On last night's NBC Nightly News (9/18/13), correspondent Ann Curry had a big exclusive: a sit-down interview with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The newscast kicked off with anchor Brian Williams announcing:
Our NBC News exclusive: Ann Curry in Iran with that nation's new president. His first interview tonight, big revelations about nuclear weapons.
How big? Curry came on to explain that Rouhani was "clearly trying to send a message" that "there is a different Iran."
This was how the interview went:
CURRY: The world believes that Iran could build a bomb very quickly. You've said this period time for resolving the nuclear issue will not be unlimited. Just how short is this window–weeks, months or years?
ROUHANI : We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so. We are solely seeking peaceful nuclear technology.
CURRY: Can you say that Iran will not build a nuclear weapon under any circumstances whatsoever?
ROUHANI: The answer to this question is quite obvious. We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.
If the big news here is that the president of Iran is saying the country is not developing nuclear weapons, and does not ever intend to do so, that's not really news. In fact, the last Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said essentially the same thing almost exactly one year ago. And to an American journalist, no less! From an interview with CBS correspondents Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell (9/24/12):
O'DONNELL: You did not deny you are building a nuclear weapon?
AHMADINEJAD: How many times should I repeat this?
O'DONNELL: Please repeat it. Please tell me what Iran is doing.
AHMADINEJAD: What would we do? What would we do? Let's even imagine that we have an atomic weapon, a nuclear weapon, what would we do with it? What intelligent person would fight 5,000 American bombs with one bomb?
CHARLIE ROSE: With respect, Mr. President….
AHMADINEJAD: The United States government says that they are in possession of 5,600 modern bombs. History has shown that the Iranians are very smart. Also, because of our beliefs, we do not believe in a nuclear weapon, we are against it.
And a few weeks later (Reuters, 11/8/12):
"The Iranian nation is not seeking an atomic bomb, nor do they need to build an atomic bomb…. For defending ourselves, we do not need a nuclear weapon," said Ahmadinejad.
Now, one could argue that the diplomatic situation between the U.S. and Iran right now has changed considerably–and fast.
But an Iranian president saying Iran isn't developing nuclear weapons isn't new–though it might seem that way to a U.S. corporate media that constantly refers to Iran's "nuclear weapons program" as if there were proof that such a thing exists.
UPDATE: The must-read blogger Nima Shirazi points out (9/18/13) that the very same Ann Curry interviewed Ahmadinejad in 2009 and in 2011, and was told the same thing–that Iran was not developing nuclear weapons.