Fact-checking Netanyahu, Not Obama or the Media

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

Prior to the speech of the Israeli Prime Minister to Congress, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria sang the praises of a story from the pro-Edward Snowden publication, The Intercept, suggesting that Benjamin Netanyahu just can’t be trusted. The story claimed Netanyahu has been “crying wolf” about the Iranian nuclear weapons program by changing his estimate of how close the Iranians are to getting the bomb.

The implication is that we should ignore Netanyahu and sit back and wait on the Obama approach of negotiating a deal with Iran—however bad that deal is.

The Intercept is funded by the French-born Iranian-American Pierre Omidyar.

Yet, Netanyahu’s claims over the years have depended on a number of outside factors, including sanctions, Iranian support from Russia, and other efforts to thwart the nuclear program.

For example, if Snowden had not disclosed ways that the NSA monitors or counters our adversaries and enemies, we might have a better handle at this point in time as to just how close the regime is to developing a nuclear weapon.

Snowden has made it part of his espionage mission to expose how U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies, including the NSA, have cooperated to delay the Iranian program. For example, he has talked openly, in violation of his secrecy oath, about the U.S. and Israel developing a computer virus to cripple the Iranian program.

Here is an excerpt of an interview conducted with Snowden by the German magazine Der Spiegel:

Interviewer: Does the NSA partner with other nations, like Israel?

Snowden: Yes. All the time. The NSA has a massive body responsible for this: FAD, the Foreign Affairs Directorate.

Interviewer: Did the NSA help to create Stuxnet? (Stuxnet is the computer worm that was deployed against the Iranian nuclear program.)

Snowden: NSA and Israel co-wrote it.

The New York Times reported that the virus set back Iran’s nuclear weapons program by 18 months to two years. Delays like this obviously affect the timetable for Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

The Washington Post reported in 2012 that “The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort.”

Clearly, the idea of “crying wolf,” as the media call it, depends on the ability of the outside world, primarily the U.S. and Israel, to slow down the Iranian program, as well as to keep those efforts secret. Disclosures by defectors or spies like Snowden help make that difficult, if not impossible.

Indeed, last month The Intercept disclosed a document stolen by Snowden demonstrating Israeli cooperation with U.S. and British intelligence agencies to monitor Iranian leaders.

On the same day as Netanyahu’s speech, Snowden was back in the news again, apparently saying through his Russian lawyer that he wants to come back to the United States.

Former National Security Council staffer Oliver North had previously commented that Snowden is a “dead man walking,” and that it is likely he will be murdered. North said that it is likely the case that the Russians will kill Snowden once they are done with him, and then blame his death on the U.S.

Snowden’s reported decision to return follows the murder of a Russian activist opposed to Vladimir Putin. Perhaps this development led to Snowden’s desire to leave.

Our media had trumpeted the revelations of NSA defector Snowden and the Oscar given to his Hollywood collaborators for the movie about him, “Citizenfour.” All of a sudden, however, as Netanyahu was preparing to address Congress, our media were consumed with the notion that the Israeli Prime Minister would disclose classified information to make his case against the Obama negotiations with Iran.

As Netanyahu was walking through the Capitol, getting set to address Congress, you could hear CNN reporter Dana Bash shouting at the Israeli Prime Minister, asking if he was going to disclose classified information.

This was the bizarre claim being made by the Obama administration and its allies in the press. Netanyahu didn’t disclose anything of a classified nature and had no plans to do so.

Our media seem to be in favor of disclosing secret information when it harms America and its allies, such as Israel.

If the media are going to scrutinize Netanyahu’s claims, why not examine the media’s track record? As we have noted, CNN’s Zakaria has made a claim about alleged Iranian opposition to nuclear weapons that has been shown to be bogus. He has stated that the Iranian Ayatollah has issued a “fatwa,” or binding religious edict, against developing nuclear weapons.

For example, he stated in a 2009 column, “The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral.”

This is false. Khamenei has issued various statements or messages about the dangers of nuclear and other weapons, but none of them is a fatwa with special religious significance.

It doesn’t really matter to Zakaria. He has written that, “…even if one day Tehran manages to build a few crude bombs, a policy of robust containment and deterrence is better to contemplate than a preemptive war.”

So we know where he stands.

Obama has also made the false claim that “Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.”

One of Netanyahu’s most fantastic claims in his speech to Congress was that “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology.He tweets that Israel must be annihilated—he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.”

Was he lying in this case?

According to CNN, his claim is true. CNN reported last year that Khamenei posted a series of tweets that included a document called “9 key questions about elimination of Israel.” He outlined the “proper way of eliminating Israel.”

Our media basically gave up trying to fact-check Netanyahu, instead relying on the notion that he is “crying wolf.”

The recent series of “crying wolf” claims about Netanyahu seems to have first surfaced on Press TV, an outlet for the Iranian government, in an interview with “author and radio host” Stephen Lendman. His website features such articles as, “The CIA-Controlled Neocon Washington Post,” and “NYT Editors Support Fascist Extremism.”


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