Magazine article Editor & Publisher

McClatchy Scribe Hit 'Hype' on Iran's Nukes a Month Ago

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

McClatchy Scribe Hit 'Hype' on Iran's Nukes a Month Ago

Article excerpt

Five years ago, Jonathan Landay was one of several Knight Ridder reporters in Washington, D.C., who later earned much praise for being among the few who repeatedly questioned the validity of White House claims of Iraqi WMDs. Now, in the wake of yesterday's National Intelligence Estimate bombshell, debunking years of White House claims of an active Iranian nuclear weapons project, Landay (now under McClatchy's banner) can take a bow again.

Exactly one month ago, on Nov. 4, the McClatchy moved a lengthy Landay probe titled, "Experts: No firm evidence of Iranian nuclear weapons." An excerpt follows.*

Despite President Bush's claims that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons that could trigger "World War III," experts in and out of government say there's no conclusive evidence that Tehran has an active nuclear-weapons program.

Even his own administration appears divided about the immediacy of the threat. While Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney speak of an Iranian weapons program as a fact, Bush's point man on Iran, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, has attempted to ratchet down the rhetoric.

"Iran is seeking a nuclear capability ... that some people fear might lead to a nuclear-weapons capability," Burns said in an interview Oct. 25 on PBS.

"I don't think that anyone right today thinks they're working on a bomb," said another U.S. official, who requested anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity. Outside experts say the operative words are "right today." They say Iran may have been actively seeking to create a nuclear-weapons capacity in the past and still could break out of its current uranium-enrichment program and start a weapons program. They too lack definitive proof, but cite a great deal of circumstantial evidence. Bush's rhetoric seems hyperbolic compared with the measured statements by his senior aides and outside experts.

"I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said Oct. 17 at a news conference.

"Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions," Cheney warned on Oct 23. "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Bush and Cheney's allegations are under especially close scrutiny because their similar allegations about an Iraqi nuclear program proved to be wrong. …

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