The Media and Iran’s Non-Nuclear Weapons Program

“If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you’d like me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon,” presidential candidate Mitt Romney said at the GOP debate on foreign policy last November. “Our current president has made it very clear that he’s not willing to do those things necessary to get Iran to be dissuaded from their nuclear folly. I will take a different course.”

Even as the Republican candidates for president ramp up their rhetoric, more evidence is pouring in that an attack on Iran would be Iraq 2.0. Consider this article by New York Times’ journalist Jim Risen from Friday:

Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

In Senate testimony on Jan. 31, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, stated explicitly that American officials believe that Iran is preserving its options for a nuclear weapon, but said there was no evidence that it had made a decision on making a concerted push to build a weapon. David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director, concurred with that view at the same hearing. Other senior United States officials, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made similar statements in recent television appearances. 

But all these admissions haven’t stopped the media from sounding the alarm repeatedly about Iran. This ABC Nightly News clip entitled “Iran Threat: Attack on U.S.” contains the ominous subtitle “Intelligence officials see growing risk of Iranian spies and possible attack.” This is even though they are reporting on the same hearing that Risen discusses in the article above. The report itself is even more ominous-sounding.

The saber rattling coming from Iran has been constant. Warnings to U.S. ships, threats to close down vital oil transit lanes in the Strait of Hormuz. But today, America’s top intelligence chief had a new bracing warning, revealing that Iran might be more ready than ever to launch terror attacks inside the U.S.

But what CIA Director James Clapper actually said was that the Iran would might consider attacks in the U.S. “in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.” In other words, they might consider defensive actions if they were attacked. How is that news? And how does it justify the fear-mongering headline “Attack on U.S.”  Shouldn’t the realization that Iran won’t just roll over to U.S. threats countenance caution rather than increased aggressiveness?

No, of course not. That ABC report about threats from Iran actually came just three days after this ABC News story reporting that the U.S. was moving a “floating marine base” into the Persian Gulf. Col. Stephen Ganyard told ABC that “it will be a mothership for special operations forces that will allow the U.S. to covertly deploy our special operations warriors to really difficult parts of the world… This is true preparation, but the message is also getting through to the Mullahs in Iran.” Wow, imagine if an Iranian military base just rolled up off the coast of Florida. I’m sure we’d be fine with that.

As I described about the American media prior to the Iraq War, it seems clearer than ever that the media is once again preparing us for a major war in the Middle East. At least in the last war the Bush administration’s lies were actually dialed back slightly by the media–though mostly still accepted uncritically–but here the media seems to be determined to have a war based on grounds even the administration isn’t pushing, and willing to frame their Iran reports in the most disingenuous way possible, actually describing Iran’s defensive strategies as offensive. It’s no wonder a majority of Americans would support a U.S. attack on Iran.