US media spinning the IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program. No concrete evidence of a bomb in Iran.

I knew there was something funny going on when I first saw the headlines declaring that Iran was withholding information from the IAEA regarding the possible involvement of the Iranian military with its nuclear program.  It sounded like perhaps there was some media spin happening.  It turns out it is indeed a lot of spin. 

The IAEA report was leaked to the Institute for Science and International Security website and can be found here:

http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iran/IAEA_Iran_Report_26May2008.pdf

The language of the report is not a rebuke, nor is it harsh against Iran.  Indeed the language makes it seem as if the IAEA is relatively pleased with Iran’s cooperation, however, there are a few areas that need to be cleared up that Iran is working on providing answers for.  The report states:

26. The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. However, Iran has not implemented the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information.

27. The alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle project remain a matter of serious concern. Clarification of these is critical to an assessment of the nature of Iran’s past and present nuclear programme. Iran has agreed to address the alleged studies.  However, it maintains that all the allegations are baseless and that the data have been fabricated.

The report also mentions that the documents handed over to Iran were electronic and that many of the points in the documents were general public knowledge.  Many of the documents were not shown to Iranian officials since the US forbade the documents to be handed over.  How can Iran answer allegations without being allowed to investigate the original documents?

Anyhow, Iran has pledged to cover all of the allegations to the satisfaction of the IAEA and there is nothing to get all excited about.

The summary section contains the following:

Substantive explanations are required from Iran to support its statements on the alleged studies and on other information with a possible military dimension. Iran’s responses to the Agency’s letter of 9 May 2008 were not received until 23 May 2008 and could not yet be assessed by the Agency. It is essential that Iran provide all requested information, clarifications and access outlined in this report without further delay. It should be emphasised, however, that the Agency has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies.

This is entirely consistent with what the IAEA has been saying all along:  there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran.

Thus, the western media world really has no basis in reality to be beating the drums of war in juicing up the story on the IAEA report.  Jonathan Steele of the Guardian says the following:

Epithets aside, the IAEA report was the usual mixture of good and bad points. Contrary to most western news accounts, it was not unusually harsh. It did not express IAEA frustration or accuse Iran of a willful lack of cooperation. In fact, it said all activities at Iran’s fuel-enrichment plants remained under IAEA containment and surveillance. It then outlined a series of areas where Iran needed to provide answers. Many relate to the “alleged studies”, a shorthand phrase for material given by US intelligence agencies to the IAEA, which the IAEA is not allowed to pass on to Iran except in broad outline. While claiming the material is forged, the Iranians have begun to provide answers on some points. Although news accounts described Iran’s behaviour as “a matter of serious concern”, the IAEA used these words for the allegations, not Iran’s response to them.

 I guess newspapers need to make money and be government lapdogs though.

To some, this may all sound like dancing on a pinhead. But Scott McClellan, Bush’s former press secretary, has just accused his former boss of manipulating the truth and mounting a dishonest propaganda campaign against Iraq before the invasion. We ignore similar efforts against Iran at our peril.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/30/iraq.iran

Good point Steele.  Here is an excellent analysis of this story from Pepe Escobar of RealNews.

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13 Responses to “US media spinning the IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program. No concrete evidence of a bomb in Iran.”


  1. 1 straightrecord May 30, 2008 at 6:59 am

    as a journalist, i.e., a member of the media, i am very interested in how the media spin. i really am intrigued. why do they do that? why would they do that? do they engage in cabals to do that? how does their conspiracy work? regular monthly meetings? or perhaps, there are weekly meetings? where are they held? what are the agenda at these meetings? do all the media, print, tv, radio, blogosphere, internet, newsletter, whatever, agree at on these conspiracies? or do they just engage in this stuff to drive weirdos such as yourself nuts? “what fools these mortals be.”

  2. 2 theradicalmormon May 30, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I was hoping you could instruct us on how you all seem to report the same information, slanted to one side without regard to the whole picture. There was the little issue reported recently in the NY Times wherein the propaganda machine of Rumsfeld used military analysts to fill US media outlets with his propaganda, which propaganda seems to have made it onto the air in regards to the Iraq war virtually without competing views. Why was not the media able to report a different story in the runup to the Iraq war? Why was there only one side to the story printed in the press? Why did the media print only about WMDs in Iraq when they didn’t exist? I’m intrigued too.

    And now we have the reporting on Iran. The press reports regularly that Iran is bad and that Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map. Why can’t reporters report on what Ahmadinejad has really said instead of reprinting the lies of the Bush administration? Can you say the Bush administration doesn’t lie and keep your face straight?

