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Propaganda Against Iran : for 33 years they have been telling us Iran almost has a nuke.


Steven Gaal
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9/30/12

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/1108/Imminent-Iran-nuclear-threat-A-timeline-of-warnings-since-1979/Earliest-warnings-1979-84

Breathless predictions that the Islamic Republic will soon be at the brink of nuclear capability, or – worse – acquire an actual nuclear bomb, are not new.

For more than quarter of a century Western officials have claimed repeatedly that Iran is close to joining the nuclear club. Such a result is always declared “unacceptable” and a possible reason for military action, with “all options on the table” to prevent upsetting the Mideast strategic balance dominated by the US and Israel.

And yet, those predictions have time and again come and gone. This chronicle of past predictions lends historical perspective to today’s rhetoric about Iran.

1. Earliest warnings: 1979-84

Fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon predates Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, when the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was deep in negotiations with the US, France and West Germany, on a nuclear-energy spending spree that was to yield 20 reactors.

Late 1970s: US receives intelligence that the Shah had “set up a clandestine nuclear weapons development program.”

1979: Shah ousted in the Iranian revolution, ushering in the Islamic Republic. After the overthrow of the Shah, the US stopped supplying highly enriched uranium (HEU) to Iran. The revolutionary government guided by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini condemned nuclear weapons and energy, and for a time stopped all projects.

1984: Soon after West German engineers visit the unfinished Bushehr nuclear reactor, Jane’s Defence Weekly quotes West German intelligence sources saying that Iran’s production of a bomb “is entering its final stages.” US Senator Alan Cranston claims Iran is seven years away from making a weapon.

2. Israel paints Iran as Enemy No. 1: 1992

Though Israel had secretly done business with the Islamic Republic after the 1979 revolution, seeking to cultivate a Persian wedge against its local Arab enemies, the early 1990s saw a concerted effort by Tel Aviv to portray Iran as a new and existential threat.

1992: Israeli parliamentarian Benjamin Netanyahu tells his colleagues that Iran is 3 to 5 years from being able to produce a nuclear weapon – and that the threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the US.”

1992: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres tells French TV that Iran was set to have nuclear warheads by 1999. “Iran is the greatest threat and greatest problem in the Middle East,” Peres warned, “because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militanCY.”

1992: Joseph Alpher, a former official of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, says “Iran has to be identified as Enemy No. 1.” Iran’s nascent nuclear program, he told The New York Times, “really gives Israel the jitters.”

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3. US joins the warnings: 1992-97

The same alarm bells were already ringing in Washington, where in early 1992 a task force of the House Republican Research Committee claimed that there was a “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.”

Similar predictions received airtime, including one from then-CIA chief Robert Gates that Iran’s nuclear program could be a “serious problem” in five years or less. Still, the bureaucracy took some time to catch up with the Iran threat rhetoric.

1992: Leaked copy of the Pentagon’s “Defense Strategy for the 1990s” makes little reference to Iran, despite laying out seven scenarios for potential future conflict that stretch from Iraq to North Korea.

1995: The New York Times conveys the fears of senior US and Israeli officials that “Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than previously thought” – about five years away – and that Iran’s nuclear bomb is “at the top of the list” of dangers in the coming decade. The report speaks of an “acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program,” claims that Iran “began an intensive campaign to develop and acquire nuclear weapons” in 1987, and says Iran was “believed” to have recruited scientists from the former Soviet Union and Pakistan to advise them.

1997: The Christian Science Monitor reports that US pressure on Iran’s nuclear suppliers had “forced Iran to adjust its suspected timetable for a bomb. Experts now say Iran is unlikely to acquire nuclear weapons for eight or 10 years.”

4. Rhetoric escalates against ‘axis of evil’: 1998-2002

But Iran was putting the pieces of its strategic puzzle together. A US spy satellite detected the launch of an Iranian medium-range missile, sparking speculation about the danger posed to Israel.

1998: The New York Times said that Israel was less safe as a result of the launch even though Israel alone in the Middle East possessed both nuclear weapons and the long-range missiles to drop them anywhere. “The major reaction to this is going to be from Israel, and we have to worry what action the Israelis will take,” the Times quoted a former intelligence official as saying. An unidentified expert said: “This test shows Iran is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, because no one builds an 800-mile missile to deliver conventional warheads.”

