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OMG Iranian Nukes!

If you happened to be listening to NPR this morning, or checked the New York Times or scanned the Jerusalem Post online this morning, you were greeted with shocking “news” – here’s one of the first versions from the usually more sensible Financial Times:

Iran has built up a stockpile of enough enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb, United Nations officials acknowledged on Thursday.

Our old pal David Sanger – writing with William J. Broad – in the New York Times got a bit closer to the truth – but only if you understand what “added purification” entails:

The officials also declared for the first time that the amount of uranium that Tehran had now amassed — more than a ton — was sufficient, with added purification, to make an atom bomb.

And that’s the problem – as we are bombarded by what Cheryl Rofer, a genuine expert on nuclear technology characterizes as “Whoo-Hoo! Atoms of Fissionable Material Everywhere!” we might easily miss the. . . facts. Let’s see what Cheryl says:

As I put the tea water on to boil and turned on the tv this morning, I was assaulted by the claim that seems to be everywhere. Maybe you’ve seen it in the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times, or heard the same CBS report that I did, or even read it on Kevin Drum.

It’s a lie.

Much as I hate to do so, because psychology tells us that repetition will help to fix the erroneous message in our minds, I will quote the most egregious statement of this "news."
Iran has enriched sufficient uranium to amass a nuclear bomb – a third more than previously thought – the United Nations announced yesterday.

Ah yes. And if you live in Boulder, Colorado, or in Connecticut, or New York City, you have enough U-235 under your house (or perhaps block) to amass a nuclear bomb! Or, Kevin, all that sea water lapping up against the California coast has uranium in it too! I have a call in to the IAEA to inspect your homes!

It would take a reconfiguration of the Natanz facility that the inspectors would notice to produce bomb-grade uranium (concentration of U-235 of 90%). The inspectors also take environmental samples to verify the concentration of U-235. They would have to be kicked out of the facility and their video cameras taken down for Iran to do this.

Cernig at Newshoggers who has been persistent in bringing sanity to these OMG IRAN + NUKES faux reports, reminds us:

Despite all the hype about the latest IAEA report on Iran the key phrase, repeated a lot in the IAEA reports is "The nuclear material has been under containment and surveillance at all times." But that little detail normally comes out around paragraph five in news reports, if at all.

And Cernig points out that even the Guardian has gotten on the hype train:

The Guardian’s Julian Borger then goes on to quote David Albright, who mentioned this "enough uranium for a bomb" twisted technicality in an analysis by his Institute for Science and International Security of the last IAEA report back in November, and has been bending it like Beckham ever since, motive unknown…

Back when he wasn’t being asked for quotes hyping the threat from the media, Albright himself wrote that just about the only thing that could convince Iran to kick out the IAEA would be an attack on its existing civilian facilities.

In fact the real story in the report – but not the convenient story for the hawks — is identified by Robert Dreyfuss – who describes himself as “not one of those Pollyannas who think that the Iranians are all innocent” — in The Nation:

Buried in the Times story, but headlined elsewhere, is the news that Mohammad ElBaradei, the IAEA chief, says that surprisingly Iran has slowed, not accelerated, its program of enrichment lately, perhaps as a sign to the Obama administration that it wants to talk. ElBaradei called it a "political decision," meaning that it’s not a technical slowdown.

As Sean Paul Kelly over at the Agonist writes, El Baradei has made the situation very clear:

ELBARADEI: The question is, what can they do? What are the alternatives to direct negotiations? As long as we are monitoring their facilities, they cannot develop nuclear weapons. And they still do not have the ingredients to make a bomb overnight.

Sean Paul asks the right question:

How hard is it to google this shit?

But hey, how can we hype up the Evil Iranian Threat if we pay attention to all those facts?

Video: The incomparable Tom Lehrer who would probably have a few choice choruses for these media idjits.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com