Western Media Propagandize Iran’s Missile Test

Iran announced on Wednesday that it had successfully tested its Sejil 2 surface-to-surface missile, and Western media sources took the opportunity to portray the Middle Eastern nation as a threat to world peace and, specifically, as a threat to Israel.

The Seijl 2 missile has a range of about 1,200 miles, and thus would be capable of hitting Israel, but Iran’s President Ahmadinejad announced in a speech following what he deemed a successful test that the missile’s purpose was to protect Iran from the threat of aggression.

Still, media accounts in the U.S. and other Western nations portrayed Iran’s test as a threatening provocation and linked it to an Iranian nuclear weapons program there is no evidence actually exists.

The London Times’ headline alarmingly read, “Ahmadinejad claims Iran’s new missile is capable of hitting Israel”.

But the paper failed to produce a quote of the Iranian president actually specifying Israel as being within range of the missile. Instead, the text of the article only states that Ahmadinejad merely announced that a missile with a range of 1,200 miles had been successfully tested.

The headline claim that the “missile is capable of hitting Israel” is simply a corollary drawn by the Times, but falsely attributed to Ahmadinejad himself in a not atypical demonizing media account.

“I was told that the missile is able to go beyond the atmosphere then come back and hit its target. It works on solid fuel,” Ahmadinejad said in his speech.

“The defense minister told me today that we launched a Sejil-2 missile, which is a two-stage missile and it has reached the intended target.”

He also talked about the insistence of Western countries that Iran end it’s enrichment of uranium for its nuclear program. “They said if you don’t stop, we will adopt resolutions…. They thought we would retreat but that will not happen.”

The U.S. has used its influence in the Security Council to oversee the passage of a series of U.N. resolutions implementing sanctions against Iran for failing to cease enrichment activities. Iran insists that its right to enrich uranium is guaranteed under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The NPT in fact states that nothing may prejudice the rights of member nations to enrich uranium for nuclear energy.

The U.N. watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has continued to verify that Iran has enriched only low-grade uranium, not the highly-enriched uranium necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

“I told them you can adopt 100 sets of sanctions, but nothing will change”, Ahmadinejad said.

In an apparent reference to the Obama administration’s declarations that it would be willing to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad said, “All want dialogue with Iran, and we prefer this. But it should be in the framework of justice and respect.”

The lead sentence in the Washington Post’s account of the missile launch employed a similar device as that used in the London Times’ headline.

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday,” the Post article read, “that his country had successfully test-fired a medium-range solid-fuel missile apparently capable of striking Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region.”

While acknowledging that “arms-control experts debated its significance,” the Post added that the launch demonstrated “an increasing sophistication in its missile program” from a liquid to a solid fuel system. “Solid-fuel rockets can be launched faster and are more mobile,” the Post reported.

The Post quoted Ahmadinejad as saying, “The rocket went into space, returned to Earth and hit its target” to a cheering crowd in a soccer stadium in Semnan province.

The article continued on to say, “Ahmadinejad has long said Iran’s nuclear program has strictly peaceful civilian purposes. But on Wednesday, he linked the missile test with that program, calling it an important scientific achievement and a blow to those trying to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

The implication is that Ahmadinejad himself suggested that the missile test was related to Iran’s nuclear program, with the further corollary from that supposed linkage being that the missile is intended to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Having established this ostensible context for its readers, the Post account continued, providing a quote of Ahmadinejad referencing the nuclear issue.

“‘In the nuclear case, we send them a message: Today the Islamic Republic of Iran is running the show,’ Ahmadinejad said in his speech. ‘We say to the superpowers, “Who of you dare to threaten the Iranian nation? Raise your hand!” But they all stand there with their hands behind their backs.’”

The Post’s implication was that Ahmadinejad had acknowledged Iranian intentions to produce nuclear weapons, deliverable by a missile such as that tested in Semnan on Wednesday. But a second look at Ahmadinejad’s actual remarks and reconsideration of the context reveals the propaganda device employed by the Post here.

The “link” Ahmadinejad was clearly making between the missile test launch and the nuclear program isn’t that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but that Iran now has a non-nuclear deterrent to U.S. or Israeli aggression.

