The New York Times is trotting out some of its favorite words -- like "meticulous" -- to praise the new report by United Nations weapons inspectors citing Iran's supposed work on a nuclear bomb, and the Washington Post says the findings "ought to end serious debate" about Tehran's nefarious intentions.
So, rather than undertake a careful examination of the report's claims, America's preeminent newspapers are once more putting on display their deep-seated biases regarding the Middle East. Any claim against a Muslim adversary must be true.
In the words of New York Yankees great Yogi Berra, "it's de'jÃ vu all over again."
It seems every time an allegation is made against a "designated enemy" in the Middle East, the Post and Times editors cast aside professional skepticism, a pattern that has included Iraq's WMD (oops!); a U.N.-sponsored report on Syria's guilt in the Hariri assassination ("meticulous," the Times said, though the report later fell apart); and the flat-fact claim of Libya's role in the Lockerbie bombing (highly dubious in terms of evidence, but useful in justifying Muammar Gaddafi's ouster and murder). [For more on these cases, click here.]
The Times editorial on Thursday was headlined, "The Truth About Iran" with the subhead: "A new report from weapons inspectors leaves little doubt about Tehran's ambitions." The editorial fully embraced the methodology of the International Atomic Energy Agency's report, declaring:
"The report is chillingly comprehensive. ... What gives the report particular credibility is its meticulous sourcing. The agency's director, Yukiya Amano, built a case on more than a thousand pages of documents, the assistance of more than 10 agency member states and interviews with 'a number of individuals who were involved in relevant activities in Iran.'"
The Washington Post's neocon editors, in an editorial entitled "Running out of time," were similarly enthusiastic about the report, writing: "The IAEA's evidence, which includes 1,000 pages of documents, interviews with renegade scientists who helped Iran and material from 10 governments, ought to end serious debate about whether Tehran's program is for peaceful purposes."
It might be noted that on Feb. 6, 2003, the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his infamous speech to the United Nations detailing Iraq's WMD arsenal, the Post editors deemed Powell's case "irrefutable" and added: "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction." [For details on Powell's speech and its media reception, click here.]
Yet, instead of having learned any lessons and applying a skeptical eye to the IAEA report, the editors at the Post and the Times returned to their usual role as boosters for anything that puts adversaries of the United States and Israel in a negative light, regardless of how thin the evidence.
"May Still Be Ongoing"
If an objective observer did examine the IAEA report -- and particularly its annex entitled "Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Programme" -- he or she would encounter a curious document that offers very little verifiable proof for its murky conclusion that Iran's weapon project "may still be ongoing."
Indeed, based on what's been released to the public, it's impossible to evaluate any of the allegations because the supporting details are not provided. There is only an assurance from the IAEA that all "information has been carefully and critically examined" and was determined "to be, overall, credible."
But the credibility question persists, especially because the report doesn't spell out where the new accusations are coming from -- although it's been widely reported that many of the charges emanated from Iran's intense enemy, Israel.
While Israel clearly has an ax to grind with Iran -- as Israeli leaders call Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions an "existential threat" to Israel -- the IAEA report says it considered "Member States," which provided most of the evidence about Iran, to be "independent sources."
Plus, to the degree any of the report's details have become known, such as the identity of the supposed ex-Soviet nuclear bomb expert tutoring Iranian scientists on a detonation system, the facts haven't withstood scrutiny.
As reporter Gareth Porter explained, the ex-Soviet scientist, who is not named in the report but has been identified in news reports as Vyacheslav Danilenko...