With news of billions of dollars in potential investments dominating the headlines on Iran in the media these days, it’s easy to forget other aspects of the nuclear deal – such as the international inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites, and Iran’s obligation to cooperate with international probes and reports.
But this week, the headlines were dominated by the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), investigating the possibility of past Iranian military nuclear activity – in other words, whether or not Iran had pursued a nuclear bomb.
The report, required under the nuclear deal and based on data disclosed by Iran, was to have revealed – once and for all – whether or not Iran had pursued work related to nuclear weapons in the past. But earlier this week, IAEA head Yukiya Amano announced that the report would not be conclusive on the issue of nuclear weapons – “not black and white.”
Media responses were not long in coming. Reuters asserted that the “murky” verdict on the “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program would make it easier for the deal to proceed, despite the “overall credible” intelligence on which suspicions of PMD were based. AP, meanwhile, went a step further, suggesting that since “Tehran has warned it might renege [on the deal] if the IAEA report is stacked against it,” the inconclusive results can be read as a signal from Washington that it is “prepared to shut an eye.”
As the fine print of the report was disclosed, the headlines highlighting – or analyzing – Amano’s statement were cast aside in favor of more substantial, dramatic news: that evidence of military nuclear activity – or “bomb-relevant work,” to cite The Huffington Post/Reuters – was found by the IAEA. The New York Times, meanwhile, opened its report on the matter with the sentence, “Iran was actively designing a nuclear weapon until 2009, more recently than the United States and other Western intelligence agencies have publicly acknowledged.”
While most reports explained in greater detail in later paragraphs that this activity ceased more than five years ago, and was only in the preliminary stages, we question why the IAEA released its “inconclusive” statement to begin with – seemingly throwing the media off the evidence that was actually found. Evidently, this time, the media was hot on the trail.