Commentary Magazine


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Who’s Blowing Smoke on Iranian Nukes? Seymour Hersh.

Just a week after the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report showing that Iran is conducting work on atomic triggers and detonators as well as uranium fuel, the New Yorker is attempting to throw cold water on the whole idea that Tehran is a nuclear threat.

Seymour Hersh, a writer whose bias against Israel and any effort to restrain anti-American Islamists calls into question the validity of his “research,” suggests that the whole brouhaha about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions is a scam. Indeed, his New Yorker piece takes the view that the Obama administration’s fears about Iran are as unjustified as George W. Bush’s warnings about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. As with many other apologists for Iran, Hersh seems motivated more by wanting to foil the Israelis (who have no desire to live with an existential threat) than by real evidence of Iranian innocence. Hersh claims that Obama is overstating the actual intelligence evidence, but as so often with him, he expects his readers to take that on faith. Faith in Hersh’s unerring instincts to oppose American interests and to endanger Israel, that is.

But the problem with Hersh’s Iranian thesis is that the evidence that points to Iranian nukes is considerable. The IAEA—an agency that has never been a source of alarmism about Iran—raises serious questions that Hersh can’t answer. If Iran is merely pursuing peaceful uses of nuclear energy then what are the mullahs doing by trying to construct triggers and detonators whose only practical purpose is to set off nuclear weapons?

Anyone who has followed this story for years will know that Iran has always tried to play it both ways on nukes. On the one hand, the regime of Sayyed Ali Khamenei has claimed no interest in nuclear weapons. On the other, the Iranians have made their pursuit of nukes a major source of national pride, which has created a certain ambivalence on Tehran’s part about keeping the program covert.

The IAEA report last week ought to scare Americans who thought the Stuxnet virus would solve the Iranian problem without further sacrifice or effort. Although Hersh claims the whole subject is something of a hoax—a typical claim for him—there is so much evidence on this subject that the only one blowing smoke on Iran is obviously Hersh.