Hyping Iran Nukes, Again

Exclusive: Despite signs that Iran is ready to accept new limits on its nuclear program, the neocon lobby in Washington is still trying to gin up support for a U.S.-Israeli military strike that could plunge the world into another crisis, with some of the usual suspects back at work, Robert Parry reports.

By Robert Parry

The neocon-flagship Washington Post and its investigative reporter Joby Warrick are at it again, hyping an account about Iran’s nuclear program pushed by discredited nuclear expert David Albright, who famously gave cover for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq a decade ago.

The latest Albright/Warrick alarm, which leads Thursday’s Washington Post, cites Iran’s alleged effort to place an Internet order for 100,000 ring-shaped magnets that would work in some of the country’s older centrifuges.

David Albright, former weapons inspector and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security. (Photo by Dorothea Heithoff, Licensed under Creative Commons)

“Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability,” Warrick wrote in his lede paragraph.

You have to read to the end of the long story to hear a less strident voice, saying that Iran had previously informed inspectors for the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency that it planned to build more of its old and clunkier centrifuges, which use this sort of magnet, and that the enrichment was for civilian energy, not a nuclear bomb.

“Olli Heinonen, who led IAEA nuclear inspections inside Iran before his retirement in 2010, said the type of magnet sought by Iran was highly specific to the IR-1 centrifuge and could not, for example, be used in the advanced IR-2M centrifuges that Iran has recently tested,” according to the final paragraphs of Warrick’s article.

“‘The numbers in the order make sense, because Iran originally told us it wanted to build more than 50,000 of the IR-1s,’ Heinonen said. ‘The failure rate on these machines is 10 percent a year, so you need a surplus.’”

At the bottom of Warrick’s story, you’d also learn that “Iran has avoided what many experts consider Israel’s new ‘red line’: a stockpile of medium-enriched uranium greater than 530 pounds, roughly the amount needed to build a weapon if further purified. At the current pace, Iran could reach that theoretical threshold by the middle of next year, said a Western diplomat privy to internal IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear progress.”

So there’s nothing urgent or particularly provocative about this alleged purchase, though the structure and placement of the Post story suggest that you’re not really supposed to read to the end to find that out. You should simply leap to the intended conclusion that Iran is on the verge of building an atomic bomb and that it’s time for President Barack Obama to join Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in another Middle East war.

The Misleading Analyst

The Post’s pressure on the Obama administration to fall in line with Netanyahu’s belligerence toward Iran has been building for years, often with Warrick channeling anti-Iranian propaganda from Albright, who heads a private research group called the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

A decade ago, Albright and the ISIS were key figures in stoking the hysteria for invading Iraq around the false allegations of its WMD program. In recent years, Albright and his institute have adopted a similar role regarding Iran and its purported pursuit of a nuclear weapon, even though U.S. intelligence agencies say Iran terminated that weapons project in 2003.

Nevertheless, Albright has transformed his organization into a sparkplug for a new confrontation with Iran. Though Albright insists that he is an objective professional, ISIS has published hundreds of articles about Iran, which has not produced a single nuclear bomb, while barely mentioning Israel’s rogue nuclear arsenal.

An examination of the ISIS Web site reveals only a few technical articles relating to Israel’s nukes while ISIS has expanded its coverage of Iran’s nuclear program so much that it’s been moved onto a separate Web site. The articles not only hype developments in Iran but also attack U.S. media critics who question the fear-mongering about Iran.

More than a year ago when a non-mainstream journalist confronted Albright about the disparity between ISIS’s concentration on Iran and de minimis coverage of Israel, he angrily responded that he was working on a report about Israel’s nuclear program. However, there is still no substantive assessment of Israel’s large nuclear arsenal on the ISIS Web site, which goes back to 1993.

Despite this evidence of bias, the Post and other mainstream U.S. news outlets typically present Albright as a neutral analyst. They also ignore his checkered past, for instance, his prominent role in promoting President Bush’s pre-invasion case that Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD.

At the end of summer 2002, as Bush was beginning his advertising roll-out for the Iraq invasion and dispatching his top aides to the Sunday talk shows to warn about “smoking guns” and “mushroom clouds,” Albright co-authored a Sept. 10, 2002, article entitled “Is the Activity at Al Qaim Related to Nuclear Efforts?” which declared:

“High-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq’s al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility This site was where Iraq extracted uranium for its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. This image raises questions about whether Iraq has rebuilt a uranium extraction facility at the site, possibly even underground. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort.”

