May
21
2012

Now They Tell Us: Iranian Diamonds, Megrahi Questions

Two things in the New York Times today that readers should have already known more about:

–Reporter William Broad has an article (5/21/12) on the state of nuclear inspections in Iran, particularly the military facility at Parchin. Broad tells readers about the "proposed inspection of a building that the agency suspects Iran used in testing explosives that can trigger a nuclear blast."

People following this story know that the facility in question is at the heart of the case against Iran. When the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report last November that finally detailed some of the allegations against Iran, much of the corporate media focused on this question of Iranian detonation research that, according to some, could only have nuclear weapons applications. So it was interesting to see Broad put it this way:

Nuclear experts say that a blast chamber–if it exists inside the building–may have been used for conventional military research or perhaps even to study the synthesis of diamonds, a popular field of study when the site was said to have been built.

There were experts questioning the dominant interpretation of the IAEA's evidence as soon as the report was released. But you could hardly spot that in the media coverage. Indeed, in many accounts the facts were what U.S. officials said they were. Here's a piece Broad co-wrote with David Sanger (11/9/11):

A senior Obama administration official briefing reporters on Tuesday pointed to the IAEA's evidence of work on detonation systems, including a special type of spherical initiation system that implodes a nuclear core with tremendous precision. "It's a very telltale sign of nuclear weapons work," he said.

Maybe not so very telltale after all, it turns out.

John Burns writes a piece (5/21/12) about the death of Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer who served 10 years of a life sentence for allegedly blowing up the Pan Am 103 airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

In the article Burns presents a take on the case that rarely penetrated U.S. corporate media. According to this version of events, Megrahi was

a victim of flawed evidence and connivance by Western intelligence agencies in withholding vital information. Some of this, Mr. Megrahi's sympathizers have said, pointed to Iran and a Syrian-based militant group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, as responsible for the bombing.

According to this version, the trigger for the bombing lay, as prosecutors said at Mr. Megrahi's trial, in a decision to take revenge for an earlier American attack. The attack in question, they have said, was not the one cited at the trial, President Ronald Reagan's bombing of Col. Moammar el-Gadhafi's command compound in Tripoli, Libya, in 1986 after American servicemen died in a Libyan-organized bombing of a Berlin nightclub, but the accidental downing by an American-guided missile destroyer in July 1988 of an Iran Air flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people aboard.

This take was the subject of a piece by Ed Herman in Extra! (10/09), which looked at some of the criticisms of the Megrahi trial. And Gareth Pierce wrote a piece for the London Review of Books (9/09) that also covered the serious questions about the case.

Better late than never, I suppose. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Iran is once again a much more important official enemy than Libya these days.

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.