Western media propagandize Iran�s missile test
By Jeremy R. Hammond
Online Journal Contributing Writer
May 28, 2009, 00:12
Iran announced on May 20 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
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
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�
�Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday,�
the Post article
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
While acknowledging that �arms-control experts debated its
significance,� the Post added
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
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
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 May 20. But a second look at
Ahmadinejad�s actual remarks and reconsideration of the context reveals the
propaganda device employed by the Post 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
�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, 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
It was through the use of not dissimilar propaganda devices
that the U.S. mainstream corporate media managed to convince 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.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded to
Iran�s missile test by saying, �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 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
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
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
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 [May 20] whether he had seen additional evidence to indicate
that the weaponization program had been restarted, Mr. Samore declined to
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.
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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