Federation of American Scientists.
By Ivan Oelrich and Ivanka Barzashka | 19 March 2010
* Many media sources are pointing to a recent IAEA report as proof that Iran is building a nuclear bomb.
* Yet all the information in the report on alleged weapons work has been known for several months or years.
* A decision to sanction or attack Iran should be based on what is actually in the IAEA report, not media distortion.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) February report PDF on Iran, the first under the agency's new director-general, Yukiya Amano, has created quite a stir. Upon its release, Reuters announced that the IAEA had, for the first time, "suggested Iran was actively pursuing [a] nuclear weapons capability, throwing independent weight behind similar Western suspicions." The New York Times echoed these sentiments: "Nuclear inspectors declared for the first time [that] they had extensive evidence of 'past or current undisclosed activities' to develop a nuclear warhead."
Almost every major media outlet repeated this conclusion, from CNN reporting that "it's the first time that the [IAEA] has issued such a strong warning about current Iranian nuclear activities" to the Washington Post claiming that "[the IAEA] publicly suggested for the first time . . . [Iran] is actively seeking to develop a weapons capability." The British Guardian's take: "[T]he U.N.'s nuclear watchdog raised concerns for the first time yesterday that Iran might be developing a nuclear warhead for a missile."
Yet the media has seriously misrepresented the actual contents of the report. In fact, no new information has been revealed. Such incorrect analysis shouldn't be taken lightly, however; it weighs in the balance between war and peace in the Middle East.
Commentators have latched on to these flawed conclusions to argue that military attack is the only option left to forestall an Iranian Bomb. Republican Cong. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan has insisted that the IAEA report is an "indictment" of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which claimed Iran had ceased its weapons work back in 2003. Indiana Republican Cong. Dan Coats told the conservative magazine Human Events that "the only option now is . . . military action." Even President Barack Obama is talking tough. With his deadline for reengagement with the Iranian regime passed, the State Department has pointed to the IAEA report to emphasize Tehran's noncompliance and to argue for tough new sanctions.