational reader would conclude from the first clause of that sentence that the IAEA has concluded that Iran has a “clandestine nuclear weapons programme”. That is absolutely false. In fact, the IAEA has repeatedly in its reports stated that it has confirmed that no nuclear material has been diverted for use in any weapons program. Outgoing IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei has repeatedly stated that there is no evidence (as the Times actually tacitly acknowledged, as discussed above), that Iran has a nuclear weapons program.
And one can begin to see the kind of rhetorical devices commonly employed by the Times in its coverage of Iran’s nuclear program to convince its readers that Iran has a parallel weapons program.
So why all the propaganda? Well, the leaking of the intelligence documents to the Times serves an obvious strategic purpose for the U.S. As yet another article from the Times today observes, “The United States, Germany, France and Britain will push Russia and China at a meeting expected to be on Friday to agree to new UN sanctions against Iran.”
Meanwhile, the Times also reports today, “The moment is fast approaching when Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, may have to make the most difficult decision of his career — whether to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities and risk triggering a conflagration that could spread across the Middle East.”
Such an potentially catastrophic eventuality is precisely the direction U.S. policy is leading towards.