    Why do we have this spate of reporting on the IAEA leaked report, spinning it as a harsh condemnation of Iran when it is nothing of the sort? Why was it only the LA Times that seemed to give the story fair treatment? Why?

    Why do you refer to me as a wierdo when I am only trying to get the truth that the US media refuses to give me?

    Perhaps some required reading for journalists such as yourself should be in order here. I’d start with a couple of books by Noam Chomsky, namely, “Manufacturing Consent” and, “Necessary Illusions.” There you might find the answers to your questions.

  3. 3 straightrecord May 30, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    noam chomsky is a book writer, not a journalist. he comes in after the fact and critiques. he reveals nothing new in his books, only accumulates facts presented by the very news media he is writing about. the military embeds were in the tv networks, none of whom will i defend. every question you raise was raised in the legitimate press (that’s print medium) at the time. in fact, that’s how you know about it, unless you ignored it and found it out years later only by reading chomsky. i cannot read everything newspapers print, but as a practioner of the craft, i believe i can vouchsafe they all presented a response from the other side. most news is read through the bias of the reader, thus your own conclusions. most criticism of the print medium is that it didn’t say it the way you would like for it to have been said, i.e., expressing your bias. another element is that people don’t comprehend very well, particularly if they hear it rather than read it. sometimes presenting thenews is like trying to get the donkey to behave: first, you have to hit it between the eyes with a two-by-four to get its attention. the u.s. media, not even tv, refuses to give you anything, so get over it. there is no conspiracy, no cabal, no nothing. journalists are just like everyone else, they make mistakes, have lapses now and then and sometimes are just plain lazy, but there is no conspiracy, no cabal, no nothing.

  4. 4 theradicalmormon May 30, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I never said there was a conspiracy among journalists. Owners of media outlets might prove different though. There is more than enough evidence that there is a spin though. Scott McClellan’s book apparently talks about this. He apparently said:

    “And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it… the media would neglect their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding. Was the president winning or losing the argument? How were Democrats responding? What were the electoral implications? What did the polls say? And the truth–about the actual nature of the threat posed by Saddam, the right way to confront it, and the possible risks of military conflict–would get largely left behind…”

    “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere–on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war.

    “In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

    Well said Scott. Now, as to your point in saying that the other side was presented before the war, I would concede that limited space was given to opponents to the war. However, the majority of print media was pro-Bush administration as McClellan points out above.

    The reason I had the sense to oppose the war was not because of print, mainstream media. I get my stuff from alternative sources that I’ve found to be pretty solid. The mainstream media dissappoints me too often and it continues to do so now. I don’t accept the laziness line. It is apparently built into reporters somehow that you don’t go to another source for your foreign policy reporting, other than the Whitehouse. I think there are unseen boundries that many reporters don’t cross. Sometimes those boundries are crossed as is the case with the military analysts story, or Gary Webb’s awesome investigative reporting on the CIA’s involvement in cocaine trafficking.

    Your criticism of Chomsky means nothing to me. He makes great points is backed to the hilt by solid references. Read his stuff. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 theradicalmormon May 30, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    The IAEA report said, “It should be emphasised, however, that the Agency has not detected the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies.”

    Why didn’t the US press emphasize this then and instead only emphasized what the Bush Administration would like the press to emphasize? Is this laziness?

  6. 6 Non-Arab Arab June 3, 2008 at 3:40 am

    I’ve dealt with a lot of journalists, some very very smart, mostly though folks practicing an assembly line job working to advance a career but not knowing that much about what they’re reporting on. Not to denigrate, but all careers have that rote rut that most people get stuck into while only a few excel. That rote rut for journalism as I have seen it in numerous spheres – primarily for me political and financial reporting – involves looking around at what everyone else is doing and more or less following that story line. Never mind the fact that that storyline is grossly oversimplified at best, quite often dead wrong or else the equivalent of a coin toss in terms of odds of getting at the truth, or at worst deliberately manipulated at the top by the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s, White House press secretaries and political handlers, lobbyists, etc.

