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USA: The New York Times misleading public on Iran

Saturday 11 February 2012, by siawi3

The paper has made faulty allegations about Iran’s nuclear
programme without running proper corrections.

Robert Naiman

- Source: Last Modified: 09 Jan 2012 18:44

The NYT retracted questionable claims in an online article
without informing their readers [GALLO/GETTY]
Washington, DC, United States - It’s deja vu all over
again. AIPAC is trying to trick the United States into
another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on
behalf of the Likud Party’s colonial ambitions, and the
New York Times is misleading the public with allegations
that say that the country is developing "weapons of mass

In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4
("Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil"),
this paragraph appeared:

The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at
Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the
International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear
programme has a military objective, is becoming an
important issue in the American presidential campaign
[emphasis my own].

The claim that there is "a recent assessment by the
International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear
programme has a military objective" is misguided.

As Washington Post’s Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on
December 9:

But the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does
it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort
pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad
enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.

Indeed, if you try now to find the offending paragraph on
the New York Times website, you can’t. They took it down.
But there is no note, like there is supposed to be,
acknowledging that they changed the article, and that
there was something wrong with it before. Sneaky, huh?

You can still find the original here.

Indeed (at least at the time of writing), if you go to the
New York Times website and search with the phrase
"military objective", the article pops right up. But if
you open the article, the text is gone. But again, there
is no explanatory note saying that they changed the text.

Note that in other contexts, the New York Times claims to
be quite punctilious about corrections.

This is not an isolated example in the Times’ reporting.
On the very same day, January 4, they published another
article, attributed to Clifford Krauss ("Oil Price Would
Skyrocket if Iran Closed the Strait of Hormuz"), that
contained the following paragraph:

Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they
would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at
its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe
imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort
to thwart its development of nuclear weapons [emphasis
again my own].

At time of writing, that text is still on the New York
Times website.

Of course, referring to Iran’s "development of nuclear
weapons" without qualification implies that it is a known
fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But it is
not a known fact: It is an allegation. Indeed, when US
officials are speaking publicly for the record, they say
the opposite.

As Washington Post’s Ombudsman Patrick Pexton also noted
on December 9:

This is what the US director of national intelligence,
James R Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee
in March: "We continue to assess [that] Iran is keeping
open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by
developing various nuclear capabilities that better
position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to
do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually
decide to build nuclear weapons.

To demand a correction, you can write to the New York
Times here. To write a letter to the editor, you can write
here. To complain to the New York Times’ Public Editor,
you write here.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Fore