“Today Iran has the power to turn any base that fires a bullet at Iran into hell,” Ahmadinejad also said in his speech. “In the past some threatened Iran but today they cannot threaten Iran with their military power,” he said. “Today we declare that no country has the power to threaten Iran”.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to launch military strikes against Iran to destroy its nuclear program. And U.S. President Barack Obama said recently, echoing remarks from his predecessor, President George W. Bush, that a military attack against Iran was “on the table”.

The linkage between the missile launch, therefore, and the nuclear program isn’t nuclear weapons, but the U.S. and Israeli threats to launch attacks to destroy that program.

But by employing such propaganda devices and spinning Ahmadinejad’s remarks in such a manner, Western media accounts manage to portray Iran as a nation deliberately flaunting its designs on obtaining a nuclear weapon and directly threatening Israel with the possibility of a nuclear attack.

It was through the use of not dissimilar propaganda devices that the U.S. mainstream corporate media managed to convince the as much as 70 percent of the American public prior to the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded to Iran’s missile test by saying that “In terms of strategic importance, this new missile test doesn’t change anything for us since the Iranians already tested a missile with a range of 1,500 kilometers, but it should worry the Europeans”.

“If anybody had a doubt, it is clear the Iranians are playing with fire”, he said.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported last week that Israel had agreed with the U.S. not to launch military strikes against Iran without giving the Obama administration advance notice of its intentions.

The U.S. has cited the alleged threat from Iran to justify a missile defense system in Europe that has antagonized Russia. A joint analysis by U.S. and Russian scientists, however, concluded that the system “would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to deploy,” according to the Washington Post’s report on their analysis.

“The missile threat from Iran to Europe is thus not imminent,” the Post quoted the report as saying on Tuesday.

That’s quite the understatement. “And if Iran attempted such an attack, the experts say, it would ensure its own destruction”, the Post also noted.

Throughout the entire debate over the missile defense system, the question of why Iran would ever launch missile strikes against Europe has never been satisfactorily addressed, and the claim that it is designed to deter Iran, rather than that it is designed to contain Russia, as Russia itself fears, is difficult to take seriously.

The New York Times’ report on Iran’s launch asserted that it added “to concerns that Iran’s weapons-development program is fast outpacing the American-led diplomacy that President Obama has said he will let play out through the end of the year.”

The Times quoted the Obama administration’s top official for arms control and security, Gary Samore, who has been labeled by the media as Obama’s “weapons of mass destruction ‘czar’”, as expressing his hope that the administration “‘will be able to capitalize on this launch to strengthen our case’ on the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program.”

But the most blatant piece of propaganda in the Times‘ account followed its observation that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Iran has made progress on two of three technologies necessary to build a nuclear weapon.

“The first,” the Times states, “is enriching uranium to weapons grade, now under way at the large nuclear complex at Natanz.”

This statement goes beyond the boundaries of deceptive spin into the realm of outright lying. The IAEA, as already noted, has verified that Iran is enriching only low-grade uranium at Natanz, not weapons grade uranium as falsely claimed here by the Times.

Iran’s uranium has been enriched to less than 5 percent U-235, whereas it is necessary to enrich uranium to consist of 90 percent or more of the U-235 isotope in order to be able to produce a nuclear weapon.

“The second”, the Times continued, “is developing a missile capable of reaching Israel and parts of Western Europe,” again implying that Iran’s Sejil-2 missile might be related to nuclear weapons development.

The third technology is warhead design, which is the “greatest mystery” about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, according to the Times, which added, “Asked Wednesday whether he had seen additional evidence to indicate that the weaponization program had been restarted, Mr. Samore declined to comment.”

By using the adjective “additional”, the Times asserted as fact that there is evidence Iran had been working on a warhead design until 2003, when, according to a 2007 CIA National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iran halted its work on weaponization.

But the actual evidence supposedly backing this assessment has never been made public. The source for this claim is apparently a laptop computer that was obtained by U.S. intelligence that allegedly belonged to an Iranian scientist and contained documents showing Iran’s work on technology related to weaponization.

