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‘Free Beacon’ reporter attacks Center for American Progress in misleading articles that push for Iran war

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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.”

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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16 Responses

  1. annie
    annie on February 11, 2012, 12:23 pm

    the resuscitation of the debunked IAEA report is vitally important to the ptb and every neocon. they are depending on the ignorance of the american public. they waited just a little while and then just pretended the debunking never took place and now it seems there’s a full throttle propaganda assault pushing the idea the IAEA had new valid information, it didn’t.

    thank you so much for this report alex. we have to keep exposing their lies at every turn. i have yet to open all the links but i’m going to read this thoroughly.

    vitally important as we go forward to set the record straight time and again.

    • Shingo
      Shingo on February 11, 2012, 6:08 pm

      vitally important as we go forward to set the record straight time and again.

      Annie, it looks like we might have to shortly. Apprently Washington was dissapointed with the mileage it got fro the last IAEA report (or lack of) so they are pressing the IAEA to go harder on the next one.

      Of course, what Iran does with it’s ground to ground missiles is none of the IAEA’s business. After the last visit by the IAEA to Iran, the IAEA reported that the talks were constructive, but Washington insisted they were a total failure. This is getting beyind rediculous.

  2. Kathleen
    Kathleen on February 11, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Former weapons inspector Robert Kelly had quite a bit to say about the most recent IAEA report

    You can watch and read what he had to say here
    “KELLEY: Well, Paul, if I can take the two things that you mentioned, I would say I was a skeptic in 2007 when the national intelligence came out and said everything has stopped. That’s not the kind of conclusion that it’s easy to draw, that something has stopped, that there’s no evidence for it. You may see that the portion you were watching has stopped, but how do you know? It seems like the latest IAEA report is adding a lot of credibility to the NIE and to the second NIE that the program was there in the past, but it seemed to have stopped, because IAEA’s not adding much new to the pile. If you look at the Russian scientist whose name has been leaked–not by the IAEA, so I’m not going to use it here–he’s been known to people in the press and elsewhere for maybe three or four years. So people have been looking at him. They knew about him, and they knew that he was involved with nanodiamonds. But we also know that he published papers with key nuclear weapons scientists at the laboratory where he used to work. There’s not much question he knows a lot about nuclear weapons and diagnosing them. The thing that’s strange is that he was working with these nanodiamonds, so you use explosions inside a sealed container. And there’s a really simple reason you do that: if you’re making diamonds, you want to find them afterwards. These are just industrial diamonds for grinding, things like that. So you do those experiments in a chamber. And somehow the IAEA has connected him to a little chamber, and then maybe to a great big chamber that was installed way back in 2000, so it had to have been designed, probably, in 1998. And then the IAEA says that this container will hold 70 kilograms of explosive blast. But they haven’t done their sums. They didn’t stop and say, well, the bomb, we know how big the bomb is. It was published on the web today. It was published in The Post last week. There’s far more explosive in that bomb than could be contained by this container. So what is it these people are trying to tell us? And, finally, you have to be crazy to do hydrodynamic experiments in a container. There’s no reason to do it. They’re done outdoors. They’re done on firing tables. Iran has plenty of desert. If they wanted to do this, they’d do it outdoors. So we’ve been led by the nose to believe that this container is important when in fact it’s not important at all. It’s highly misleading. And that kind of new information in this report is very distressing.

    JAY: So is there anything in this report that justifies all the hullabaloo? Headlines throughout the world, IAEA comes out, more or less says there’s a weapons program is the way the press spun it, and certainly at the levels of the Israeli and American government you’re hearing it that way.

    KELLEY: Well, I agree with your assessment. The press has spun it. I don’t think that the IAEA was quite that bad, but they weren’t very careful when putting out a report in the week or two weeks when the drums were beating in Tel Aviv saying that there was thought of bombing Iran. And they put out a report that should have been much more carefully vetted, should have been much more, shall we say, carefully thought out, and that should have been much more technically correct, because when you read this report, you say, there are so many things in it that are just plain wrong that it doesn’t justify anything.”

    • Tuyzentfloot
      Tuyzentfloot on February 12, 2012, 4:20 am

      I have the impression Kelley was a bit easy on the report, considering the other valid criticisms about the report being politicized(going beyond the authority of the IAEA) and about their rehashing, even if they do so by a thorough fleshing out, of previously discarded claims.

      But concerning the press, there were spinned leaks before the report came out and this has an effect of (deliberate or not) setting up the perceptions. These perceptions then tend to stick around till they’re dislodged by a blatant mismatch, both at the level of the editors and at the level of the reader at the end. With a press that already mostly copies summaries rather than going through the report themselves, the effect can be remarkable.

      • Shingo
        Shingo on February 12, 2012, 5:49 am

        But concerning the press, there were spinned leaks before the report came out and this has an effect of (deliberate or not) setting up the perceptions.

        That’s the idea. The report was not a damnng and Washington and Israel wanted it to be, so they set the narrative to manipulate the public into believing it was.

        With a press that already mostly copies summaries rather than going through the report themselves, the effect can be remarkable.

        Indeed, beasue the press doesn’t summarize the report, so much as what these spin doctors said about it.

