One really would think that by now the BBC should have learned to take the serial Israel-related journalistic ‘scoops’ produced by the Al Jazeera-Guardian duo with the appropriate bucket-load of salt. After all, the same partnership was responsible for the publication of the so-called ‘Palestine Papers’ in 2011 and the Al Jazeera employee behind those leaks also engineered the ridiculous ‘Arafat was poisoned’ story in 2013.
But no: the BBC has once again swallowed the latest Clayton Swisher creation promoted via Al Jazeera and the Guardian hook, line and sinker, producing its own version of the non-story in the form of an article published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on February 23rd under the title “Israel PM ‘differed’ with Mossad on Iran, says report“.
On the website’s Middle East page the article is promoted with the by-line:
“Israeli intelligence took a different view of Iran’s nuclear capabilities from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leaked cable suggests.”
The article itself opens:
“Israeli intelligence did not share PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s view that Iran was a year away from making a nuclear bomb, a leaked cable suggests.
In 2012, Mr Netanyahu said Iran needed to be stopped, telling the UN the country could build a weapon next year.
But a Mossad report said Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”, according to al-Jazeera and The Guardian.”
Readers can study the leaked cable for themselves here. The spin put on it by the Guardian and Al Jazeera (and faithfully parroted by the BBC) is aimed at persuading the public that the Israeli prime minister deliberately misled the world with regard to Iran’s nuclear intentions in his 2012 speech at the UN and that statements in that cable from none other than the Israeli security services (a nice poetic touch) prove the point. Obviously, the timing of this leak needs to be viewed within the context of both the current stage of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran and PM Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to the US Congress next week – as this paragraph in the Guardian’s report indicates:
“The disclosure comes as tensions between Israel and its staunchest ally, the US, have dramatically increased ahead of Netanyahu’s planned address to the US Congress on 3 March.”
We would not of course expect anything else from the Seumus Milne-Clayton Swisher stable of politically motivated ‘journalism’, but is there actually anything in the leaked cable which backs their claim? As several observers have already noted, the answer to that question is no.
“A cable from October 2012, apparently from the Mossad, assesses the state of Iran’s nuclear program. Al Jazeera notes that the document says that “Iran at this stage is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” but “is working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time instruction is actually given.” They contrast this with “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 per cent of the way to completing its ‘plans to build a nuclear weapon’” and (in their video report) with his line that “by next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage.”
The Mossad report doesn’t actually contradict this.
Making nuclear weapons is complicated. A working warhead is the result of several distinct lines of technical development. You need enough enriched uranium to sustain a rapid chain reaction (the core of the bomb), and you need a way to induce that chain reaction (the mechanism of the bomb). (You’ll also probably want a way to deliver the bomb, a third line of technology.) Netanyahu’s argument rested on this distinction: he said that the world must draw a red line on Iran’s activities that could be useful for making a core because those activities are much harder to hide than those for making the mechanism:
For Iran, amassing enough enriched uranium is far more difficult than producing the nuclear [detonation mechanism]….it takes many, many years to enrich uranium for a bomb. That requires thousands of centrifuges spinning in tandem in very big industrial plants. Those Iranian plants are visible and they’re still vulnerable. In contrast, Iran could produce the nuclear detonator…in a lot less time, maybe under a year, maybe only a few months. The detonator can be made in a small workshop the size of a classroom. It may be very difficult to find and target that workshop…So in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb.
Bibi was, in other words, not asserting that an Iranian nuclear device was coming soon—he was saying that Iran was approaching the end of the phase in which its nuclear program would be easiest to interrupt. The Mossad’s statement that Iran “is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons” doesn’t contradict that, particularly when read with their line that Iran’s activities at the time would “reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time instruction is actually given.” Iran was taking steps that made weaponization easier, even if it wasn’t weaponizing. A closer reading of the speech, and a better understanding of the underlying technical issues, would have revealed the harmony between the two positions.”
Either the BBC did not bother to check out the substance of the Guardian/Al Jazeera story before deciding to replicate it on its own platforms or it has no qualms about playing the role of amplifier for politically motivated ‘scoops’ originating from a media outlet owned and controlled by a terrorism-supporting Middle East dynasty. Perhaps Steve Herrmann would like to tell us which it is.