Friday, June 5, 2009

Western Media Propagandize Iran’s Missile Test

Western Media Propagandize Iran’s Missile Test

by Jeremy R. Hammond

Go To Original

Iran announced on Wednesday that it had successfully tested its Sejil 2 surface-to-surface missile, and Western media sources took the opportunity to portray the Middle Eastern nation as a threat to world peace and, specifically, as a threat to Israel.

The Seijl 2 missile has a range of about 1,200 miles, and thus would be capable of hitting Israel, but Iran’s President Ahmadinejad announced in a speech following what he deemed a successful test that the missile’s purpose was to protect Iran from the threat of aggression.

Still, media accounts in the U.S. and other Western nations portrayed Iran’s test as a threatening provocation and linked it to an Iranian nuclear weapons program there is no evidence actually exists.

The London Times’ headline alarmingly read “Ahmadinejad claims Iran’s new missile is capable of hitting Israel”.

But the paper failed to produce a quote of the Iranian president actually specifying Israel as being within range of the missile. Instead, the text of the article only states that Ahmadinejad merely announced that a missile with a range of 1,200 miles had been successfully tested.

The headline claim that the “missile is capable of hitting Israel” is simply a corollary drawn by the Times, but falsely attributed to Ahmadinejad himself in a not atypical demonizing media account.

“I was told that the missile is able to go beyond the atmosphere then come back and hit its target. It works on solid fuel,” Ahmadinejad said in his speech.

“The defense minister told me today that we launched a Sejil-2 missile, which is a two-stage missile and it has reached the intended target.”

He also talked about the insistence of Western countries that Iran end it’s enrichment of uranium for its nuclear program. “They said if you don’t stop, we will adopt resolutions…. They thought we would retreat but that will not happen.”


The U.S. has used its influence in the Security Council to oversee the passage of a series of U.N. resolutions implementing sanctions against Iran for failing to cease enrichment activities. Iran insists that its right to enrich uranium is guaranteed under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The NPT in fact states that nothing may prejudice the rights of member nations to enrich uranium for nuclear energy.

The U.N. watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has continued to verify that Iran has enriched only low-grade uranium, not the highly-enriched uranium necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

“I told them you can adopt 100 sets of sanctions, but nothing will change”, Ahmadinejad said.

In an apparent reference to the Obama administration’s declarations that it would be willing to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said, “All want dialogue with Iran, and we prefer this. But it should be in the framework of justice and respect.”

The lead sentence in the Washington Post’s account of the missile launch employed a similar device as that used in the London Times‘ headline.

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday”, the Postarticle read, “that his country had successfully test-fired a medium-range solid-fuel missile apparently capable of striking Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region.”

While acknowledging that “arms-control experts debated its significance”, the Postadded that the launch demonstrated “an increasing sophistication in its missile program” from a liquid to a solid fuel system. “Solid-fuel rockets can be launched faster and are more mobile,” the Post reported.

The Post quoted Ahmadinejad as saying, “The rocket went into space, returned to Earth and hit its target” to a cheering crowd in a soccer stadium in Semnan province.

The article continued on to say, “Ahmadinejad has long said Iran’s nuclear program has strictly peaceful civilian purposes. But on Wednesday, he linked the missile test with that program, calling it an important scientific achievement and a blow to those trying to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The implication is that Ahmadinejad himself suggested that the missile test was related to Iran’s nuclear program, with the further corollary from that supposed linkage being that the missile is intended to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Having established this ostensible context for its readers, the Post account continued, providing a quote of Ahmaedinjad referencing the nuclear issue.

“‘In the nuclear case, we send them a message: Today the Islamic Republic of Iran is running the show,’ Ahmadinejad said in his speech. ‘We say to the superpowers, “Who of you dare to threaten the Iranian nation? Raise your hand!” But they all stand there with their hands behind their backs.’”

The Post’s implication was that Ahmadinejad had acknowledged Iranian intentions to produce nuclear weapons, deliverable by a missile such as that tested in Semnan on Wednesday. But a second look at Ahmadinejad’s actual remarks and reconsideration of the context reveals the propaganda device employed by thePost here.

The “link” Ahmadinejad was clearly making between the missile test launch and the nuclear program isn’t that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but that Iran now has a non-nuclear deterrent to U.S. or Israeli aggression.

“Today Iran has the power to turn any base that fires a bullet at Iran into hell,” Ahmadinejad also said in his speech. “In the past some threatened Iran but today they cannot threaten Iran with their military power,” he said. “Today we declare that no country has the power to threaten Iran”.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to launch military strikes against Iran to destroy its nuclear program. And U.S. President Barack Obama said recently, echoing remarks from his predecessor, President George W. Bush, that a military attack against Iran was “on the table”.