  3. Kathleen
    Kathleen on February 11, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Flynt and Hillary Leverett have most of the IAEA reports on Iran here

    When ever you hear reporters on NPR address the enrichment of uranium you almost always here them repeat that Iran has said they will never give up their enrichment program. That is exactly what Peter Kenyon said on NPR today


  4. chet
    chet on February 11, 2012, 2:41 pm

    I know that I may be tiresomely repetitious in resubmitting variations of this post, but I cannot understand why the issue of huge potential US military loses is never considered:

    It seems remarkable that given the extensive discussion regarding a possible attack on Iran that no one in the MSM ever discusses the potential US military losses if such an attack should occur.

    On various sites, several posters with military-technology knowledge have indicated that Iran possesses anti-ship missiles for which the US Navy HAS NO DEFENCE and if that is correct, then the US getting a carrier group out of harm’s way in the Persian Gulf (a “pond” in terms of anti-ship weapons) would be essential as a prelude to an attack that would involve Iranian retaliation. Even with the carrier groups removed, all US ships trapped in the Gulf, naval or civilian, would face destruction and the massive loss of lives, perhaps into the thousands.

    For anyone doubting the deadliness of anti-ship missiles, please be reminded of the necessity of the British navy having to withdraw from the coast of Argentina when they were struck by missiles for which they had no defence – the Argentinians had a few Exocets and sank two ships – the Iranians have thousands of them.

    As this appears to be the definitive article re the deadly Iranian anti-ship missile capability, I recommend it for its careful analysis:

    The Iranians can’t compete with the US or Israeli military in the air, so they have focused their resources where they can do the most damage, i.e. anti-ship missiles, and that damage to US shipping in the Gulf could exceed the casualties of Iraq and Afghanistan combined if a carrier group was trapped in the Gulf – there are 7000 seamen on a carrier.

    The Pentagon always mentions its “reservations” about an Israeli attack, but the details of the loss of life and vessel destruction are never spelled out definitively

    • Bumblebye
      Bumblebye on February 11, 2012, 3:42 pm

      Not so much that British ships had no defenses against Exocet, but iirc, that systems were not calibrated to recognize them as ‘hostile’ if incoming – made by France, a NATO/EU ally. A rather serious oversight.

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen on February 12, 2012, 12:58 pm

      Prof Cole and Dr Zbig have brought up these points

  5. PeaceThroughJustice
    PeaceThroughJustice on February 11, 2012, 2:45 pm

    For those who were too lazy to follow Alex’s link, here is reporter Adam Kredo’s bio–

    Adam Kredo
    Adam Kredo is senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Formerly an award-winning political reporter for the Washington Jewish Week, where he frequently broke national news, Kredo’s work has been featured in outlets such as the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Politico, among others. He lives in Maryland with his comic books.

  6. Shingo
    Shingo on February 11, 2012, 6:09 pm

    I don’t think it’s any surprise that Washington Free Beacon is not allowing comments. They can’t have their propaganda being challenged.

  7. RoHa
    RoHa on February 11, 2012, 7:30 pm

    But Iran is building a Death Star too!

    And they have hundreds of giant zombie robot vampire spiders!

    They are reviving the Nazi program for training war hamsters!

    And did you know that that they get some technology from ALIENS?

    Why wait? Nuke Iran NOW!

    • piotr
      piotr on February 13, 2012, 9:31 am

      Always remember that people return to their traditions.

      The true danger is the flying carpets. Lacking metal parts, flying carpets are ultimate stealth weapons, and the range is potentially unlimited.

  8. optimax
    optimax on February 12, 2012, 9:22 pm

    Free Bacon! Must be socialists and antisemites.

  9. Justice Please
    Justice Please on February 13, 2012, 12:01 pm

    “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.'”

    Indeed, the nuclear “program” is so dangerous that Americans must fear it, even though they possess an arsenal of several thousand nuclear weapons.

    Logical thinking is not one of Kredos strengths.

  10. hass
    hass on February 13, 2012, 7:25 pm

    This much-hyped IAEA report simply recycled the past allegations that the IAEA had deemed not credible, thanks to the installation of the pro-US Amano as the Director of the IAEA.

    Some facts to consider about Iran’s nuclear program: Iran and the IAEA made list of outstanding issues to be resolved in Aug 2007 (which the IAEA was vehemently criticized by the USA.) When the Feb 2008 IAEA came out, it gave Iran a clean bill of health on all those issues. The sole exception was what the IAEA referred to as “alleged studies” — US claims that a smuggled laptop computer from Iran (nicknamed the “Laptop of Death”) contained secret pre-2003 evidence of Iranian investigations into making nuclear weapons (the US had been shopping around this evidence for a while but had only partially presented it to the IAEA just a week before its Feb 2008 report came out.) Iran has consistently said that this “evidence” was either fake, or related to civilian activities, and that it would address the material once it was allowed to see it. However, the US has to date refused to share the material with Iran, and in some cases with even the IAEA (which caused the IAEA to complain in its report.) In any case the IAEA has never endorsed this material, and the IAEA director Elbaradei specifically said that the material was too unverified. So the Israelis and the US started a smear campaign against ElBaradei, claiming that he was “censoring” this material. The IAEA issued a public statement denying the censorship accusations, and specifically said that there was no real evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, EVER:

    With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon programme in Iran.

    In his book ElBaradei went on to detail some of this evidence which came from Israel, and how he returned it to Israel because it was obviously forged.

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