Only a select number of these documents have been handed over to the IAEA, which refers to them in its reports as “the alleged studies” and which has so far been unable to verify their authenticity. Iran claims that the documents are forgeries.

The U.S. used fabricated documents during the run-up to the Iraq war in an effort to bolster its claim that Saddam Hussein had attempted to obtain yellowcake uranium from Africa.

The Times fails to discern between an assessment and actual evidence, a mistake it should have learned after its atrocious reporting prior to the invasion of Iraq, when it helped to propagate false claims about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

In that case, intelligence estimates similarly claimed that Iraq possessed WMD, but such assessments were not backed by any credible evidence and the CIA was forced to acknowledge after the invasion that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed its undeclared WMD in 1991.

Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor of Foreign Policy Journal, a website providing news, analysis, and opinion from outside the standard framework provided by government officials and the corporate media. He was among the recipients of the 2010 Project Censored Awards for outstanding investigative journalism and is the author of The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination. You can contact him at: jeremy@foreignpolicyjournal.com. Read other articles by Jeremy, or visit Jeremy's website.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rg the lg said on May 21st, 2009 at 11:49am #

    Two questions:

    1. Did we build this missile?

    2. Did we sell this missile to them?

    The answer, clearly, is NO. Since that is the answer to both questions, of course the media is going to question the uses to which these missiles may be put. I mean, obviously, the missiles did not profit the US (us in lower case in case you hadn’t noticed.) This is NOT acceptable.

    Now, if Iran, or anyone else wants missiles, they can have them … but they must be missiles we built, and they must be missiles aimed at those ‘evil others’ who might not already be beholden to the empire of US (again think lower case) because if you don’t do as US says, then you must be THEM.

    THEM is bad.

    US is good.


    Grammar be damned. Just like THEM.

    RG the LG

  2. RH2 said on May 21st, 2009 at 1:47pm #

    I still remember the barefaced speech of the slave Colin Powell at the UN about Iraqi “mobile laboratories” producing chemical weapons, threatening Israel and the Western World.

    Deception devices of media are of course more sophisticated than Powell’s inane appearance at the UN. Through lingual manipulation of content the media can misuse a current mindset, in this case Israeli and U.S. fear of Iran which could change the map of hegemony in the Middle East, offer far-fetched interpretations and present them as conclusions of respective material (said or written words). In other words, they selectively (deceptively) read between lips.

    Certainly Iran is not that strong as Ahmadinejad tries to tell the world with his drivel. I wish tha this guy could slow down and soften his rhetoric which is equivalent to the boring and empty Arab Heroism in the last decades.

  3. brian said on May 21st, 2009 at 4:10pm #

    Demonising Iran continues,.and aided by socalled progressives. Consider Chris Hedges:

    ‘It is a state of permanent war that is finishing off the liberal traditions in Israel and the United States. The moral and intellectual trolls—the Dick Cheneys, the Avigdor Liebermans, the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads—personify the moral nihilism of perpetual war’

    Excuse me chris,but Ahmadinejad??? How can he possibly be used as apersonification of war???

    Id like to alert people to this blog, which is more on the money:

  4. brian said on May 21st, 2009 at 4:13pm #

    ‘Certainly Iran is not that strong as Ahmadinejad tries to tell the world with his drivel’


    Here is president Ahmadinejads speech:

  5. Yitzchak Goodman said on May 21st, 2009 at 10:18pm #

    Some paragraphs from an IRIB article:

    An Iranian expert said Wednesday that the launch of Sijil-2 missile by the Islamic Republic of Iran was a clear message to the Zionist regime and a response to any possible foolish act by the regime to attack IRI’s strategic sites.

    In an interview with al-Alam TV network on Wednesday, Amir Mousavi referred to high capabilities of the new Iranian-made ballistic missile including its high destruction power and accurate aiming and said the launch of the missile was a clear message to the Zionist regime.

    Rejecting the regime’s claims that the missile is a threat for the European countries, Mousavi said the missile’s range is not too long to hit the European countries, “but it could inflict severe damages on the Zionists.”


  6. Deadbeat said on May 21st, 2009 at 10:43pm #

    Excuse me chris,but Ahmadinejad??? How can he possibly be used as apersonification of war???

