Man Bites Dog
It was a development worthy of the proverbial mythical headline reversing the natural order of the world. For a very long time, I have mercilessly attacked George Jahn of the AP for the role he has played while serving to move anti-Iran propaganda into newspapers across the globe. Here’s how I described his usual role in my most recent post about him:
I have often described the process of “diplomats” close to the IAEA’s Vienna headquarters gaining access to documents and other confidential information relating to Iran’s nuclear activities and then selectively leaking the most damaging aspects of that information to George Jahn of AP. Sometimes, the information also is shared with Fredrik Dahl of Reuters, who, like Jahn, is also based in Vienna. Many believe that Israeli diplomats are most often responsible for these leaks and for shaping the stories to put Iran in the worst possible light.
Another key aspect of Jahn’s role has been his reliance on David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, whom Jahn has relied on regularly for adding that special “think-tank aura” to the propaganda that has been funneled to him.
Yesterday, the stage was set for Jahn to transcribe more propaganda into the record. A new IAEA report was available (pdf; I see that there is a typo on the date on the cover page, it is a 2013 report instead of the 2012 appearing there, note 2013 embedded in the document ID code) and David Albright had already taken to the fainting couch, proclaiming the evil portents of the sudden appearance of New Asphalt (!) at the Parchin site in Iran where the US and Israel claim Iran has carried out blast chamber experiments to develop a trigger for a nuclear weapon (and where the suspect building, and presumably the blast chamber itself, itself remains standing, despite a hilarious cat and mouse game Iran has played at the site). But, in true “man bites dog” fashion, Jahn chose not to play the New Asphalt game and instead published an article that puts much of the intelligence gathering of the IAEA into a perspective that calls into question the motives of those who supply the bulk of that intelligence to the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency.
Jahn wastes no time, opening the article by proclaiming that the US supplies the bulk of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program to the IAEA and that US credibility on weapons intelligence took a huge hit in 2003 with the Iraq fiasco:
The U.N. nuclear agency responsible for probing whether Iran has worked on a nuclear bomb depends on the United States and its allies for most of its intelligence, complicating the agency’s efforts to produce findings that can be widely accepted by the international community.
Much of the world looks at U.S. intelligence on weapons development with a suspicious eye, given American claims a decade ago that Iraq had developed weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. used those claims to justify a war; Iraq, it turned out, had no such weapons.
Jahn even went so far as to get IAEA sources to provide an estimate of how the US and its allies dominate the intelligence that is provided:
The International Atomic Energy Agency insists that it is objective in evaluating Iran’s nuclear program and that its information comes from a wide range of sources and is carefully vetted. But about 80 percent of the intelligence comes from the United States and its allies, The Associated Press has been told.
Two IAEA officials, who gave the 80 percent figure, told The AP that the agency has been forced to rely more and more on information from Iran’s harshest critics — the U.S., Israel, Britain, France and Germany — because Tehran refuses to cooperate with international inspectors.
In following on the Iraq intelligence fiasco comparison, Jahn even obtained a quote from former Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix, who stated flatly to Jahn that there is no evidence Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.
Remarkably, Jahn also cites a well-known Wikileaks document later in the article, where we learned that the director of the IAEA claimed to be solidly on the side of the US just before he was nominated for the job:
A cable from the U.S. mission to the agency citing IAEA chief Yukiya Amano telling mission officials that he is “solidly in the U.S. court” on Iran — published by Wikileaks in 2009 — also helps those arguing that the case against Tehran could be overblown.
In breaking out of the propaganda cycle, Jahn has done the world a huge favor by exposing the one-sided nature of the intelligence available regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. Putting that intelligence-gathering into the context of the false information on which the Iraq invasion was based should give pause to those who now want an invasion of Iran.
Thank you for a job well-done, Mr. Jahn.