NYT Buries the Lead on Iran

Part of being a journalist–the most important part, perhaps–is deciding which information is most relevant to readers.

So take a look at today’s New York Times piece (9/14/12) on Iran’s nuclear program.  The focus is on Israeli threats and where it says it is drawing its “red line” for military action. But this focus is distorting one of the most important facts about the conflict.

Mark Landler and Helene Cooper explain that Israeli leaders are unhappy with the White House position:

Israeli officials, however, say this guarantee may not be enough for Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened with annihilation.

Have Iranians “repeatedly threatened” to annihilate Israel? There are a few incidents that are usually presented to make this case, but there remains considerable skepticism over the meaning of some of these statements. And it’s important to remember that the current threats are going in other direction, as Israeli and U.S. officials describe in public when and if they might start bombing Iran.

New York Times (upside down)

The best way to read the New York Times.

On the key matter of whether Iran is pursuing a bomb, the Times also reports:

The source of the conflict is the belief by Mr. Netanyahu that Iran, having continued to stockpile uranium enriched to 20 percent, is nearing the point at which Israel will no longer be able to prevent it from making a bomb.

The Times later notes that the Iranians claim they have no intention to develop a nuclear weapon. There’s no reason to take them at their word, of course–but there’s similarly no reason to treat Benjamin Netanyahu like he’s a nuclear weapons inspector.

The Times adds to the case:

People with close ties to Israel say Mr. Netanyahu and other Israeli officials are also frustrated because the Americans do not appear sufficiently concerned about Iran’s growing stockpile of medium-enriched uranium. In its latest report, the International Atomic Energy Agency says the Iranians have amassed enough low- and medium-enriched uranium that, with further enrichment, could fuel as many as six nuclear weapons.

Well, that sounds as if Iran is getting closer to a bomb. That is, until you get to the next paragraph:

Basing a military judgment on Iran’s stockpile of medium-enriched uranium could be tricky, however, because while the overall amount of this material has increased, the amount that can be readily used to fuel a bomb has declined since Iran converted some of it into plates to be used in a research reactor in Tehran.

Now wait a second. A 14-paragraph piece devoted to the urgency of the Iranian nuclear threat waits until the 12th paragraph to tell readers that, by the way, the IAEA says Iran’s stockpile of uranium that could even be converted for use in a weapon has declined.

You know this fact about the IAEA’s latest report if you’ve been reading Gareth Porter’s reporting. But if you’re counting on the so-called Paper of Record, you have to turn the stories upside down to find what should be the most important news.


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.