The linkage between the missile launch, therefore, and the nuclear program isn’t nuclear weapons, but the U.S. and Israeli threats to launch attacks to destroy that program.

But by employing such propaganda devices and spinning Ahmadinejad’s remarks in such a manner, Western media accounts manage to portray Iran as a nation deliberately flaunting its designs on obtaining a nuclear weapon and directly threatening Israel with the possibility of a nuclear attack.

It was through the use of not dissimilar propaganda devices that the U.S. mainstream corporate media managed to convince the as much as 70 percent of the American public prior to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded to Iran’s missile test by saying that “In terms of strategic importance, this new missile test doesn’t change anything for us since the Iranians already tested a missile with a range of 1,500 kilometers, but it should worry the Europeans”.

“If anybody had a doubt, it is clear the Iranians are playing with fire”, he said.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported last week that Israel had agreed with the U.S. not to launch military strikes against Iran without giving the Obama administration advance notice of its intentions.

The U.S. has cited the alleged threat from Iran to justify a missile defense system in Europe that has antagonized Russia. A joint analysis by U.S. and Russian scientists, however, concluded that the system “would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to deploy,” according to the Washington Post’s report on their analysis.

“The missile threat from Iran to Europe is thus not imminent,” the Post quoted the report as saying on Tuesday.

That’s quite the understatement. “And if Iran attempted such an attack, the experts say, it would ensure its own destruction”, the Post also noted.

Throughout the entire debate over the missile defense system, the question of why Iran would ever launch missile strikes against Europe has never been satisfactorily addressed, and the claim that it is designed to deter Iran, rather than that it is designed to contain Russia, as Russia itself fears, is difficult to take seriously.

The New York Times’ report on Iran’s launch asserted that it added “to concerns that Iran’s weapons-development program is fast outpacing the American-led diplomacy that President Obama has said he will let play out through the end of the year.”

The Times quoted the Obama administration’s top official for arms control and security, Gary Samore, who has been labeled by the media as Obama’s “weapons of mass destruction ‘czar’”, as expressing his hope that the administration “‘will be able to capitalize on this launch to strengthen our case’ on the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program.”

But the most blatant piece of propaganda in the Times‘ account followed its observation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Iran has made progress on two of three technologies necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

“The first”, the Times states, “is enriching uranium to weapons grade, now under way at the large nuclear complex at Natanz.”

This statement goes beyond the boundaries of deceptive spin into the realm of outright lying. The IAEA, as already noted, has verified that Iran is enriching only low-grade uranium at Natanz, not weapons grade uranium as falsely claimed here by the Times.

Iran’s uranium has been enriched to less than 5 percent U-235, whereas it is necessary to enrich uranium to consist of 90 percent or more of the U-235 isotope in order to be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

“The second”, the Times continued, “is developing a missile capable of reaching Israel and parts of Western Europe,” again implying that Iran’s Sejil-2 missile might be related to nuclear weapons development.

The third technology is warhead design, which is the “greatest mystery” about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, according to the Times, which added, “Asked Wednesday whether he had seen additional evidence to indicate that the weaponization program had been restarted, Mr. Samore declined to comment.”

By using the adjective “additional”, the Times asserted as fact that there is evidence Iran had been working on a warhead design until 2003, when, according to a 2007 CIA National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iran halted its work on weaponization.

But the actual evidence supposedly backing this assessment has never been made public. The source for this claim is apparently a laptop computer that was obtained by U.S. intelligence that allegedly belonged to an Iranian scientist and contained documents showing Iran’s work on technology related to weaponization.

Only a select number of these documents have been handed over to the IAEA, which refers to them in its reports as “the alleged studies” and which has so far been unable to verify their authenticity. Iran claims that the documents are forgeries.

The U.S. used fabricated documents during the run-up to the Iraq war in an effort to bolster its claim that Saddam Hussein had attempted to obtain yellowcake uranium from Africa.

The Times fails to discern between an assessment and actual evidence, a mistake it should have learned after its atrocious reporting prior to the invasion of Iraq, when it helped to propagate false claims about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

In that case, intelligence estimates similarly claimed that Iraq possessed WMD, but such assessments were not backed by any credible evidence and the CIA was forced to acknowledge after the invasion that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed its undeclared WMD in 1991.

Jeremy R. Hammond is the Editor of Foreign Policy Journal, an online source for news, critical analysis, and opinion commentary on U.S. foreign policy from outside the standard framework as defined by political officials and the mainstream corporate media. His articles have also been featured and cited in numerous other print and online publications. He has appeared in interviews on the GCN radio network and on Press TV’s Middle East Today program.

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