Sunday, March 05, 2006


Let's play, spot the misleading errors in this short report from the Telegraph. It's about Iran's reaction to the threat that it will be refered to the UN security council.
Last month Iran started a small-scale uranium enrichment research programme, after withdrawing its co-operation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nucleur watchdog.
Can you spot the problem?

The Iranians withdrew co-operation with *voluntary* IAEA inspections which were over and above their international obligation under the NPT. They had allowed these extra inspections for more than two years and had always maintained that they were a temporary confidence building measure. They have now stopped allowing these extra inspections.

The Iranian government has not withdrawn its co-operation from the IAEA as the Telegraph claims. Its an important distinction. But not for the Telegraph apparently.

The next line:
It [Iran] was protesting against the IAEA's earlier decision to send a complaint about Iran's resumption of banned nuclear research to the UN Security Council.
Oh dear. That's not true either, now is it? The IAEA has not complained that Iran has resumed banned nuclear research.

The NPT explicitly allows the Iranians to develop uranium enrichment techology for peaceful purposes and that is what they say they are currently doing. They will only be guilty of conducting banned nuclear research if they develop weapons applications for that technology. The IAEA does not claim to have any evidence that they are doing this. Here's the IAEA resolution (pdf). The nearest thing to a complaint about Iran's resumption of banned nuclear research is this:
The Board of Governors...

Underlines that outstanding questions can best be resolved and confidence built in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's programme by Iran responding positively to the calls for confidence building measures which the Board has made on Iran, and in this context deems it necessary for Iran to:
• re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the Agency.
The IAEA did request that the Iranians cease work on uranium enrichment but there is no suggestion that it is a banned activity.

Those Telegraph people really ought to take more care. Errors like that, especially in an article entitled "Iran threatens to step-up nuclear programme," are just going to make people think that the Telegraph group are intent on making the Iranians look as beligerent as possible in part of an attempt to prepare public opinion for military action against them.

Why, it's almost like 2002 all over again.

(I obviously used the word "threat" in the second line quite deliberately. Just in case you wondered.)

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