Jahn Does Complete Reversal, Questions Sources Instead of Transcribing Iran Nuke Propaganda

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.

12 replies
  1. john francis lee says:

    He’s done the world an even greater favor … he’s demonstrated just what a put-up jobe the msm’a ‘reporting’ on such perfidious propaganda as the IAEA’s recycled ‘intelligence’ really is.

  2. orionATL says:


    more fallout from doj’s ham-handed hounding of the associated press?

    careerist reporters like jahn never change their spots, only their targets.

  3. emptywheel says:

    Not to get all 11-dimensional, but any chance his sources asked him to leak this? That is, more stenography, but to justify reversing course?

  4. Jim White says:

    @emptywheel: Hard to say. My assumption had always been that the “diplomats” on whom he relied for his stories were intelligence agents acting under diplomatic cover. I find it hard to believe the intelligence agencies are changing their minds on the issue of pushing for a confrontation.

    On the other hand, perhaps some actual diplomats did finally get his ear for this story. I do find it particularly encouraging that rather than relying on Albright for a quote in this story, his main sources were Hans Blix and Robert Kelley. One would only go to them for quotes to tamp down the hysteria, not stoke it.

  5. Phil Perspective says:

    @Jim White: I find it hard to believe the intelligence agencies are changing their minds on the issue of pushing for a confrontation.

    Especially since both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders voted for war with Iran the other day. See S.R. 65.

  6. harpie says:

    @Phil Perspective:
    I did check out SR65 at Thomas.gov.

    From the CRS summary

    States that nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war.

    Which made me wonder how often that phrase had been written into legislation. The answer, after searching all congresses since 1980 is TWICE. Each Bill was introduced by Lindsay Graham and is about Iran:

    112 Congress
    Latest Title: A joint resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding the nuclear program of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    113 Congress
    Latest Title: A resolution strongly supporting the full implementation of United States and international sanctions on Iran and urging the President to continue to strengthen enforcement of sanctions legislation.

    I just found that to be interesting.

  7. Snoopdido says:

    This is off topic, by Greg Miller of the Washington Post has a new piece up today worth reading – Obama’s new drone policy leaves room for CIA role – http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obamas-new-drone-policy-has-cause-for-concern/2013/05/25/0daad8be-c480-11e2-914f-a7aba60512a7_print.html

    “By then, the secret CIA base in Saudi Arabia was beginning to take shape.

    U.S. and Saudi officials said the kingdom had been pushing the United States to ramp up its involvement in neighboring Yemen, particularly after an August 2009 attempt by a suicide bomber to kill Saudi counter­terrorism official Muhammed bin Nayef.

    Two years later, when White House counter­terrorism adviser John Brennan, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and other U.S. officials presented a plan to build a drone base in Saudi Arabia, the royal family didn’t flinch, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials involved in the discussions.

    The idea was a provocative one. A founding grievance for al-Qaeda was the presence of U.S. military ­forces in the Islamic Holy Land in the 1990s. Now the United States was about to install its signature counter­terrorism weapon, the symbol of a campaign that had inflamed anti-American sentiment among millions of Muslims.

    Saudi officials were undaunted and even conjured a plausible cover story. If the facility were discovered, the kingdom would say it was a delivery station for construction materials needed to build a fence along the Saudi-Yemen border.”

  8. Garrett says:

    Also off-topic, but this article, about the mess in Wardak, is amusing:

    Local political tensions have negative impact on special ops in Afghan district, Stars and Stripes.

    Damn complex intricate befuddling Afghan local politics. They are a detriment to our

    Even the head of Special Forces for the NATO-led coalition acknowledged being “befuddled” by the Afghans’ political machinations to the detriment of military operations.

    military operations, and stuff.

    (The article is worth reading for information, though.)

  9. joanneleon says:

    That really is interesting. I’d like to be hopeful about it. There are a lot of strange things going on and the situation with Syria kind of shows it.

    Are you thinking that this might be an impact of the two new players in the big roles of Sec. Defense and CIA Director? We know that there were, maybe still are, internal battles going on, within the intelligence world, also perhaps between intel and military. We know how much Israel opposed Hagel. Do you think that we’re starting to see changes because of that (i.e. as Marcy suggests in the comment above, maybe Jahn still is a stenographer but his sources have changed their tune?)

    Then again, lately it seems like the press (some at least) may be remembering their purpose in life and why they have special protections and an amendment in the Bill of Rights. It feels like it could be a turning point. I’m cautiously optimistic in a sense, but when you’re optimistic as a result of the world not trusting your own country, that’s not a good place to be. If it means that Obama is getting some deep and complicated things straightened out within his massive military and intel machine though, that’s something to be optimistic about.

    Thanks Jim. Don’t know what I’d do without you and Marcy in trying to make some sense of extremely complicated situations.

  10. Jim White says:

    Okay. Marcy’s view comment 3 above just got some reinforcement from Lara Jakes:

    In the months leading up to the killing of Osama bin Laden, veteran intelligence analyst Robert Cardillo was given the nickname “Debbie Downer.” With each new tidbit of information that tracked bin Laden to a high-walled compound in northern Pakistan — phone records, satellite imaging, clues from other suspects — Cardillo cast doubt that the terror network leader and mastermind was actually there.

    As the world now knows well, President Barack Obama ultimately decided to launch a May 2011 raid on the Abbottabad compound that killed bin Laden. But the level of widespread skepticism that Cardillo shared with other top-level officials — which nearly scuttled the raid — reflected a sea change within the U.S. spy community, one that embraces debate to avoid “slam-dunk” intelligence in tough national security decisions.


    At the helm of what he calls a healthy discord is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has spent more than two-thirds of his 72 years collecting, analyzing and reviewing spy data from war zones and rogue nations. Clapper, the nation’s fourth top intelligence chief, says disputes are uncommon but absolutely necessary to get as much input as possible in far-flung places where it’s hard for the U.S. to extract — or fully understand — ground-level realities.


  11. orionATL says:

    “… reflected a sea change within the U.S. spy community, one that embraces debate to avoid “slam-dunk” intelligence in tough national security decisions…”

    not that i know any details,

    but this sounds like unadulterarated horseshit.

    “a sea change” ?

    portentous drivel designed to impress.

    “at the helm”?

    portentous drivel designed to impress.

    “more than two-thirds of his 72 years”

    portentous drivel designed to impress.

    so, @jim white, can you be a bit more precise about how this story relates to a change in u.s. policy toward iran that results in anti-nuclear arming/alarming stories being printed by the ap’s jahn?

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