A new, neoconservative online outlet called the Washington Free Beacon is continuing the campaign against the Center for American Progress (CAP) in two articles that go after the organization for “downplaying” intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. But the author, Adam Kredo, misleads readers by distorting the existing evidence on Iran. The articles represent a continuation of a campaign to discredit those who are cautious about a war on Iran, a core reason why neoconservatives are attacking CAP.
Kredo’s main contention is that CAP, along with the Huffington Post and Media Matters, has “downplayed new intelligence indicating Iran’s nuclear program is more dangerous than previously thought.” Kredo writes that liberal groups have taken to questioning the reporting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the organization tasked with monitoring nuclear energy and weapons. But it’s Kredo’s characterization of the most recent IAEA report that is wrong.
But first, Kredo is also wrong when he writes that liberal groups like CAP have questioned “the IAEA’s recent findings on Iran.” As evidence for that assertion, he links to a CAP report that approvingly cites the IAEA report “detailing Iran’s past and current nuclear weapons-related research.” So in fact, CAP does not question the veracity of the IAEA report–and neither do the other articles Kredo links to.
More important though is Kredo’s distortion of the IAEA report–which, it should be noted, has been credibly criticized by some analysts. The distortion serves up an agenda that portrays an Iranian nuclear weapons program as an “existential threat” to Israel that should be wiped out by the U.S. and/or Israel–actions that would lead to a disastrous war.
“This is the exact same pattern that we saw in Iraq, and the effort by folks to hype the threat and take things out of context and confuse the American public into thinking things that are not true,” said Jamal Abdi, the policy director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). “Right now, a lot of Americans have been fooled into thinking that Iran has a nuclear weapon, or even that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.”
In Kredo’s first article (which has a hyperlink with the title, “war on truth,”) Kredo writes:
The IAEA’s most recent report reveals that Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons since the mid-1980s with public activities peaking around 2002 before apparently moving underground.
And in his second article, which smears CAP as “prejudiced” and “anti-Semitic,” he similarly states:
Liberal writers routinely question the veracity of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) November report on Iran. The report builds the case that the regime is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons.
The IAEA report does sound the alarm on certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear work that the report says may indicate nuclear weapons work. But no where in the report can you find a definitive statement that “Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons since the mid-1980s” or that Iran is “aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons,” which is how Kredo characterizes it.
“What [U.S.] intelligence reports found and continue to find is the same thing the IAEA report found, which is that Iran had a concerted nuclear weapons program up until 2003, and shut that program down,” Abdi explained in a phone interview. “And while there still remains some activities that appear to be geared towards no other purpose than potential weapons work, it’s the finding of both the intelligence community and the IAEA that Iran has not made a decision to actually pursue a nuclear weapon. If anything, what they’re moving towards is the capability if they decide to get a nuclear weapon. And that’s much different than what this reporter is asserting.”
Kredo’s misleading characterizations, which frequently shows up in mainstream media, have been roundly criticized by the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). In November 2011, a FAIR “action alert” noted:
The first part of the agency’s November 8 report declares–once again–that Iran is not transferring uranium for use in a military project.
The more explosive allegations that media are focusing on are contained in an annex that attempts to lay out evidence that has been circulating for years. The IAEA report stresses concern over allegations over past activities; very little of the report is dedicated to research that could be describing as ongoing. Indeed, the media is focusing primarily on the IAEA’s speculation about what might be ongoing research that could be related to a military program.
The Christian Science Monitor also had a good report outlining why the IAEA report wasn’t the “game changer” it was made out to be:
In a 14-page annex to its quarterly report on Iran released yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said new intelligence and other data gave it “serious concern” about the allegedly peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. But the casus belli for military strikes that anti-Iran hawks in the US and Israel expected to gain from the IAEA report is far from clear-cut…
Prior to the report’s release, speculation mounted in Israel and Washington that new revelations might prompt military strikes to prevent Iran from acquiring a weapon.
Instead, experts say, much of the information is years old, inconclusive – and perhaps not entirely real.
Most of the weapons-related work it details was shut down nearly a decade ago – in 2003 – the IAEA says, and less formal efforts that “may” continue do not bolster arguments that Iran is a nation racing to have the bomb.
Iran “doesn’t seem to have the same North Korea-like obsession with developing nuclear weapons. That’s nowhere to be found in the [IAEA] evidence,” says Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
“Yes, Iran is making progress, they’ve covered the waterfront in terms of the main technical areas that you need to develop a nuclear weapon,” says Mr. Kile. “But there is no evidence they have a dedicated program under way. It’s not like they are driving toward nuclear weapons; it’s like they’re meandering toward capability.”
And after readers, urged on by FAIR, complained to the New York Times’ ombudsman about articles claiming that the IAEA report states that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, the ombudsman agreed with FAIR. Arthur Brisbane wrote correctly that the “agency has stopped short” of emphatically saying that Iran is building nuclear weapons. Similarly, the Washington Post‘s ombudsman criticized his paper’s reporting for “getting ahead of the facts on Iran” after a headline in the Post read, “Iran’s quest to possess nuclear weapons.” The Times and the Post are no bastions of anti-war on Iran sentiment, so it’s significant that their ombudsmen would chastise their papers for reporting what Kredo is also writing.
To bolster the case that Iran is definitively pursuing nuclear weapons, Kredo quotes Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as saying that Iran is “certainly moving on [the] path” towards weaponization. It’s true that Clapper said that; but the next sentence in his testimony was this: “We do not believe they have actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon.” This is similar to what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on CBS last month: “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability and that’s what concerns us.”
Kredo’s zeal to discredit CAP and other analysts who are speaking out against a war with Iran is clearly one more step in the attempt to marginalize critics of current U.S./Israeli policy on Iran. Predictably, the clamoring for an Iran war is appearing in an outlet whose chairman is the neoconservative writer Michael Goldfarb, who advises the Emergency Committee for Israel. Goldfarb has also advised Sarah Palin on foreign policy.
“The hyping of this type is going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” NIAC’s Abdi said. “We’re going to see a repeat of Iraq. But a war with Iran is going to make the wars of the past ten years look like a cakewalk.”