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Middle East Issues





CAMERA Prompts NY Times Correction, Raises Question, on Netanyahu Speech


Benjamin Netanyahu did not tell the United Nations in late 2012 that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb by the following spring or summer, a New York Times correction prompted by CAMERA explains.
 
According to a Feb. 23 story in the newspaper, "Israeli Views on Iran Diverged, Reports Say,"
Mr. Netanyahu, in a dramatic speech in September 2012 during which he drew a red line across a cartoon bomb, said at the time that Iran was “well into the second stage” of enriching uranium and could complete the final stage “by next spring, at most by next summer.” He added ominously, “From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
CAMERA informed The New York Times yesterday that Netanyahu had in fact said Iran, at current enrichment rates, could by that spring or summer finish the second stage, the stockpiling of medium enriched uranium, not the third and final stage, the stockpiling of highly enriched uranium. 

Later that day, the newspaper published the following correction:
Correction: February 25, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated an assertion by Mr. Netanyahu in September 2012 on Iran's uranium enrichment program. He said that Iran would have completed the second stage of enrichment by spring or summer of 2013, not that the enrichment process would have been completed by then.
CAMERA commends the prompt correction.
 
At the same time, despite the story's headline about views that "diverged" and the reporter's claim that a document sent by Israeli intelligence to its South African counterpart "did not support Mr. Netanyahu’s timetable," the article does not make the case that there was any noteworthy divergence in Israeli views about a possible timetable. (It's worth noting that the newspaper didn't go as far as The Guardian and Al Jazeera, both of which insisted the Mossad document "contradicted" Netanyahu's speech.)
 
Here's how the newspaper describes the divergence in its (updated, post-correction) piece:

Mr. Netanyahu, in a dramatic speech in September 2012 during which he drew a red line across a cartoon bomb, said at the time that Iran was “well into the second stage” of enriching uranium and could move to the final stage “by next spring, at most by next summer.” He added ominously, “From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

But the report from Mossad, dated about three weeks later, said Iran “does not appear to be ready to enrich” uranium beyond 20 percent, the second stage, and gave no estimates for when it might do so. Separately, it said that although Iran was making “great efforts” to activate a heavy-water reactor to produce weapons-grade plutonium, “this will not happen before mid-2014.”
So as The Times puts it, the crux of the difference was that Netanyahu presented the UN with forward-looking speculation while a Mossad report "gave no estimates" about the future.
 
Both Netanyahu and the Mossad document, though, asserted the same thing about Iran's progress — namely, that Iran at the time was not in the third stage of feeding medium-enriched uranium into centrifuges to make highly enriched uranium. In Netanyahu's words, Iran was "well into the second stage." The Mossad document said the country "does not appear to be ready" to move to the third stage. 
 
That's hardly a substantive divergence. It is, though, the very type of difference, in terms of focus and comfort with speculation, that one would expect from the different sources and the different venues. There may be some other small differences between the Prime Minister's speech and the Mossad's document. But the story as The New York Times tells it is not a substantive story at all.  

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