Hey, that’s not me talking. And it sure isn’t the CIA, because they believe Iran is at least ten years away from having a bomb.
No, that’s respected (ahem) conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer last week in an seemingly off the cuff comment while bemoaning the stupidity, timidity and general credulity of the European countries who, until recently, have been negotiating with Iran regarding the resumption of its nuclear program. As we now know, those talks failed to stop Iran from resuming the enrichment of its uranium supplies, an essential step in making a bomb (although Iran denies that is their intent). Check out this column of his originally published January 18, 2006 to see what I’m talking about:
Ah, success. Instead of being years away from the point of no return for an Iranian bomb, as we were before we allowed Europe to divert anti-proliferation efforts into transparently useless talks, Iran is probably just months away.
Sounds pretty scary (and damn those cowardly Euros for letting it happen, too), doesn’t it? Iran with a bomb to play with and sooner than anyone has previously imagined.
So how did this “Pulitzer Prize winning” columnist Krauthammer get the idea Iran is only months away from a bomb? We know it can’t be from talking to sources in the CIA. So where is he getting this alarming idea that Iran is on the cusp of holding a nuclear sword of Damocles over our heads (our here meaning collectively Israel and/or our military in the Middle East)?
Specifically, who are his sources for shouting “Danger Will Robinson” with regard to Iran as loudly as his nationally syndicated column permits? This has been bugging me ever since I first came across this story. Especially with a new wave of fearmongering rising up across our country’s editorial pages, demanding we adopt a hard line approach to dealing with Iran:
When all else fails, stop Iran by force
Sanctions won’t deter rogue regime’s nuclear ambitions
When all else fails, Iran must be deterred by force.
This is a nation whose president called for wiping Israel off the map; a nation that has inflicted the most heinous torture on its own people, and one that is an unashamed supporter of radical Islamic terrorism.
The free world would never be able to rest easy again if this unstable hotbed of hatred obtained a nuclear weapon.
Nothing is more horrible to contemplate at this moment than a nuclear-armed Iran.
(Cross posted at Daily Kos)
I admit I was greatly puzzled. But you know, it’s amazing what you can stumble across while pursuing generally useless Google searches. Sometimes you find something that opens a door, like this little nugget of a story from United Press International, dated January 19, 2006, which ran one day after Krauthammer’s column:
Tehran plans nuclear weapon test by March
WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Tehran is planning a nuclear weapons test before the Iranian New Year on March 20, 2006 says a group opposed to the regime in Tehran.
The Foundation for Democracy citing sources in the U.S and Iran offered no further information.
An Iranian nuclear bomb test by March 20th? That’s just — well — a few months away. Just like Krauthammer said. Could this group, Freedom for Democracy in Iran, or “FDI” for short (which rhymes with FBI; gotta love those names, eh?), be the source of Krauthammer’s worrisome assertion, as well as the UPI report? And, by the way, who is this FDI, anyway?
Well a little more digging took me to this website which tells you:
The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private, non-profit corporation registered in the State of Maryland. Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director
A group for bringing freedom to Iran based in Maryland? And headed by someone named Kenneth Timmerman? Who the heck is he? Well, he’s a guy who’s openly admitted he’s been involved with FDI since it was founded:
In 1995, along with Peter Rodman, Joshua Muravchik, and a group of Iranian patriots, he established the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI). The Foundation has served as a rallying point for Iranian democrats seeking an end to brutal, clerical rule in Iran, and has helped keep Congress and the public informed of ongoing repression and support for terrorism by Iran’s “moderate” new President.
So, he and his buddies, and some unnamed Iranian “patriots” (does this sound familiar, or what?) formed FDI to lobby– er, inform Congress of the dangers of Iran’s tyrannical, clerical regime and to work for it’s overthrow. An admirable goal. But does that make FDI and Mr. Timmerman a credible source for information regarding Iran’s nuclear program?
Well, it also turns out that Mr. Timmerman is an “investigative reporter” who’s previously written articles for American Spectator (Richard Mellon Scaife creation from the Clinton wars era). To give you a sample of his investigative reporting skills, and his expertise on the Middle East and weapons of mass destruction issues, here’s an article he wrote back in 2004 regarding the search for WMD in Iraq:
Saddam’s WMD Have Been Found
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
New evidence out of Iraq suggests that the U.S. effort to track down Saddam Hussein’s missing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is having better success than is being reported. Key assertions by the intelligence community that were widely judged in the media and by critics of President George W. Bush as having been false are turning out to have been true after all. But this stunning news has received little attention from the major media, and the president’s critics continue to insist that “no weapons” have been found.
In virtually every case – chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missiles – the United States has found the weapons and the programs that the Iraqi dictator successfully concealed for 12 years from U.N. weapons inspectors.
Well, he sure called that one right. I remember all those stories about finding Saddam’s WMD like it was yesterday.
Mr. Timmerman has also had a bestseller, Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson published by that champion of conservative truthiness, Regnery Press. Another popular book of his is The French Betrayal of America, a title that speaks volumes about Mr. Timmermans point of view.
His latest treatise, however, is all about the looming crisis with Iran. It’s called (baddaBOOM!) Countdown to Crisis : The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran. Here’s what the the Washington Post’s review said about it:
Timmerman, the author of earlier books attacking France and Jesse Jackson, begins his book with the outlandish claim that Iran was complicit in the Sept. 11, 2001, atrocities. In his retelling of history, a craven CIA, determined to exonerate rogue states that sponsor terrorism, has deliberately withheld this information from the American public. The conclusions of the numerous congressional investigations and journalistic inquiries into Sept. 11 are simply ignored. The one independent examination that Timmerman does cite, the 9/11 Commission, is faulted for missing what he considers the all-too-apparent Iran link. The reader gets the impression that Timmerman would rather not bother with facts precisely because they undermine his conspiracy theory.
A persistent problem with this book is its absence of credible evidence. Timmerman frequently describes meetings between Iran’s most senior officials, complete with dialogue, facial expressions and body language — all without any attribution. […]
It behooves Timmerman to provide at least some sources for such eyebrow-raising claims; he attributes them only to “sources with direct knowledge of these meetings,” whatever that means. To the extent that the author proffers any foundation for his theories, he appears to rely on exiles with tall tales and defectors with wild imaginations. The war with Iraq, premised on its nonexistent doomsday arsenal and nonexistent working relationship with al Qaeda, has vividly demonstrated where that can lead.
You get the feeling that Mr. Timmerman just might have an agenda, one in which he makes his own reality up as he goes along. Sort of like someone else we know, isn’t it.
Now, I don’t know for a fact that UPI and Krauthammer were both getting their information regarding Iran’s imminent acquisition of the Bomb from FDI and Timmerman, but the timing sure is suspect.
Why don’t we write Mr. Krauthammer
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20071
and ask him who his sources are, and if one of them just might be the good folks at Freedom for Democracy in Iran.
At the very least we ought to email the Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz (email@example.com) and ask him to ask Krauthammer where he heard this “dangerous” news.
I wouldn’t bother emailing Deborah Howell, the Post’s ombudsman, however. We all know how far asking her to explain something published in the Post will get you.