    As for the print media supposedly having done better in the run up to the Iraq War, baloney. Maybe they printed a couple of rebuttals (usually weak-kneed, watered down ones) because print and internet media have 1000 times more space to do it in than on-air media does, but it was almost always buried on page 196zz (and under the fold to boot), while Judy Miller’s “They got germ trucks, Chalabi told me!!!” screamed from the front pages. Niche media outlets and political activists were screaming facts and reality at the top of their lungs, but they simply don’t reach the masses like Fox News or CNN or the main wire services (I’m looking at you AP and Reuters) do. European media did a bit better certainly and give a quick lie to US media claims that they reported the facts, but it was the Arab media, Al-Jazeera in particular, which really showed what a load of crap US media was. They truly reported both sides of the story – giving annoyingly large amounts of coverage to the Pentagon and White House, but also showing the anger-not-sweets-and-roses reception that people around the world and in Iraq had, showed the critics who (correctly) pointed out the lies Washington was telling, showed the people who were on the receiving end of all those “smart” bombs, etc, etc. In the US there is only one news service of any size that I would give any credit to and that is the McClatchy papers. Being less of a big-media-empire group I guess, their reporters asked the obvious questions (like “uh, you haven’t shown any proof mr president, do you actually have any??”) and did some bang-up good reporting pre-war.

    But again, most journalists I’ve known (with a few excellent exceptions, but they are few) are just following the rut and doing what everyone else does to get their reports filed and keep their careers moving, and that introduces all kinds of problems into the system especially when the folks who dictate what that generic story is going to be have major agendas.

  7. 7 theradicalmormon June 3, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Good points Arab. So a lot of journalists just go with the flow with no major conspiratorial aspirations then. That makes good sense.

  8. 8 straightrecord June 4, 2008 at 3:09 am

    to non-arab arab:
    i was intrigued by your response. intrigued primarily because of an astuteness about the news media not usually seen from someone who does not practice the craft. forgive me, but i peg you as someone who once worked in the u.s. foreign service in the middle east, perhaps as an information officer. journalism is a profession as complicated as that of an engineer, yet everyone seems to think he or she is an expert on news reporting while never pretending to know anything about engineering.
    i believe you have nailed an important aspect of what went wrong in the run-up to 2003 and the early aftermath. there was a laziness as well as a misguided trust in purveyors of information in the new u.s. administration. many of us in the profession who were assigned to other subjects and not to the invasion or foreign policy were aghast at the way our colleagues were reporting this story. no journalist i knew (i knew hundreds, if not thousands) in washington believed the crap that was being reported. in addition, we were all waiting and urging for a type of news story that was obvious because of its absence. many investigative news pieces begin because something is missing from the pattern. in this case, there was no leak of information about plans for handling the country after the invasion. seasoned washington reporters know if there is no leak about a certain operation, that means it is not happening. as it turned out, there had been no follow-up planning. the whole thing smelled from the beginning, but no coverage until it was too late.
    i believe the early reporting of the bush/cheney iraq disaster was the sorriest event in the news media of the past half century in which i have been a journalist.
    laziness and following the crowd are part of it and deserve to be denigrated, but those reasons do not explain all of it. i suggest another reason, based on my knowledge of journalists themselves. two things happened at the same time. the 9/11 attacks and a new presidential administration enjoying the usual honeymoon period given by the news media. american journalists are the same as any other american, they have kids, they carpool, they go to soccer games, the scrabble to make ends meet and they are proud of their country and patriotic. 9/11 brought a lot of that patriotism to the fore. if you were in washington, d.c., during 9/11, then you know what a scary time that was. the new administration was less than eight months old and still given a gentle ride by the media covering it. but that also was coupled with, as you rightly suggested, a widespread ignorance about the middle east and how things work. the news media (and when i speak of the news media, i speak mainly about the print portion because tv pretty much left the real-news reservation years earlier and i could write a book about its failures as a news medium), largely with no way to counter the data being offered as facts, nonetheless all-too-willingly accepted it without question with, as you noted, the admirable exception of the mcclatchy newspapers (actually a big-media california-based conglomerate, if you check it out).
    unfortunately the situation is not going to get much better as newspapers become relics of the past and entities such as rupert murdoch’s operation control an increasing chunk of it to provide his own slant (there is a difference between “slant” and “bias” as it applies to the news business and it would help if that were better understood by the general public).
    and thanks also for convincing radicalmormon there is no such thing as a news media conspiracy. anyone who knows the business knows that would be next to impossible to carry off.

  9. 9 theradicalmormon June 4, 2008 at 4:28 am

    Record,
    I’m not really convinced there is not a conspiracy. I believe as Arab pointed out, that most low level journalists were going with the flow. However, at higher levels such as in corporate ownership of news media, there is definitely a conspiracy. Big business controls alot of our foreign and domestic policy and it should be no surprise that they then use the media they own to further their own agendas.

