Thursday, February 22, 2007

For this blog’s fourth birthday tomorrow, it might be fitting that sensationalist journalism from the New York Times deserves condemnation. (What else is new?) “In open defiance of the United Nations,” we read, “Iran is steadily expanding its efforts to enrich uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] reported…” Is this true?

The actual IAEA report, to which the Times provides a link, says something quite different. “The Agency has no information to report regarding the assembly of centrifuges…” The Times: “…the nuclear agency reported that Iran was now operating or about to switch on roughly a thousand centrifuges … at its nuclear facility at Natanz.” There is no mention of any new developments at Natanz; this appears to be complete fabrication.

IAEA: “As of 17 February 2007, no UF6 [uranium enrichment gas] had been fed into the process at FEP [Fuel Enrichment Plant].” Times: “If the country could operate 3,000 centrifuges continuously for a year, it could produce about one weapon’s worth of highly enriched uranium [HEU].” This gets buried several paragraphs later: “The report said that between Nov. 2 [2006] and Feb. 17, Iranian crews fed 145 pounds of uranium into the pilot plant for enrichment,” which “produced only about 15 pounds of low-enriched uranium — too little for anything but experimental analysis.”

The IAEA is more specific: “The environmental sample results thus far indicate a maximum enrichment of 4.2%…” (The threshold beyond which it becomes highly-enriched is 5%, according to the Depleted Uranium Management Information Network, a branch of the Argonne National Laboratory’s Environmental Science Division.) This is alarming; about that there’s no doubt. It seems, though, to be a far cry from catastrophe.

Some cause for concern, from the report: “Iran has not agreed to any of the required transparency measures, which are essential for the clarification of certain aspects of the scope and nature of its nuclear programme.” The Islamic Republic is being arrogant (no surprise), and we’re threatening war. The heart of the matter appears to be that “Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activites,” what the Times calls “open defiance” — omitting where the IAEA also says that “Iran has been providing the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and facilities…” Or it’s just playing cat-and-mouse about the stockpiles it’s keeping hidden, like Iraq did.

Maybe we all, the Times and its buddies in the White House included, should stop giving invaluable ammunition, and massive boosts of ego, to the madmen of this world — like Bush and Ahmadinejad — and their apocalyptic visions.

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