- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

In its coverage of the Iran nuclear crisis, The Washington Post has been providing yet another illustration of why many Americans distrust the mainstream media and believe it is determined to skew its news reporting against the Bush administration.

From reading The Post in recent days, one might get the impression that the administration has been exaggerating the danger posed by Iran’s nuclear-weapons programs; that ill-considered U.S. policies rather than the nature of the Iranian government are primarily responsible for tensions between the two nations; and that the mullahs may have been justified in rejecting a package of economic and diplomatic concessions offered by the European Union with the Bush administration’s backing.

On Tuesday, The Post published a front-page story by Staff Writer Dafna Linzer, who reported that according to the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, the regime is 10 years away from “manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon,” doubling the most recent estimate of five years — the amount of time estimated in the last NIE on Iran, which occurred in 2001. Just so no one missed the point that the Bush administration has exaggerated the Iran threat, the Post added that the assessments “contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.”

But when one looks past the spin, things appear less a lot less rozy. A “senior intelligence official” told The Post that “it is the judgment of the intelligence community that, left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons.”

The central problem with the new NIE is that its conclusion that Iran poses less of a danger flies in the face of all the new information that has come out about Iran’s nuclear program since 2001 revealing that Iran has had clandestine enrichment programs dating back to the mid-1980s. Raymond Tanter, an Iran specialist who served on the staff of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration, points out another flaw in the NIE’s latest report on Iran, which came out in May: It fails to take account of the June elections in Iran, in which the most reactionary elements of the regime were triumphant. Given all of this, Mr. Tanter asks, how can the intelligence community possibly conclude that the Iranian nuclear threat has lessened since 2001? In sum, The Post’s story about the NIE may tell us more about the state of analytical capabilities in our intelligence agencies than it does about Iran’s nuclear-weapons programs.

On Saturday, The Post ran another story by Miss Linzer; this one suggested that Iran may have had valid reasons to reject the latest European proposal (which is supported by the United States) to persuade Tehran to dismantle its nuclear-weapons infrastructure. One of the Iranian complaints cited without rebuttal in the story was that the European offer was not explicit enough about protecting the Islamist regime (perhaps the world’s leading state supporter of terrorism) from the threat of attack by the United States.

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