Report says Iran is being honest about nuclear program

Imagine you are the foreign editor of the New York Times. Your newspaper is now notorious for its complicity in drumming up support for the war -- so much so they had to issue an apology for their coverage. And now it is well documented and clear to the entire nation, and indeed the world, that the the White House is trying to drum up support for a war with Iran -- using, at least in part, the logic that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.

So let us say you learn that that the International Atomic Energy Agency has released a new report that states, unambigiougly, that there is no evidence that Iran is building a bomb.

"Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner and provided clarification and amplifications on issues raised in the context of the work plan [of Iran and the IAEA]."

And let us imagine that this is not the first time such a report has made similar conclusions. So how would you, dear editor, handle this? Would you --knowing that the current admistration has a reputation for lying a country into war, and that your paper was partly at fault -- try to inform the public that the most respected agency in the world regarding nuclear weapons, has put a huge dent in the White House's rationale for war?

Well perhaps you would. But the editors at the New York Times -- and many other major US papers -- feel no such obligation. For, just yesterday such a report was released and the Times somehow managed to assist Bush and Cheney in building a case for the war. Burying the article on A12 (Barry Bonds gets front page treatment, however), the Times leads the story as such:

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report on Thursday that Iran had made new but incomplete disclosures about its past nuclear activities, missing a critical deadline under an agreement with the agency and virtually assuring a new push by the United States to impose stricter international sanctions.

In the report, the agency confirmed for the first time that Iran had reached the major milestone of 3,000 operating centrifuges, a tenfold increase from just a year ago. In theory, that means that it could produce enough uranium to make a nuclear weapon within a year to 18 months.

Now the the White House and Israel have, unsurprisingly, dimsissed the report. But the Times' take on the report seems very much to dempahsize realities that are detrimental to the US and its allies. This is of course, nothing new. This summer I wrote about how the Times ignored reports by Human Rights Watch that concluded Israel, Washington's closest ally, was responsible for civvilian deatsh in Lebanon and was guily of war crimes.

Human Rights Watch concluded that “the primary reason for the high Lebanese civilian death toll was Israel’s frequent failure to abide by a fundamental obligation of the laws of war” and that “Israel conducted the war with reckless indifference to the fate of Lebanese civilians.” It also stated, contrary to the repeated claims by the Israeli government, that “Hezbollah’s practices does not
support the Israeli contention that Hezbollah violations were the principal cause of Lebanese civilian casualties.”

One might hope that such searing account of war crimes committed by a US ally that receives massive military aid from the United States, would be worthy of serious analysis from the paper of record. But to the contrary, the Times barely covered the story and only dedicated 139 words to the issue, all taken from a much longer AP article, and buried it on page A12.When I asked Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth what he thought of the Times’ meager coverage he said: “[T]he Times is ordinarily one of the most conscientious about publishing on HRW’s major reports. Israel is an exception, not the rule.”

And indeed this isn’t a new phenomenon. Last summer when HRW released a report that had similar conclusions in the middle of the conflict (Aug 3 2006, “Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon”) the Times did not even dedicate an entire article to the report and instead buried a mere 121 words 16 paragraphs deep into a story called “Civilians Lose As Fighters Slip Into Fog of War.”

As an Asia Times articles notes:

[D]espite the leap forward in Iran-IAEA cooperation signifying a qualitative improvement in the area of Iran's nuclear transparency, eg, the fact that all of the 266 tonnes of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) "remain under agency containment and surveillance", the US government and aspects of its media allies have opted to focus on IAEA head Mohammad ElBaradei's claim that the agency's knowledge of Iran's nuclear program is "diminishing" solely due to the lack of implementation of the intrusive Additional Protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"UN losing grip on Iran nuclear plan," the CNN headline on ElBaradei's report read, followed with the spin, bolstered by commentators sounding the US government's position, that the IAEA has admitted "it was no longer in touch with how Iran's nuclear program was developing".

That is certainly stretching it, since a careful scrutiny of the nine-page IAEA report conveys the opposite impression - of the agency's near complete mastery of knowledge of all aspects of Iran's nuclear program.

It is just the latest example of a clear trend: the US media serves the interest of the nation's ruling elites, and in the process makes war seem more likely. It is not surpsising, but infuriating nonetheless.