Today: Mar 01, 2024

Questionable accounts of Iran’s plans

 CHRISTOPHER MCBRIARTYStaff Writer

The subject of Iran and its nuclear program has been unavoidable in the media of late. Iran insists its program is simply for civilian purposes and they are not looking to create a nuclear weapon. There have been inspections inside Iran to verify this, but questions remain after they refused access to certain nuclear facilities. Yet many top American officials have said there is no evidence they are looking to create a nuclear weapon. And that needs to be taken on board.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said last week: “The intelligence does not show that they’ve made the decision to proceed with developing a nuclear weapon.” The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper echoed Panetta’s remarks, as well as the C.I.A. Director David Petraeus, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

The media has a huge role to play in delivering these facts to the public. In 2010, a CNN/opinion research poll revealed 70 percent of Americans believed Iran already had a nuclear weapon. That is not even true today. And lately there have been examples that the media seems to be banging the war drums against Iran, rather than showing the public that Iran doesn’t have plans to build a nuclear weapon.

NBC news recently reported that if Iran was attacked by Israel, Iran would start “all-out war.” This story was reported in a dramatic tone with images of Iran’s ballistic missiles and footage of the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, inside nuclear sites and giving speeches. The overall feeling from the report was that Iran was a real threat. But because of all that scary rhetoric, I couldn’t be blamed for missing a tiny, yet hugely important word within it: “if.” And I also couldn’t be blamed for missing that they were actually saying Iran is a threat if they are attacked by Israel.

But isn’t it obvious Iran would respond if attacked? That is surely like any other country; you could do that story about any country in the world. But the way the story was done, it was as though Iran would be at fault for responding to being attacked. I was left completely confused as to why they ran that story. It seemed to be based off an assumption, and there have been more stories being reported off assumptions too.

The British media outlet Sky News ran a story this month stating Iran was collaborating with al-Qaida to attack America and Europe, specifically stating there were concerns about them attacking the 2012 Olympics games in London. That may not sound like an outlandish theory, but nowhere in that story did it say that al-Qaida and Iran have been enemies for years.

Iran even helped America in 2001 during the Afghanistan invasion because of Iran’s hatred for al-Qaida. They are two completely different denominations of Islam; Iran is Shiite and al-Qaida is Sunni. And the denominations are currently at war within the Middle East. So for them to be working together seems almost impossible after their religious history. That should have been mentioned considering Sky News was reporting that information from what they called an “intelligence assessment; no hard evidence.”

Erin Burnett, of the CNN show “OutFront,” opened one of her shows last week stating that “no one buys Iran’s claims their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.” But the top military and intelligence officials are buying it – because they are saying there is absolutely no evidence they are looking to create a nuclear weapon based off their intelligence research. All these examples are concerning because they seem to be creating an atmosphere – it almost seems as though they’re trying to scare the public.

There is no doubt Iran’s nuclear program needs to be watched closely. But there needs to be evidence; real, tangible evidence, they are aiming for a nuclear weapon before war should even be discussed as a solution. The Iraq war was a situation where weapon inspectors were used, and they found no evidence, yet the war went ahead anyway.

Iran may have declined access to certain nuclear facilities, but it’s dangerous to assume that is an admission they’re hiding something – Iraq resisted weapon inspections too. The lessons from Iraq must be used so this situation does not escalate into war before real evidence has been discovered and diplomatic talks have taken place, or at least attempted. And the media needs to report responsibly so the public is aware of what’s really going on with Iran.

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