Page 1 of 2 The myth of 'weapons-grade' enrichment
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Talk about the double standards at the United Nations. Whereas UN secretary
general Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly condemned Iranian President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad's rhetoric against Israel, expressing "shock and dismay", he has
remained ominously, and inexcusably, silent about the blatant Israeli threats
of military attacks on Iran, thus undermining the world's confidence in his
ability to steer the global community clear of yet another major war in the
Middle East caldron.
Having turned a blind eye to Iran's formal protest at the UN regarding Israel's
explicit threats, Ban may need to revisit his own statement of June 7, 2007,
"The secretary general points out that all members have undertaken to refrain
from the threat or use of
force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any
In light of new media disclosures about Israel's advanced plans to launch a
major air offensive against Iran's nuclear installations, bound to inflict
serious civilian casualties and trigger the volatile region into a "fireball",
to paraphrase the reaction of the head of International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA), Mohammad ElBaradei, who has stated categorically that he would resign
immediately if Iran is attacked, Ban is borderline on the verge of skirting his
official obligation by refusing to issue a stern statement on this serious
matter of war and peace.
ElBaradei's comments followed confirmation by sources at the Pentagon and other
US government agencies that Israel recently carried out a full rehearsal of an
air assault on Iran's nuclear sites.
Should Israel deliver on its stated threats and drop its bombs on Iran, thus
triggering a major conflict in the Middle East, with dangerous and
unanticipated consequences, then the UN will be widely regarded a key casualty
of this crisis, and would be blamed for failing in prudent crisis-management.
Unfortunately, compounding the UN's shortcoming above-cited is a related
failure of mainstream media in the US and Europe to criticize Ban's flawed
approach to the Iran crisis, or to address the systematic disinformation and
planned paranoia about Iran's nuclear program put forth by Israel and its
Instead, the US media in particular have allowed themselves to become an
unwitting accomplice of Israel's anti-Iran propaganda machine, dutifully
recycling the line that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons, has amassed
"weapons-grade" enriched uranium, and is thus on the verge of arriving at "the
point of no return" with respect to bomb-making.
In a word, the race to dupe public opinion about a "clear and present danger"
posed by Iran's nuclear program, to justify Israel's threatened attack (with
the US's tacit approval) is in full gear and the US media are by and large
about to receive another "F" card, just as they did with the US's 2003 invasion
of Iraq, when the "pluralistic" media became a shell of itself by blindly
echoing the White House's spin about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Indeed, it is remarkable how little the US media have learned, or evolved,
since then and how frozen their will is when it comes to their sedimented
inability to criticize the state of Israel, recalling the criticisms of US
editorials by former president Jimmy Carter in his book, Worse than Apartheid.
In fact, the rather uniform, uncritical and conformist behavior of the US media
shows that they are worse than Israel's own media, they occasionally display
signs of independence from the government on foreign policy matters.
It is not 'unsupervised' or 'weapons-grade'
From the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Boston Globe, the
Dallas News and so on, a common thread running through their editorials and
opinion pages nowadays is a fundamental distortion of facts about Iran's
nuclear program that has gone unnoticed despite the patently obvious and
flagrant nature of this distortion.
With leading nuclear experts, media pundits and members of the US Congress
recycling it, this serious distortion has now acquired the status of a truism
about Iran, and a dangerous one that lends itself to an unprovoked attack on
Iran by Israel and or the US.
But, no matter what the influential position of their signatories, the
narratives in the US media that persist in their claim that Iran has
manufactured "weapons-grade" enriched uranium simply cannot stand the weight of
scrutiny and are refuted by the IAEA's findings to the contrary. These
narratives routinely refer to the IAEA's reports on Iran, yet turn a blind eye
to those reports' explicit references to Iran's "low-enriched uranium" (up to
To give a few examples, Graham Allison, a leading US nuclear expert at Harvard
University, recently penned an article in the Boston Globe  stating: "Iran
is operating 3,492 centrifuges in a cascade that has produced 500 pounds of
low-enriched uranium. This is one-third of what is required for Iran's first
Similarly, in an article in The Wall Street Journal, US Congresswoman Jane
Harman, who chairs the powerful Homeland Security Intelligence Committee, cites
Iran's steady progress in installing new centrifuges and the dangers posed by
"unsupervised, weapons-grade material" in Tehran's hands. 
Never mind that IAEA reports clearly confirm that all of Iran's
enrichment-related facilities are under the agency's "containment and
monitoring", or that IAEA inspectors have had nine "unannounced visits" at the
enrichment facility in Natanz since March 2007.
Thus, for instance, in a front-page article in the New York Times,  dated
June 20, Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt break the sensational news about
Israel's extensive maneuvers in preparation for an attack on Iran, indirectly
rationalizing Israel's belligerency by omitting any mention of the IAEA's
latest report confirming the absence of any evidence of military nuclear
diversion and, instead, confining themselves to the following comment: "In late
May, the IAEA reported that Iran's suspected work on nuclear matters was a
'matter of serious concern' and that the Iranians owed the agency 'substantial
What ought to have been added was that the same IAEA report states
unequivocally that it had received "no credible information" regarding the
alleged "weaponization studies", nor has the agency detected any nuclear
activity connected to those alleged studies. Besides, the same IAEA report more
than a dozen times stresses the evidence of peacefulness of Iran's nuclear
Yet none of this seem meritorious of attention of even veteran New York Times
reporter Michael Gordon, better known for his association with discredited
reporter Judith Miller, who loyally dished out Israel's disinformation about
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to the newspaper's global readership in
2002-2003. Yet Gordon is now emboldened to lend his penmanship to Israel's
warmongering against Iran, through narrow, selective attention to IAEA reports
and distorting the atomic agency's findings.
To turn to another example of flawed coverage of Iran by the US media, a recent
editorial in the Dallas News  states categorically that the IAEA "has
recently accused Iran of developing its program of enriching uranium". The
editors appear unaware that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to
which Iran is a signatory, does not prohibit Iran's uranium-enrichment program.
The IAEA has never declared Iran in material breach of its obligations and,
certainly, has never "accused" Iran of pursuing a program sanctioned under the
NPT. Rather, the governing board of the IAEA has simply requested from Iran to
suspend its sensitive nuclear program as a "confidence-building measure", that
is, as a time-bound and thus temporary "legally non-binding" step.
Yet, by dispensing with such important nuances and critical distinctions
between low-enriched uranium and "weapons-grade" uranium, a growing segment of
the US media has now fully