    Because there are a lot of Zionists parading as “progressives” and “leftists”.

  7. Andres Kargar said on May 21st, 2009 at 11:28pm #

    No matter how the Western media try to demonize Ahmadinejad, it should not be forgotten that the Israeli Zionists have not only threatened Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine with violence, but they have in fact carried out attacks against Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine,… and committed inhumane atrocities against the Palestinian and Lebanese people.

    The very same criminal Zionists who collaborated with the white-supremacist regime of Apartheid in South Africa, the dictatorship in Argentina, the US-puppet Somoza, … deserve no fate other than that doled out to their brethren in South Africa – the trash-bin of history.

  8. dino said on May 22nd, 2009 at 3:25am #

    Very good article.How the crazy Israeli’s propaganda accelerate in its pushing to war is a duty to try to balance that deformed presentation of reality which deluge daily Israeli media which forms a choir of incitement to war.After an analyst dared to write that Iran is not an existential threat for Israel and after Gideon Levy make a distinction between the existential threats on Israel and put Nethanyahu before Ahmadinajad today Jerusalem Post published an article-,clearly the better -which present the reality untarnished by craziness.It is written by Larry Derfner and i think that deserve to be read also.

    To rattle the cage
    “I don’t want to get overconfident, but there were glimmerings of sanity on the subject of Iran from not one, but two leading Israeli politicians this week.

    Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “We are not the Jews of Europe. The State of Israel is the strong one here. I don’t see anyone annihilating it.”

    Opposition leader Tzipi Livni: “(T)he connection to the Holocaust… is wrong, both with regards to the Holocaust itself, and also with regards to the correct ethos of our nation, from the perspective of its strength.”

    What should we make of this? It might be that Barak and Livni were just getting in a dig at their rival, Prime Minister Binyamin (“It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany”) Netanyahu, but maybe they meant what they were saying. Maybe they really think the balance of power between Iran and Israel is more than a little different from what it was between Nazi Germany and European Jewry. They may even think Iran’s leaders actually aren’t looking forward to dooming their ancient civilization to nuclear extinction at the hands of Zionists.

    * Defense officials: ‘Iran missile launch threat to Europe’

    Taking Barak and Livni at their word, those are some pretty daring statements to be making in 21st-century Israel. To suggest that we are living through anything but a reprise of the European ’30s is considered either fatally naïve or subversive. It’s considered our patriotic duty to be scared to death of Iran, and it’s our leaders’ responsibility to keep themselves and us at the end of our wits. And we’re all doing a great job. We’ve come up with all sorts of doomsday scenarios that don’t even require the Iranians to use nuclear weapons against us; they can destroy Israel just by having them, we’re convinced.

    “THE FIRST-STAGE Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his advisers, is to frighten Israel’s most talented citizens into leaving the country,” wrote The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg after an interview with the prime minister. Michael Oren, just before being named ambassador to the US, wrote in Commentary that if Iran goes nuclear, “Israel will swiftly find itself in a profoundly unstable nuclear neighborhood prone to violent revolutions and miscalculations leading to war. As former Labor Party minister Efraim Sneh says, under such circumstances, all Israelis who can leave the country will.”

    What? Where do they get this idea? There are tens of thousands of enemy missiles pointed at Israel at this moment; the Iranians, the Syrians and who knows which other Muslim countries have chemical weapons and maybe biological weapons as well – and is any Israeli running away?

    Did any Americans flee the US during the Red Scare? Did any Reds flee Russia? Has India become depopulated in the decade since Pakistan got The Bomb? Are the Pakistanis emigrating en masse in fear of nuclear-armed India?

    What is this craziness? Israelis are going to leave the country if Iran builds nuclear weapons? Actually, they might, if people keep telling them that Hitler’s back and this time he’s got nukes and he’s going to turn the country into one big Auschwitz. With that sort of message dripping into our brains day after day, maybe this place really would empty out if Iran got nukes.

    MORE LIKELY, of course, this brainwashing by popular demand will cause us to attack Iran – unless Barack Obama stops us, which I think he will. But then who knows? If you take Netanyahu at his word – a dicey proposition, I know – he’s going to do whatever’s necessary to keep The Bomb out of Iran’s hands, no matter what price he or Israel has to pay. What is Obama, what is America, what is anything when you’re convinced your country is on the brink of destruction?

