AP reporter George Jahn has an article up that is typical of the extreme bias of U.S. news media (the “respectable” kind, not Fox News) on the Iran nuclear talks. The headline seems intended to shock: “Iran at Talks: No Scrapping Any Nuclear Facility.”
Readers less knowledgeable on the details of the Iran talks would get the impression that this is (1) news, and (2) an act of insolent defiance on Iran’s part. In reality, it is not news because Iran never said it would be dismantling its nuclear facilities and, I could be wrong about this but, I don’t remember any Western negotiator suggesting that was one of the P5+1’s demands. Rather than defiance, furthermore, Iran’s refusal to “scrap” its nuclear facilities lies completely within its rights and privileges as afforded to it by the NPT.
Iran insists it is not interested in producing nuclear weapons but the six powers want Tehran to back its words with concessions. They seek an agreement that will leave Iran with little capacity to quickly ramp up its nuclear program into weapons-making mode with enriched uranium or plutonium, which can used for the fissile core of a missile.
For that, they say Iran needs to dismantle or store most of its 20,000 uranium enriching centrifuges, including some of those not yet working. They also demand that an Iranian reactor now being built be either scrapped or converted from a heavy-water setup to a light-water facility that makes less plutonium.
As part of the 6-month interim deal, Iran has already made major concessions on its nuclear enrichment program in terms of the rate at which they enrich, and to what concentration, and the frequency of international inspections (virtually every day). The Arak reactor has been one of those red herrings that hawks point out as proof of Iranian aims to someday shoot for the bomb.
But as Reuters pointed out back in November, in order to extract the plutonium from Arak, “Iran would also need to build a reprocessing plant,” which “it has no declared plans to do.” In addition, Arak construction is not scheduled to be completed until late 2014. Following that, Iran would have to construct a whole new reprocessing plant if the Arak reactor were to be an actual proliferation threat, something that would take several years.
In the article’s next segment, Jahn presents an obvious lie as a reported fact: “Iran is desperate to shed nearly a decade of increasingly strict sanctions on its oil industry and its financial sector but is fiercely opposed to any major scaling back of its nuclear infrastructure.”
Has Jahn been asleep? Has he gone all Rip Van Winkle on us? How has he missed the fact that the new Iranian government, under Hassan Rouhani, deliberately initiated intense international negotiations based on making a compromise on its nuclear program to assuage international concern over its intentions and then made major concessions in a 6-month interim deal? Is this really the behavior of a government “fiercely opposed to any” compromise on its nuclear infrastructure?
As Jessica Tuchman Matthews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently wrote, to believe Iran is determined only to expand and intensify its nuclear program, “one would have to be able to explain why Rouhani, if his intention were to cheat, would sign a deal that focuses the world’s attention on Iran’s nuclear behavior and imposes unprecedented inspections and monitoring.”
“What would be the logic in that?” she asks. “Iran has inched forward successfully for years. Why invite severe retribution by making an explicit deal with the world’s major powers and then violating it?”
This isn’t Jahn’s first rodeo. He has been producing consistently bad reporting on Iran for years. His most recent hackery involved the leaking of a scary diagram that was intended to, but did not, prove that Iran has a covert nuclear weapons program.
Commentary like Jahn’s is the kind that demands absolute capitulation from Iran, or else. As former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said recently on MSNBC, the arguments against the nuclear talks are “essentially designed to either humiliate [Iran] or to drive them into negativism so that then we are forced to act militarily.”