Albright’s alarming allegations fit neatly with Bush’s propaganda barrage, although as the months wore on with Bush’s warnings about aluminum tubes and yellowcake from Africa growing more outlandish Albright did display more skepticism about the existence of a revived Iraqi nuclear program.

Still, he remained a “go-to” expert on other Iraqi purported WMD, such as chemical and biological weapons. In a typical quote on Oct. 5, 2002, Albright told CNN: “In terms of the chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has those now.”

Taken In

After Bush launched the Iraq invasion in March 2003 and Iraq’s secret WMD caches didn’t materialize, Albright admitted that he had been conned, explaining to the Los Angeles Times: “If there are no weapons of mass destruction, I’ll be mad as hell.

“I certainly accepted the administration claims on chemical and biological weapons. I figured they were telling the truth. If there is no [unconventional weapons program], I will feel taken, because they asserted these things with such assurance.” [See FAIR’s “The Great WMD Hunt,”]

Given the horrendous costs in blood and treasure resulting from the Iraq fiasco, an objective journalist might feel compelled to mention Albright’s track record of bias and errors. But the Post’s Warrick doesn’t. If you read mid-way into Warrick’s article on Thursday, you’ll find the esteemed Albright and his ISIS at the core of the story, receiving credit for obtaining copies of the magnet purchase order.

“With two magnets needed per machine,” Warrick writes, “the order technically could supply Iran with enough material for 50,000 new gas centrifuges, although some of the magnets would probably have been reserved for repairs and spare parts, said David Albright, ISIS president and a former IAEA inspector. ‘It implies that they want to build a lot more centrifuges,’ he said.”

Warrick does include the boiler plate that Iran “insists” that it is not building a nuclear bomb with almost the wink-wink of who would believe that but the reporter doesn’t mention that U.S. intelligence agencies agree that Iran has not resumed work on a nuclear weapon or that Israel maintains a sophisticated and undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own.

Though Warrick cites the concerns of Prime Minister Netanyahu about Iran’s nuclear program, the reporter doesn’t observe that Israel is arguably the world’s most notorious rogue nuclear state. It has built up its undeclared nuclear arsenal after refusing to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and keeping IAEA inspectors away from its nuclear facilities.

By contrast, Iran signed the NPT, has renounced nuclear weapons, and has allowed IAEA inspectors to monitor its nuclear energy program. Granted, Iran’s cooperation has been less than stellar but its record is far superior to Israel’s.

Yet, Albright and his ISIS like Warrick and the Post have largely turned a blind eye to Israel’s nukes and focused instead on Iran’s theoretical bomb-making.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

16 comments for “Hyping Iran Nukes, Again

  1. b
    February 15, 2013 at 07:40

    The Warrick story is even worse:

    – Barium strontium ferrite magnets are of NOT “unusual alloy”
    – The magnets in question are NOT “highly specialized magnets”
    – The dimensions of the magnets do NOT “match precisely — to a fraction of a millimeter — those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1”
    – There was NO “purchase order” only an inquiry aka a request for a quote made by who-knows

    I debunked the story in full here:

  2. Hillary
    February 15, 2013 at 06:17

    “Hyping Iran Nukes, Again” and again with the Washington Post’s Krauthammer leading the way is just amazing.
    Remember this Israeli/US “War” against Islam was successfully promoted by noecons mainly Jewish who supported Right Wing Israeli aggression in its agenda to totally dominate the Middle East.
    neocons stated that regime change in Iraq was essential and in toppling Saddam and turning Iraq into a vibrant democracy, they argued, the US would trigger a far-reaching process of change throughout the Middle East.
    The US would be welcomed with flowers —
    The same line of thinking was evident in the ‘Clean Break’ study these neo-conservatives previously wrote for Netanyahu.
    By 2002, when an invasion of Iraq was on the front-burner, regional transformation was an article of faith for the neocons.
    Charles Krauthammer describes this grand scheme as the brainchild of Natan Sharansky, but Israelis across the political spectrum believed that toppling Saddam would alter the Middle East to Israel’s advantage. (Aluf Benn Ha’aretz (17 February 2003).
    The Israeli cabal around Prime Minister Ariel Sharon led by National Security Adviser Ephraim Halevy, painted a picture of the wonderful future Israel could expect after the Iraq war — envisioning the domino effect, with the fall of Israel’s other enemies . . .
    Washington Post´s Krathammer 4/19/02 wrote
    “Saddam survived, rearmed, defeated the inspections regime and is now back in the business of building weapons of mass destruction.
    …Time is running short. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He is working on nuclear weapons. And he has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us.”
    Krauthammer was raised in Montreal, Canada where he attended the super Hebrew Herzliah High School and became an avid Zionist and later when “employed” at the Washington Post spent about an entire year using his column to lie to the American people and cheer-lead the largest mistake America has made since Vietnam.
    Today Krauthammer with other neocons claims a status of revered intellectuals.