1998: The same week, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reports to Congress that Iran could build an intercontinental ballistic missile – one that could hit the US – within five years. The CIA gave a timeframe of 12 years.

2002: CIA warns that the danger from nuclear-tipped missiles, especially from Iran and North Korea, is higher than during the cold war. Robert Walpole, then a top CIA officer for strategic and nuclear programs, tells a Senate panel that Iran’s missile capability had grown more quickly than expected in the previous two years – putting it on par with North Korea. The threat “will continue to grow as the capabilities of potential adversaries mature,” he says.

2002: President George W. Bush labels Iran as part of the “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea.

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5. Revelations from inside Iran: 2002-05

In August 2002, the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK, a.k.a. MKO) announces that Iran is building an underground uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, and a heavy water reactor at Arak. It is widely believed that the evidence had been passed to the MEK by Israeli intelligence.

Enrichment and reactors are not forbidden to Iran as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but the failure to disclose the work prompts an IAEA investigation and much closer scrutiny. Iran insists its efforts are peaceful, but is found in breach of its IAEA safeguards agreement, and accused by the IAEA of a “pattern of concealment.”

2004: Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that Iran had been working on technology to fit a nuclear warhead onto a missile. “We are talking about information that says they not only have [the] missiles but information that suggests they are working hard about how to put the two together,” he said.

2005: US presents 1,000 pages of designs and other documentation allegedly retrieved from a computer laptop in Iran the previous year, which are said to detail high-explosives testing and a nuclear-capable missile warhead. The “alleged studies,” as they have since been called, are dismissed by Iran as forgeries by hostile intelligence services.

6. Dialing back the estimate: 2006-09

2006: The drums of war beat faster after the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh quotes US sources saying that a strike on Iran is all but inevitable, and that there are plans to use tactical nuclear weapons against buried Iranian facilities.

2007: President Bush warns that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to “World War III.” Vice President Dick Cheney had previously warned of “serious consequences” if Iran did not give up its nuclear program.

2007: A month later, an unclassified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran is released, which controversially judges with “high confidence” that Iran had given up its nuclear weapons effort in fall 2003.

The report, meant to codify the received wisdom of America’s 16 spy agencies, turns decades of Washington assumptions upside down. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls the report a “victory for the Iranian nation.” An Iranian newspaper editor in Tehran tells the Monitor, “The conservatives … feel the chance of war against them is gone.”

June 2008: Then-US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton predicts that Israel will attack Iran before January 2009, taking advantage of a window before the next US president came to office.

May 2009: US Senate Foreign Relations Committee reports states: “There is no sign that Iran’s leaders have ordered up a bomb.”

7. Israel’s one-year timeframe disproved: 2010-11

Despite reports and intelligence assessments to the contrary, Israeli and many US officials continue to assume that Iran is determined to have nuclear weapons as soon as possible.

August 2010: An article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic’s September issue is published online, outlining a scenario in which Israel would chose to launch a unilateral strike against Iran with 100 aircraft, “because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people.”

Drawing on interviews with “roughly 40 current and past Israeli decision makers about a military strike” and American and Arab officials, Mr. Goldberg predicts that Israel will launch a strike by July 2011. The story notes previous Israeli strikes on nuclear facilities in Iraq and Syria, and quotes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the world should start worrying, and that’s what is happening in Iran.”

2010: US officials note that Iran’s nuclear program has been slowed by four sets of UN Security Council sanctions and a host of US and EU measures. The Stuxnet computer virus also played havoc through 2011 with Iran’s thousands of spinning centrifuges that enrich uranium.

January 2011: When Meir Dagan steps down as director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, he says that Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon until 2015. “Israel should not hasten to attack Iran, doing so only when the sword is upon its neck,” Mr. Dagan warned. Later he said that attacking Iran would be “a stupid idea…. The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”

January 2011: A report by the Federation of American Scientists on Iran’s uranium enrichment says there is “no question” that Tehran already has the technical capability to produce a “crude” nuclear device.