  10. 10 straightrecord June 4, 2008 at 7:16 am

    radicalmormon:
    okay, i see your point. were it not for the fact the industry is journalism and i am an expert on the subject, i would have agreed with you–how can a big business that owns a news media outlet not take advantage of it to further its own agenda.
    i’m not sure why that has not happened, but i can assure you, it has not. i’ll focus on these examples–the wall street journal and the washington times, and let’s throw in the indianopolis star as examples of conservative newspapers.
    the wsj has without a doubt the most conservative editorial pages in the country. but its news pages are devoid of even a slant. i knew the reporters in the wsj washington bureau and they were among the most politically liberal reporters in the city. the washington times has a slant in how it plays the news, but the reporting is not generally biased. the indianpolis star is conservative on its editorial pages and slants the news, but also does so in an unbiased manner.
    the new york times, as corporately owned as any other newspaper, is liberally slanted and liberal on its editorial pages. ditto the washington post in its news pages, but over the years, the post has moved from left to center/right on its editorial pages.
    so far, the wall street journal has remained the same under rupert murdoch, purveyor of the fox cable channel, but there are many of us in the business who doubt he will keep hands off.
    i have no explanation why big corporations (even those that own tv networks) have not taken advantage of ownership to control news reporting, but in fact they have not. they may wish to enter into a conspiracy, but for some strange reason they have not exercised their power. and i can say, as someone who knows reporters at all of the named institutions, the newspapers probably would have a wholesale revolt on their hands if they tried. but stay tuned.

  11. 11 theradicalmormon June 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Record,
    I appreciate your viewpoint, but I think we may be talking about two different things here. I think the sort of control by the corporate ownership you may be looking for is the type that is readily visible as in Chinese government control of media or Soviet control etc. Those were overtly media-oppressive regimes (not oppressed by their corporate owners, but by the government) and it was obvious that if you stepped out of bounds you would have problems on your hands. That glasnost type of censorship is not what I’m seeing either in the corporate media in the US. In that type of system, the dogs know they are on leash and constantly are being choked by their restrictive leash.
    Rather, what I see in our press is a short leash where the dogs have learned not to go too far in a gradual sort of manner. The leash is not even consciously appreciated. I think you make your point well that there is no overt conspiracy here among reporters. However, in democratic societies, thought control of the masses, a more subtle form of censorship, is often the case. Let me look into a few authorities on the subject and see if I can give you a few examples.
    Also, of the examples you cite above, the WSJ is probably the best. Even Chomsky mentions how they sort of deviate from the rest of the US press in reporting practices. However, the conservative vs. liberal media arguement you make also misses the point. Corporate ownership doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be conservative. The points of view expressed by much of our media represent a wide range of the political spectrum in the US. However, there are issues that the corporate ownership are united on for the most part. One of those areas is war. Again, this is no surprise. There’s a wide variety of corporations that profit from war. General Butler pointed this out well in his critique of WWI:
    http://www.horstwisdom.com/wiki/index.php5?title=War_is_a_Racket
    So, my job is to try to show you that corporate ownership does indeed influence what is printed in its newspaper’s pages to reflect its own bias, without ruffling the feathers of its employees. Stay tuned.

  12. 12 theradicalmormon June 4, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Record,
    Here is an example of one form of censorship:

    “A 1992 US study of 150 news editors found that 90 per cent said that advertisers tried to interfere with newspaper content, and 70 per cent tried to stop news stories altogether. 40 per cent admitted that advertisers had in fact influenced a story. In the UK, £3.2 billion is spent on newspaper ads annually and another £2.6 billion on TV and radio commercials, out of a total advertising budget of £9.2 billion. In the US, the figure is tens of billions of dollars a year on TV advertising alone. An advertising-based system makes survival extremely difficult for radical publications that depend on revenue from sales alone. Even if such publications survive, they are relegated to the margins of society, receiving little notice from the public at large. Advertising, just like media ownership, therefore acts as a news filter.”

    Here are two sources that talk of the “Propaganda Model” proposed by Chomsky and Herman and I think it really gets to the crux of the point I’m trying to make here:

    http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/2002—-.htm

    and:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_model

    That’s the best I can do for now.

  13. 13 hass June 4, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    IAEA report on Iran misrepresented by NY Times and US media
    Submitted by hass on Wed, 06/04/2008 – 12:51.
    The US media and the NY Times in particular have seriously misrepresented the actual contents of the latest IAEA report on Iran:

    See FAIR at
    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=22&media_view_id=10228

    and Iran Affairs at
    http://tinyurl.com/6qmtzj


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