    And again, destruction wouldn’t have to come from falling Iranian nukes – according to leading-edge opinion around here, Iran’s mere possession of nuclear weapons would cause not only mass emigration but a flight of foreign capital, too. The economy would dry up!

    What’s more, Hamas, Hizbullah and the other Islamic fanatics would come under the protection of an Iranian “nuclear umbrella.” They’d feel free to attack us and we’d be afraid to hit back because if we did, Iran would nuke us. Israel would be overrun by jihadists!

    In short, the thinking here is that even though we have a nuclear, biological and chemical arsenal that Iran couldn’t match in a million years, the emergence of an Iranian nuke, even if it’s never fired, will turn Israel into something like Darfur.

    These are the stories we tell ourselves.

    Naturally, I’d feel safer if Iran didn’t get The Bomb. But what scares me more than the ravings of Ahmadinejad is the bad nerves and Holocaust fixation of this country, starting with Netanyahu. I think that what Israel might do out of fear is a greater threat to all concerned than what a nuclear Iran might do out of religious fanaticism or anti-Semitism.

    Yes. That’s how far I think our paranoia has gone. Our number one strategic goal, as far as I’m concerned, is not to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but to calm the hell down. It’s the Iranians who should be scared – and they are. It’s we who don’t have to even use our nuclear weapons – it’s enough just that we have them. “

  9. bozh said on May 22nd, 2009 at 5:54am #

    brian, yes,
    chris hedges had included iran as a warlike nation. Of course, he used the name ahmadinejad for that purpose. That`s sneaky. bozhidar balkas tnx

  10. bozh said on May 22nd, 2009 at 6:24am #

    now that we know that iranian missiles can reach israel, we may say that US has changed its warlike stance against iran because of this.
    nothing works like ability to strike back.

  11. bozh said on May 22nd, 2009 at 6:35am #

    americanism, an paticular ism, used to like russians or wld say, We are not against russian people.
    leaving out the aim to destroy russsia or USSR.
    now, once again, we have a situation where iranian people are OK but its evil leadeship is not OK.
    leaving out the aim to cripple the people they like.
    of course, iraq, and afpak invasions,occupations, bombings, and missiling is never against their respective peoples, but against people who hate and mistreat own people. tnx bozhidar balkas

  12. RH2 said on May 22nd, 2009 at 12:48pm #


    Sometimes I have the impression that I waste my time on DV. There seems to be a misunderstanding here. As response to my “drivel” of Ahmadinejad you have pasted the links above. I know about that. The full text of his speech at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva on April 20th, 2009 lies somewhere on my table. Ahmadinejad is undoubtedly vigilant, sees through the mechanisms and ideology of Zionism and has so far courageously resisted Imperial conditions disguised as negotiations.

    I mentioned drivel in relation to his bluffing about Iranian military power. His military equipment is in comparison to that of Israel indeed rubbish. As the U.S. administration dragged Saddam Hussein into a war against Iran in 1981 which lasted 8 years the Iranian army did not show any significant strategic capabilities. Iran is still a developing country. The bluffing of Ahmadinejad about Iranian military power makes him and his country more vulnerable to western medial deception.

  13. cuibono said on May 22nd, 2009 at 2:30pm #

    “sometimes I think I’m wasting my time…”:

    Bright Idea: DV should install a Hit Counter so readers can see how many others actually open each article. Which would dispell fears that DV is increasingly a private twaddleklatch inhabited by a small clique of habitual trolls.

  14. Don Hawkins said on May 22nd, 2009 at 2:44pm #

    “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

  15. RH2 said on May 22nd, 2009 at 2:57pm #

    It was not my intention to help install a Hit Counter. Anyhow thank you for your witty contribution.

  16. anthony innes said on May 22nd, 2009 at 3:03pm #

    cuibono right on .Chilling numbers you see on those sites that do log hits reminds us all not to be complacent about the status quo.See my comment on the “Orwell video” article at ICH and take it as a thanks for yours.Sadly without a count you do feel like your preaching to the choir.