Half-Truths, Non-Truths and the Phony Objectivity of the Associated Press

(Image: IAEA website)

(Image: IAEA website)

An Associated Press report from this past week demonstrates how plain facts and provable, documented historical events are often described as subjective perceptions and matters of perspective in the mainstream media whenever an honest presentation and assessment of those facts would serve to reduce the fear-mongering propaganda over Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Writing from Tehran on January 15, 2013, AP‘s Iran correspondent Ali Akbar Dareini reported that Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast had declared Iran’s intention to register its long-stated (and officially binding binding) prohibition on nuclear weapons as a legally-recognized, secular, international document.

“Mehmanparast could not be more definitive in dispelling suspicions that Iran may ultimately develop a nuclear weapon,” Dareini wrote, before explaining that while Iran is confident that “any ambiguities or concerns” regarding its nuclear program can be addressed and resolved as long as “a structured approach” is first agreed upon.

Dareini continues:

Iranians say they have a bitter memory of allowing IAEA inspections and providing replies on a long list of queries over its nuclear program in the past decade. Now, Tehran says such queries should not be revived or remain open-ended once the IAEA has verified them.

Mehmanparast said Iran provided detailed explanations to IAEA questions on six outstanding issues in the past, but instead of giving Iran a clean bill of health, the agency leveled new allegations on the basis of “alleged studies” provided by Iran’s enemies.

Iran uses that term to refer to a list of questions including a dispute at Parchin, a military site southeast of Tehran, where the agency suspects Iran ran explosive tests needed to set off a nuclear charge.

Note the repeated use of the same basic construction: “Iranians say…” and “Tehran says…” and “Mehmanparast said…” and “Iran uses…” The statements made after this routine prefix are therefore presented as subjective declarations coming from Iran and are never qualified or substantiated as facts. In short, they are used as disclaimers, readily understood by a suspicious and ill-informed audience.

The readers of this AP report are therefore intentionally left with the perception that these are simply Iranian contentions and therefore automatically suspect, dubious, disputed or otherwise easily dismissed; after all, the comments all came out of an Iranian government spokesman’s mouth and the mainstream media (and politicians, of course) has spent decades training its readers to believe nothing the Iranian government says or does can be trusted.

While Dareini writes that “Mehmanparast said Iran provided detailed explanations to IAEA questions on six outstanding issues in the past,” he omits that this isn’t just a claim made by the Iranian government.  Amazingly, the “bitter memory” that Iranians have about cooperating with the IAEA inquiries only to receive international sanctions and more military threats from the world’s most well-armed and aggressive states is not merely some crazy Persian fantasy! No, it actually happened.

In August 2007, Iran and the IAEA agreed to a “Work Plan” which defined modalities and a timetable in order to “clarify the outstanding issues” in relation to Iran’s nuclear program.  With regard to the memorandum of understanding itself, IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei pointed out at the time that although “these outstanding issues are the ones that have led to the lack of confidence, the crisis,” he confirmed, “We have not come to see any undeclared activities or weaponization of their programme.”  This conclusion was reached after two years of Iran’s voluntary implementation of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, including a complete suspension of its enrichment program, which allowed intrusive and unfettered access to Iranian facilities for its inspectors.

Despite the constant allegations of nuclear weapons work, the IAEA has confirmed both that “[t]o date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme” and found that “all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

The IAEA has consistently reaffirmed this finding in each of its reports over the past decade.

It too should be remembered that Iran only suspended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol after the EU-3 (now referred to as the P5+1) failed to offer any substantive proposals and reneged on its agreement to acknowledge Iran’s inalienable right to enrich uranium as part of a peaceful, safeguarded nuclear energy program. The proposal eventually brought to Iran by Western negotiators has been described as “vague on incentives and heavy on demands,” and even dismissed by one EU diplomat as “a lot of gift wrapping around an empty box.”

Regarding the Work Plan itself, it affirmed that the “[t]hese modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran’s past nuclear program and activities” and that that IAEA had “agreed to provide Iran with all remaining questions according to the above work plan. This means that after receiving the questions, no other questions are left. Iran will provide the Agency with the required clarifications and information.”

In October 2007, ElBaradei confirmed, “I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now [in Iran],” adding, “Have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weapons program? No.”

By February 2008, due to Iranian cooperation and efforts at transparency, ElBaradei was able to report, “We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran’s enrichment programme” and the IAEA continued “to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran” (emphasis added).

Nevertheless, the so-called “alleged studies“—information provided to the IAEA by Western and Israeli intelligence agencies that accuses Iran of engaging in research regarding uranium conversion, high-explosives testing that could be linked to the creation of a nuclear-weapon trigger, and ballistic missile designs that might be capable of accommodating a nuclear warhead—remains the sole point of contention and is often pointed to by Iran alarmists and the mainstream press as evidence of Iranian duplicity and intransigence.

As Iran itself has repeatedly noted, according to the Work Plan, the IAEA was obligated to submit “all related documents” regarding these “alleged studies” to Iran and, in return, while reiterating its insistence that these accusations were “politically motivated and baseless,” Iran would “review and inform the Agency of its assessment,”  which was acknowledged “as a sign of [Iran’s] good will and cooperation” (emphasis added).

As per this agreement between Iran and the IAEA, “no visit, meeting, personal interview, [or] swipe sampling were foreseen for addressing this matter.”  Still, in yet another example of constantly moving goalposts, after Iran examined the documents it was allowed to see (far from the “all related documents” as promised in the Work Plan) and delivered a detailed “117-page assessment in which it asserted that the documentation was forged and fabricated,” the IAEA dismissed the evaluation as being too “focused on form rather than substance” and “requested Iran to provide a substantive response.”

That Iran’s assessment wasn’t as substantive as the IAEA may have hoped is perhaps unsurprising considering that the IAEA didn’t provide Iran with “all related documents” as required.  In fact, the IAEA openly admitted to concealing most of the alleged documentation from Iran, claiming that it had “received much of this information only in electronic form and was not authorised to provide copies to Iran” and revealing that while “the Agency had been shown the documents that led it to these conclusions, it was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran.”

Furthermore, the IAEA itself “noted that the [IAEA] currently has no information – apart from the uranium metal document – on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components of a nuclear weapon or of certain other key components, such as initiators, or on related nuclear physics studies.”  The alleged “uranium metal document” referred to is identical to one produced by Pakistan, was neither commissioned nor requested by Iran and, along with other alleged documents, dates to “the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s.”