  3. Revo
    February 15, 2013 at 01:54

    “If Israel and America want to prevent a Middle East nuclear arms race, which was started by Israel 40 years ago, let Israel give up its nukes first. And if Israel is unwilling to do that, let Israel and America stop complaining about Iran – or anyone else.” ( Israeli journalist, Larry Derfner)

  4. Frances in California
    February 14, 2013 at 16:51

    Relax, Professor Sanford. Neil always comes around to drop his own bombs, “you’re-an-anti-semite” bombs whenever Likudniks come under criticism. The posturers who sound like they would “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb! Bomb, Bomb Iran!” have one eye in the mirror and the other one on Wall Street. They want to get in touch with their Hedge Fund Mgrs. as soon as they see stock prices move based on the noise they make. Ask one of them to show you where Israel and Iran are on a map sometime, and begin to see thru their noise. We real Americans must stay true to our values and out of Middle East conflicts.

    • F. G. Sanford
      February 14, 2013 at 20:19

      Why, thank you Frances. But I’d like to add that Consortium News has actually taken a rather “kid glove” approach to countering media bias with respect to Israel. If, for example, Mr. Parry were really to pursue an avenue which could significantly influence Israel, he could publish a list of corporate entities which could be boycotted in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. That “list” is one of the hardest things there are to find. As I understand it, Home Depot should be on there, along with Starbucks and SodaStream. But take a look in your pantry. My computer will reproduce a copyright ©, but it won’t produce the same symbol with a U or a K in a circle. You’ll find one on a can of Hunt’s tomatoes, a box of Ritz crackers, a box of Cheerios, a can of Libby peas, and a box of Barilla macaroni. Even Aunt Jemima syrup has one. Sometimes, like on Sun-Maid raisins, the K is in a little triangle. Sometimes, it says, “Pareve”. (Sounds like a French delicacy, doesn’t it?) All of these little symbols which most of you have probably never noticed are not “copyright” or proprietary symbols. These indicate that the company which makes the product has paid an extortionate bribe to a Hebrew religious authority to use that designator, indicating that the product is “Kosher”. Functionally, it’s not an indicator of quality or freshness, but merely establishes that the bribe has been paid. So, every time you go to the grocery store, you pay a financial tribute to Israel. Those companies have to consider the money paid to Rabbis in the cost of their product, and it is reflected in the purchase price. Bill O’Reilly conducts his annual “War on Christmas” campaign. In the interest of fairness in Journalism, maybe there should be a “War on Goys” campaign that points out how our food supply is used as a hidden tax on Christmas. Bill O’Reilly would be the perfect guy to conduct that. He could get Frankenstein look-a-like Charles Krauthammer to provide the obligatory Neocon point of view, stating that not buying Kosher products is Antisemitism because Jesus was an Israeli. I’m sure Colbert and Stewart would have us laughing so hard we’d bust a gut. But as far as Neil’s proposition is concerned, I think this particular publication is actually Mr. Parry’s brainchild. He’d have to fire himself, and I for one, certainly hope he doesn’t.

      • John
        February 15, 2013 at 18:44

        Thank you for the tip about the U and the K. General Mills is now off my shopping list and I’ll find other cereals. Also I’m going to let them and another firm I’ve ben buying from know why I’m not buying their products anymore.

