Yousaf Butt on NYT Reporting on Iran

Just wanted to pass along that friend of ACL Dr. Yousaf Butt has published a very good new piece over at The Hill, in which he takes NYT reporters David Sanger and William Broad to task for their reporting on Iran’s nuclear program. The piece is titled “The Obsession with Discredited Allegations about Iran’s Past Nuclear Work.”

I do think that this is an important subject, and I’ve noticed too that media reports about the issue of allegations made by the IAEA and the West about possible past military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program, often express these allegations as being presumptively well supported factually, when as Yousaf and others have long argued, there are a lot of problems with these allegations.

I also think Yousaf and others have made an important point on the subject of Iran’s interactions with the IAEA, which is that the IAEA has often complained about unsatisfactory answers on Iran’s part in response to questions about these allegations, when in most instances Iran’s answer has been that the documents procured by the IAEA on which these allegations are based are fraudulent. Now, that’s only an unsatisfactory answer if an independent review has been made in some kind of credible way about the documents, and they have been found to be credible. That has not happened in this case.

To a lawyer’s mind, it’s instinctively similar to a criminal trial wherein prosecutors want to introduce evidence into the record, but won’t let the defense either see or challenge the evidence, and rather demand that the evidence be accepted categorically as credible on the prosecutor’s say-so alone, and that the defense be compelled to explain the meaning of the evidence, with a presumption that the defendant bears the burden of explaining it to the prosecutor’s satisfaction.

Obviously, that’s not how it works. The defense gets a chance to both see and challenge the evidence, and only then can the independent finder of fact have any reasonable chance of determining what to believe about the guilt or innocence of the accused.


5 Comments on “Yousaf Butt on NYT Reporting on Iran”

  1. Cyrus says:

    So Sanger and Broad claim that the 2007 Iran-IAEA workplan “lay in ruins” when in fact the work plan vindicated Iran on all the “outstanding issues” including the traces of HEU and polonium experiments. Sanger and Broad mischaracterize Elbaradei’s reaction to the deal (he was in fact criticized by the US for agreeing to the workplan with Iran in the first place) when in fact he lauded Iran:

    **[W]e have made quite good progress in clarifying the outstanding issues that had to do with Iran´s past nuclear activities, with the exception of one issue, and that is the alleged weaponization studies that supposedly Iran has conducted in the past. We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran´s enrichment programme.

    And in regard to these remaining “alleged studies”, the workplan specifically required Iran to file a response upon receipt of the documentation — but Iran never did since the US prohibited the sharing of the docs or did not even share them with the IAEA itself. Iran still filed a 117 page reply that pointed out the indications of fraud, etc etc. According to the terms of the workplan, that was supposed to be the end of the matter — “no other outstanding issues” were supposed to exist but the goalposts moved, as usual…

    The US only provided the IAEA with some of the alleged studies documents on Feb 15th 2008, just a week prior to the IAEA’s issuance of the Feb 22 report (despite the fact that the US had been shopping around the laptop as evidence of a nuclear weapons program since 2004-2005) thus ensuring that the Feb 2008 IAEA report on Iran would not give Iran a “clean bill of health” even though all the other actual issues in the workplan had been resolved to Iran’s favor.

    Note that even back then the alleged studies were deemed to be of “doubtful value” :

    >**Ahead of a crucial report on Iran’s nuclear activities Friday, Washington has given the U.N. nuclear watchdog more information on what it says were Tehran’s attempts to make atomic weapons but much of it is of doubtful value, diplomats said…* (Diplomats: U.S. again shares information on Iran’s nuclear program, February 22, 2008 Friday, by George Jahn)

    And we all know that Elbaradei eventually concluded from all the deliberately missed compromise opportunities that the US was merely using the Iran nuclear issue as a pretext for regime-change.

    In short, Sanger and Broad have totally misrepresented the history of the Iran-IAEA workplan as well as Elbaradei’s views on the matter of the alleged studies.

  2. Cyrus says:

    I dont know why Bob Kelley gives credence to the pre-2003 allegation and the idea that Iran was developing nukes as a deterrent to Saddam. Natanz was not clandestines, Irans enrichment plans predated the war with Iraq and was publicly announced on national radio repeatedly in the early 1980s. Natanz was no where new operational during the war and the same Iranians supposedly planning to make nukes as a deterrent to Saddam had already refused to use chemical weapons against Iraq despite suffering massive casualties.

    Natanz is also not “too small” – it was intended to house 50000 centrifuges to run one Bushehr sized reactor for one year. As Salehi made clear in a FT interview, Iran never intended to be totally self sufficient in making reactor fuel, Nataz was a hedge for price bargaining and against fuel cutoffs. So it isn’t too small to do what it was intended for.

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