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‘Scary Stories’ About Iran’s Magnets Are (Again) Neo-Con Lies

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Daniel McAdams
The LRC Blog
February 22, 2013

It never changes. A “respected” Washington Post (or New York Times or other) reporter breathlessly — yet gravely — breaks a “really scary story” of some incredible new technological advance made by Iran (earlier, Iraq, etc) that just confirms that the country’s leaders are up to no good and cannot be trusted, much less negotiated with or dealt with in any way. Such stories are meant to reinforce the narrative and are necessary from time to time to propagandize readers into thinking that things just keep getting worse and we had better do something now before it is too late. The costs of inaction are rising. They usually open with lines such as, “Warning that time is running out as Iran accelerates its nuclear program…”

By the time cooler heads debunk the lies, the propaganda has already had its desired effect.

The latest in these phony propaganda stories was brought to us from Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post journalist Joby Warrick, who broke a “really scary story” on February 13, titled, “Iran’s bid to buy banned magnets stokes fears about major expansion of nuclear capacity.”

In his piece, Warrick wrote:

“Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.

“Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets — which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions — from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said. It is unclear whether the attempt succeeded.”

It sounds like Iran is up to no good! To reinforce that the Iranians are liars, Warrick juxtaposes this salacious lead with a reminder that “Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful and that its enrichment efforts are directed toward medical research and energy production.” They must be lying then!

The problem is that his whole assertion is bogus. Warrick’s sole named source is former IAEA inspector David Albright’s Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which the Moon of Alabama blog appropriately re-dubs the “Institute of Scary Iran Stories (formerly the Institute of Scary Iraq Stories).” Albright is a discredited (except in Warrick’s admiring eyes) former source of countless lies about Iraq’s WMD capabilities before the US invasion, and his ISIS continues to repeat its former behavior when it comes to Iran, the crown jewel invasion target in the neo-con playbook. Somehow the Iranian “purchase order” (another lie, it was merely a query) for the magnets in question happened to end up in the offices of Albright’s ISIS, and he sent them right over to Warrick.

But the magnets are not specialized at all. According to a report this week in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

“The magnets in question have many uses besides centrifuges and are not only, as Warrick describes them, ‘highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines.’ Such ceramic ring magnets are everyday items and have been used in loudspeakers, for example, for more than half a century.”


“Such magnets are used in a variety of electronic equipment. For instance, one vendor outlines some of the various possible uses in speakers, direct current brushless motors, and magnetic resonance imaging equipment.” (emphasis added, recall Warrick’s earlier implied ridicule of Iran’s claim that such purchases were for medical equipment)

The Bulletin analysis is worth a read in its entirety as it calmly debunks Warrick’s Albright-fueled scary story. It also makes the important point that of all the scores of possible uses for these magnets, Warrick’s report chose only the most alarming and remote possibility.

Further, as the always excellent MoA blog points out, according to David Albright’s own paper on the issue of the Iranian magnets, these in questionwould not fit Iran’s centrifuges anyway! Did Albright know when he passed the story to Warrick that it was bogus?

The Bulletin analysis ends with this very appropriate warning about the work of Warrick and his ilk:

Clearly, the media reporting on Iran’s controversial nuclear program have a duty to do a better job of vetting evidence and sources. Similarly, non-governmental organizations that are supposed to supply unbiased expert advice should strive to provide professional analyses that lay out all possible explanations and do not jump to unwarranted conclusions. We have all been witness to what may happen when a fictional threat is spun up over non-existent weapons of mass destruction — the result isn’t pretty. When news reports cast thin evidence in hyperbolic terms, the public is invited to run rampant with speculation about Iran’s nuclear program. At a time when military action is apparently being seriously contemplated, the international community needs to look past trivialities, focus on the facts, and find realistic opportunities for ending the Iranian nuclear standoff.

What is interesting about Warrick’s (and others’) breaking scary stories about Iran is not only his use of neo-conservative and discredited sources, but his timing. This time he reminds us how untrustworthy the Iranians are just as new round of discussions between Iran and US and other countries is announced.

The same propagandists who paved the way to war on Iraq are as busy as ever when it comes to Iran. Every single story published by the Pulitzer Prize winner Warrick should be immediately viewed as bunk and lies. Albright should be ignored. Busy-body “think tanks” like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who scamper behind the scenes to peddle lies to do the bidding of their paymasters should be ridiculed.

The warmongers are on the move. They cannot tolerate any kind of “Going to Tehran” rapprochement between the US and Iran. They will tolerate no less than total war. Their policies have already dominated US policy toward the Middle East for decades and the result is everywhere failure, death, and destruction. Their foot-soldiers are propaganda-peddling journalists with all manner of awards and prizes attached to their names. The lies and propaganda must be named and called out.


This article was posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

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