  5. Dean Taylor
    February 14, 2013 at 16:22

    Please take a moment to sign and disseminate the following White House petition:

    appoint an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Los Angeles Police Department…
    We, the People, petition this administration to appoint an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Los Angeles Police Department re: longstanding charges of abiding, inherent racism, corruption, and policies and protocols manifest as police brutality against the citizens it is enjoined to serve and protect. That the LAPD is incapable of launching its own credible investigation into these charges is manifestly clear, as allegations and charges of gross misconduct and corruption are–as a matter of routine–dismissed, overruled, or suppressed. Indeed, far from these charges bringing about an amelioration of behavior, the mismanagement of the LAPD by its own administrators has, in fact, deteriorated. In sum: the LAPD has run rampant for far too long and is derelict of its duties.


    thank you!

  6. F. Sierra
    February 14, 2013 at 16:04


    No one wants bombs to be dropped on innocent people, but, at the same time, we’re tired of being lied to by chicken hawks who want to take out other regimes for profit. You’re actually okay with these war mongers telling lies to drum up public support to invade Iran while ignoring Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal?

    Calling out facts doesn’t make someone an anti-Semite.

  7. Neil Farbstein
    February 14, 2013 at 15:38

    Robert Parry is obviously an anti-Semite and it wouldn’t bother him bit if the Iranians dropped the bomb on innocent people if they happened to have a different religion. He’s not as liberal or as tolerant as he pretends to be.

    I have noticed that his opinions are much more anti-Semitic than other writers at consortium news. Why don’t they get rid of him.

    • dariousch
      February 14, 2013 at 17:25

      dear friend, i do not think we can find innocent people on this earth. we are talking about dead dead and dead. lets the guns talk and destroy IRAN and see we can find finally peace . why a country like iran want always destroy israel and not other countries. why tell me to know it. ? WHYYYYYYYYYY

      • Mohsen
        February 15, 2013 at 10:08

        Easy now , you could become a great dicktator !

    • John
      February 14, 2013 at 17:35

      Neil what a fantastically silly idea, and what facts do you have to support it. Iran if it had nuclear weapons wouldn’t use them first because they know that they would be wiped off the face of the earth not just by Israel but by other nuclear powers. The more you threaten them the more likely they will go into a nuclear capable defensive role. The real story is that they don’t toe the Israeli political line in Lebanon (Israel would like a minority Christian sect to rule), and in other places they upset the Israeli position. Why don’t you discuss racism in Israel, right wing politicians fertilizing the fears of past atrocities to further themselves, the renunciation of international law as pertains to Palestinians both Christian and Muslim (Palestine was not a country crap, they were a society under Ottoman rule where Jews also had political power), Israel which on three occasions has used false Canadian passports in Mossad assassination plots (endangering Canadians), and so forth and so on.

    • Lynne Gillooly
      February 14, 2013 at 20:25

      This “anti Semite” accusation is absolutely without merit. Why do Americans feel like they cannot criticize Israel? Bibi is a scary Prime Minister. Many Israelis do not agree with his hawkish stance. Are they anti Semites also?
      All Mr. Parry did was write the facts. Israel does have nuclear weapons and did not sign the NP agreement and refuse inspectors. That is just the facts of the matter.
      The US is a strong ally of Israel, but we cannot follow whatever Bibi wants us to do. That is not anti Semitic.
      It is also a fact that our 16 intelligence agencies reported that Iran stopped their weaponized nuclear program in 2003. They, in fact, signed the NP agreement and allow inspectors. This does not mean all is well with Iran or that he sides with them. If we cannot have factual debates on such important issues without calling people names we will never solve this serious problem.

    • incontinent reader
      February 15, 2013 at 00:05

      It is instructive that you haven’t addressed any facts in Mr. Parry’s article. These ad hominem attacks are both juvenile and offensive.

      • incontinent reader
        February 15, 2013 at 00:06

        My comment was addressed to Neil Farbstein, if that is his name.

    • rosemerry
      February 16, 2013 at 03:36

      Farbstein, try to get a life. Robert Parry is one of the most respected investigative journalists you would ever find, if you stopped the pathetic moaning about “antisemitism” and looked at the POLITICAL decisions, the threats, actions, taken by the USA under the influence of the Zionist entity. It is nothing to do with gods or religion, but human deceit, cruelty, self-serving actions against a sovereign State which has NOT attacked anyone for centuries, while Israel takes over as much as possible of the land it pretends an early estate agent gave it, with no care whatsoever for anyone but its invaders and occupiers.

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