Call on AP to retract false reporting on Iran

Dandelion Salad

(source: CASMII)
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CASMII Press Release
28 July 2008

On July 25, the Associated Press published a report by journalist George Jahn titled “Iran ends cooperation with UN nuclear arms probe”. [1] The story claimed to be based on comments by Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation in a press conference after meeting with the Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed Elbaradei.

Several news agencies immediately republished the AP’s report without questioning its authenticity and credibility. Yet a simple analysis of the contents of this item reveals repeated distortions of facts.

George Jahn writes in his report:

“Iran signaled Thursday that it will no longer cooperate with U.N. experts probing for signs of clandestine nuclear weapons work, confirming the investigation is at a dead end a year after it began.”

The transcript of Aghazadeh’s comments in Persian was partly published by Iran’s state media as well as Radio Farda funded by the US Congress. He said:

“The two sides were conscious that the so-called alleged studies is a side issue and does not affect our ongoing and bilateral cooperation with the Agency. Iran has done whatever it could in connection with the alleged studies case and the IAEA will draw necessary conclusion on the issue at an appropriate time.” [2] [3]

Speaking about Iran’s response to the US allegations of weaponization studies, Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Dr Aliasghar Soltanieh in an interview in late June 2008, revealed:

“…after the documents [on alleged studies] were shown to us, we explained comprehensively why these papers are forged and baseless. We had many meetings, over 200 pages of explanation have been given in a confidential manner to the IAEA and unfortunately the Americans are still trying to keep this file open by continuing to make ceaseless allegations.” [4]

Jahn not only misrepresented Aghazadeh’s comments, but he also conveniently overlooked the prolonged and consistently positive cooperation between Iran and the IAEA. He writes in another part that “[Iran] dismisses as fabricated the evidence supplied by the U.S. and other members of the IAEA’s governing board.” Yet he ignores the fact that Iran has indeed studied the documents in detail and responded to Agency inquiries well beyond its legal obligations.

Reports of the IAEA confirming the non-diversion of declared nuclear material and repeated statements by Iranian officials on their commitment to work within the framework of the NPT, which does not restrict Iran in any way in enriching uranium for civilian purposes, do not seem to have slowed down AP’s rush to sensational reporting or tempered their temptation for portraying the false image of an Iran not cooperating with the IAEA as the US and its allies allege.

In a similar manner, John Bolton the Neocon warmonger and former US Ambassador to the UN, in January 2007, speaking to AIPAC members about Iran’s nuclear file said:

“… they have not done anything more dramatic, such as withdrawing from the nonproliferation treaty, or throwing out inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which I actually hoped they would do – that that kind of reaction would produce a counter-reaction that actually would be more beneficial to us.” (emphasis added) [5]

In the same interview referred to above, Soltanieh says:

“…despite those [sanctions] resolutions we continue our cooperation with the IAEA within our legal obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards of the NPT agreement and therefore we neither suspended enrichment nor we suspended our cooperation with the IAEA. That is exactly the policy which has upset the US administration. Because they love to hear the news that Iran has decided either to stop or reduce the inspections or to withdraw from NPT and we have not done either.” [4]

Unlike what the Associated Press suggests, rigorous investigations by the IAEA into Iran’s nuclear programme did not start in 2007 but in 2002. After six years of intrusive inspections, during which Iran voluntarily implemented the Additional Protocol for two years, to date not a single allegation made by the US or its allies against Iran’s nuclear programme has been proven truthful.

Furthermore the Safeguard’s agreement between the IAEA and Iran is limited to verifying non-diversion of declared nuclear material for military purposes. If such a violation is ever detected, the IAEA could consider referring Iran’s file to the UN Security Council.

Iran however has never had such a violation as confirmed in all IAEA reports so far, which is why the reporting of Iran’s nuclear file to the UNSC in February 2006 a decision which was in fact coerced by the US [6], has no legal or legitimate basis. Any concerns expressed or clarifications requested that are not related to the declared nuclear material in Iran including conventional military experimentations (non-nuclear material,) is an unwarranted expansion of the IAEA’s jurisdiction under the NPT, against the statute of the IAEA and therefore illegal.

The AP’s George Jahn goes on to make even more outrageous claims:

“[Iran] admitted in 2002 that it had run a secret atomic weapons program for nearly two decades in violation of its commitment. The Tehran regime insists it halted such work and is now only trying to produce fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity.”

This is an unfounded statement which serves to discredit Jahn and the AP. Iran has consistently maintained that it has never had an atomic weapons programme. What the author seems to refer to is the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report of December 2007 in which it was claimed without substantiation that Iran has had a nuclear weapons programme until 2003 when the programme was halted prematurely. Iran has always denied these allegations and has challenged the US to provide the evidence. The IAEA in its latest report has also criticised the US for failing to back up its claims and refusing to cooperate with the Agency in its investigations. [7]

Iran accepted the modified code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangement only in 2003, therefore it had no obligation to inform the IAEA about the existence of nuclear installations prior to that date. The Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC/153) at the time only obliged Iran to inform the IAEA 180 days prior to feeding nuclear material into the facilities. [8]

On the so-called work plan agreed between the IAEA and Iran in August 2007 [9], the AP report says:

“The investigation ran into trouble just months after being launched. Deadline after deadline was extended because of Iranian foot-dragging. The probe, originally meant to be completed late last year, spilled into the first months of 2008, and beyond.”

In fact all the “Outstanding Issues” mentioned in the work plan have been answered by Iran. The IAEA’s investigations as confirmed in its latest report have concluded Iran’s statements to be truthful and consistent. Traces of highly enriched uranium, the source of the uranium metal document, Plutonium experiments, links between Defence and Civilian sectors have all been investigated and none have produced any evidence of a nuclear weapons programme.

Within a matter of hours, to the surprise and confusion of many, George Jahn published another story this time titled “Iran to increase cooperation with IAEA” [10] He tried in vain to retract his earlier statements in light of denials by the Iranian officials. Yet he still failed to present the case correctly, what amounts to misrepresentation by omission of essential facts . Quoting Aliasghar Soltanieh, Jahn writes:

“He questioned the right of the IAEA to push Iran for answers on the weapons allegations, which he described as “fabricated and forged … by the United States.” Such a probe was “beyond the domain of the IAEA,” he said.”

The fact that part of the Agency’s probe is “beyond the domain of the IAEA” is because the matter concerns conventional military capabilities and Iran as a sovereign state has the right to keep its military installations secret from the outside world. Without this explanation, the reader once again may get the impression that Iran is seeking to conceal a nuclear weapons programme.

The AP’s first report has been published in several media outlets and has not been retracted yet. It is a telling example to illustrate how the Western media rushes to distort news on Iran’s nuclear programme to fit into the frame of discourse propagated by the US and its allies that demonizes and accuses Iran baselessly of illicit activities. CASMII calls on AP to come clean and issue a retraction on their false report.

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