Did Israeli government officials aggressively promote an unsubstantiated story about an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility?
According to Ali Gharib at The Daily Beast, yes. He writes that it is “an object lesson that shows just how far some press—and even Israeli government officials—have gone down the rabbit hole on Iran issues by propagating a story reported on a conspiracy website.”
Reports have been circulating for days claiming there was such an explosion at the Iranian enrichment facility at Fordow. It might have just disappeared, but Israeli officials started pushing the story in the press, without citing any evidence, of course.
The story first popped up three days ago on WND, written by an author going by the pseudonym Reza Kahlili who claims to be a former CIA spy in Iran. But Kahlili is unreliable, to say the least: among other outlandish claims peddled by Kahlili, he wrote that Iran already has nuclear weapons. But that didn’t stop all kinds of news media repeating Kahlili’s unsubstantiated claim. The website of the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronot ran a story on Saturday that began, “WND, an American news website affiliated with the Right, reported Friday that a mysterious explosion has destroyed a significant portion of Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility.” (If I was on the right, I’d be angry about the claim that my political beliefs are “affiliated” with WND.) On Sunday, the Jewish Press ran a story riddled with punctuation errors that cited WND and Yedioth, reprinting parts of the latter’s story in full. And another story today at the Jewish Press, under a credulous headline, admitted the story might not be right in its lede.
…What was surprising was that Israeli government officials would publicly comment on such a story. But that’s exactly what happened when a top national security adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to take the report at face value. Responding to an inquiry from the Times of Israel, Homefront Defense Minister Avi Dichter—the acting defense minister at the time—said, “Any explosion in Iran that doesn’t hurt people but hurts its assets is welcome.” That’s all fine and dandy, except that it propagates a potentially false story from an unsavory source. Rather more amazingly, Israeli intelligence sources confirmed to the Times of London that the story was real.
Not only did the Iranian government immediately deny the unsubstantiated reports, but now the US government has come out to deny them too. “We have no information to confirm the allegations in the report and we do not believe the report is credible,” Carney said. “We don’t believe those are credible reports.”
This shows how eager some Israeli government officials are to peddle untruths they know to be false in their endless quest to legitimate a war of aggression on Iran for a nuclear weapons program it doesn’t even have.