A vote on the Iran nuclear deal is approaching and an erroneous report rerun in many media outlets could influence the vote.
Reported last Wednesday as an Associated Press exclusive, George Jahn wrote that a secret document revealed that as part of a side deal, Iran will inspect its own facilities at Parchin, a conventional military base formerly used for nuclear activity.
The story was sensational because it created the impression that based on a side deal with the U.S., separate from the P5+1 negotiations, Iranians would inspect their own facility. This included testing samples for evidence of nuclear activity on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with no outside observers.
Many in the media picked up on the story.
The Boston Herald reported that the document cited by the AP “proves beyond a doubt that the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry have lied consistently about the nature of the ‘side’ agreements.”
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote, “Obama frankly wanted a document so badly he literally did not care what was in it, or at least what was in the critical side deal. The deal is an utter farce.”
The Wall Street Journal, calling Parchin the “suspected . . . home of Iran’s nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile development,” charged that “the country that lied for years about its nuclear weapons program will now be trusted to come clean about those lies.”
Then, without mentioning it had been done, the AP edited Jahn’s original story and paragraphs detailing the Iranians’ methods of alleged self-inspection were removed. A tweet from Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey includes a screenshot of the original story:
— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) August 19, 2015
The IAEA director general on Thursday called the original AP report a misrepresentation of the agency’s verification process. In an annotated version of the draft of the agreement used by the AP, a former official from the IAEA reasoned the exclusive a forgery based on inaccuracies in standard legal language and an unfamiliarity with IAEA procedures.
This is not the first time Jahn’s reporting on Iran’s nuclear program has been questioned. Three years ago, Jahn published a story for the AP about a graph purportedly proving Iran was building nuclear weapons. When the graph was released, there was no date or source for the document. When translated, the Persian writing on it was determined to have said nothing about nuclear weapons.
While the AP Iran self-inspection story in its original form spread to many media channels, reports of the revised version have received little press. It is unclear whether this report could affect the upcoming Senate vote on the nuclear deal.
Early reports indicate there are enough votes in favor of the agreement. As the vote approaches, however, news consumers may need to be skeptical about reported claims where traditional media recently failed.
Photo Source: Al Jazeera America