February 2011: National intelligence director James Clapper affirms in testimony before Congress that “Iran is keeping the option open to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities and better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so,” Mr. Clapper said. “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

November 2011: The IAEA claims for the first time that Iran is has worked on weapons-related activities for years, publishing detailed information based on more than 1,000 pages of design information that is corroborated, it says, by data from 10 member states and its own investigation and interviews.

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  • 3 weeks later...

First Published: 2013-04-06

Painfully Following Iran in the U.S. Media

I have no doubt that any impartial assessment of the professional conduct of most American media in covering the Iran situation would find it deeply flawed and highly opinionated, to the point where I say that mainstream media coverage of Iran in the United States is professionally criminal, writes Rami G. Khouri.

Middle East Online

BEIRUT - One of the most annoying aspects of spending time in the United States, as I have just done with a month’s working visit there, is to follow the news coverage of Iran in the mainstream American media. Well, calling it “news” coverage is a bit of a stretch, because the mainstream American media is not really reporting news about Iran, but rather repackaged ideological attacks and threats that emanate primarily from the American and Israeli governments.

The main problem -- evident in virtually every story about Iran in the mainstream media, including the “quality” outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the leading television channels -- is that the coverage is inevitably based on assumptions, fears, concerns, accusations and expectations that are almost never supported by factual and credible evidence. Two things in particular are wrong in the coverage.

First is that most media stories about Iran view the country almost uniquely through the lens of its being an adversary and a threat to the United States, Israel and Arab allies of the U.S., whether because of Iran’s alleged regional hegemonic aims or its terrorism links. Iran only exists for most American media as a threat to be beaten back at any cost.

The second is that most media analyze Iran almost exclusively through the issue of its nuclear industry. This attitude sees Iran as secretly developing a nuclear bomb that it will use to threaten or destroy neighboring powers, including Israel and Arab oil-producing countries. For the U.S. mainstream media, Iran is first and foremost a nuclear threat, and little else about the country is deemed worthy of serious coverage.

I have no doubt that any impartial assessment of the professional conduct of most American media in covering the Iran situation would find it deeply flawed and highly opinionated, to the point where I say that mainstream media coverage of Iran in the United States is professionally criminal. I base this on having learned my journalism craft and values in the United States, where quality press coverage of any issue ideally should be characterized by a combination of accuracy, balance, depth and context, within a rigorous attempt by the writer to remain impartial when reporting stories that include controversy or conflict.

These professional qualities are usually absent from news coverage of Iran in the United States, and I say this is a criminal enterprise because the consequences of the flawed and aggressive coverage helps shape a public opinion environment in which it becomes acceptable to threaten and sanction Iran on the basis of mere suspicions and fears in the minds of American and Israeli politicians -- all of whom, I would guess, have never visited Iran or even spoken to any credible or “normal” Iranian who is not involved in political lobbying in Washington, D.C. The discussion of Iran in the media over the past two years has also been full of references about the possibility of attacks against Iran by Israel or the United States, with very little if any serious analysis of whether such unilateral attacks are permissible under international law.

I am continuously amazed to see every accusation in every story about Iran’s alleged sinister and secretive nuclear bomb plans hedged with phrases like “it is assumed” or “officials believe” or “analysts suspect” or Iran “may be” or “is thought to be” or is “suspected of” doing this or that. There is no certainty, little credible proof, few verifiable facts, only anger, assumptions and fear.

This same hollow and shoddy level of evidence presented in the media’s portrayal of Iran could never be used to frame, say, the actions of young African-Americans, Hispanic teachers, or professional women bankers, because it would be ejected by both professional media standards and common human rights standards as being a bag of wild prejudices and stereotypes that are not supported by fact. The mass media gets away with disguising ideological venom as impartial news coverage in the case of Iran, though, because a different standard of professionalism is at work here, one which makes it permissible for the media to ignore its role as a reporter of facts in favor of being an ideological warrior that serves the purposes of assorted governments. We saw at great cost in Iraq what destruction, waste and criminality this sort of behavior can lead to.

It will be fascinating now to see how the media reports on possible signs of progress in the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries (U.K., China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany) that resume in Kazakhstan. I hope our American journalism colleagues will summon the moral and professional strengths within them to cover both sides of these talks in their full and accurate political and technical contexts, rather than continue to act like robotic cheerleaders for the American and Israeli governments.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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