The Jerusalem Post published a new report on Israel’s attack on an Iranian advanced uranium enrichment site at Natanz. Though Iran has announced that it knows what caused the attack, it has not attributed it publicly to Israel. Many news outlets have speculated that the Israelis were responsible. They have the motive, means and opportunity. Some reports say the explosion was caused by a cyber-breach of the sort which destroyed centrifuges a decade ago. Others have said an explosive device caused the damage. The Post report, which does not name or even refer to a source, confirms the cause was a bomb planted inside the facility.
As with every report in the Post, one has to treat every aspect of it with a great deal of skepticism. That’s not to say that one can’t learn interesting things from its “journalism.” But often the things one learns aren’t the ones intended by the reporter or media outlet. In this particular case, we learn a lot about the motivations of the one unnamed source and another named source. This leads us to question a good deal of the claims they make in the article.
In order to determine the unnamed source who provides important information, it’s worth looking at the other source who is named: David Albright. He is a former member of the IAEA, known for his especially close ties to Israeli intelligence. Most of the “secret” documents revealed by the IAEA about Iran’s nuclear program derive from Albright and his intelligence sources. In some cases, these secret documents were provided to Mossad by the anti-Iran terror group, MeK
As there is no other source named in the article, it’s safe to assume that the claims made which are unsourced were also provided to Post by Albright. But he wouldn’t know personally how Israel sabotaged the Natanz plant. Who would? The Israeli agency responsible, of course. And that would be the Mossad. Which brings us back to Albright’s known ties to the Israelis.
The current leader of the Israeli intelligence agency, Yossi Cohen, has an immense ego and raging ambition. It’s a poorly kept secret that he plans to enter politics after he leaves the spy agency. He’s known for seeking to blow his own horn by taking credit for the Mossad’s exploits, even when a more prudent spy chief would act far more cautiously. I’ve reported here a number of times attributing such stories in the Israeli media to him, in which no source is named. My strong suspicion is that Cohen is the origin of the claims the Post doesn’t attribute to any source. Cohen revealed the information to Albright. And the latter conveyed them to the Post.
All this being said: why the Post? It’s a far-right Israeli tabloid known for publishing hoaxes and hosting editors with views so far-right that they’re welcomed by Breitbart (i.e. Caroline Glick). My guess is that Albright offered the information to other more credible publications and they didn’t bite. So they were left scraping the bottom of the barrel with the Post.
Now, as to the content of the article and its claims: Israel supposedly decided to “teach Iran a lesson” by reminding it there were “red lines” it would not permit Iran to cross:
An explosion…at a key Iranian uranium enrichment facility in Natanz was meant to send a message of determination to stop the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The purpose of the attack was to send an unambiguous deterrent message that progress toward a nuclear weapon beyond certain redlines would not be tolerated.
The article doesn’t explain what those red lines are. But since Natanz housed some Iran’s most advanced uranium enrichment facilities, the message would be that we’re going to degrade your most sophisticated technical apparatus to prevent you from pursuing any plans to produce nuclear weapons.
It’s no accident that Albright himself urged the U.S. to establish “red lines” beyond which it would not permit Iran to go in pursuing a nuclear weapons capacity. This offers further proof that the unnamed source in this passage from the Post article is Albright himself.
The article also claims that much of the Natanz complex was destroyed and that this set back the nuclear program by years. Much of this should be treated with extreme skepticism. In fact, previous Israeli-U.S. attacks have not done significant damage to the overall program. A more cautious assessment was offered by the NY Times:
But it was not clear how much damage was done underground, where video released by the Iranian government last year suggested most of the assembly work is conducted on next-generation centrifuges — the machines that purify uranium.
A Middle Eastern intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closely held information, said the blast was caused by an explosive device planted inside the facility. The explosion, he said, destroyed much of the aboveground parts of the facility where new centrifuges — delicate devices that spin at supersonic speeds — are balanced before they are put into operation.
But even this more guarded statement should be questioned. Iran knows that all such facilities are the target of U.S. and/or Israeli attack. It doesn’t leave its most advanced equipment sitting in buildings exposed to easy assault. Instead, as it did in Fordo, it hides them underground, inside mountains, etc. The only way the bombing could have achieved the results claimed is if the bomb destroyed not only the above-ground building, but the facilities below ground. This appears highly unlikely. I’m dubious that Iran’s scientists would leave any significant part of its manufacturing, production or testing process above ground.
Here is another interesting claim in the article:
Experts speculated that the group was a cover for the true attacker or at most a mixed operation of Iranian dissidents with a powerful foreign backer like Israel,
Whenever unnamed “experts” speculate anything one’s antennae should be raised. Who are these “experts?” In this case, I’d bet the “expert” is none other than Albright himself. And he learned the information from Cohen. The Mossad has a history of using MeK assassins to murder Iranian nuclear scientists. It also used the MeK to destroy Iran’s leading IRG missile testing site. This involvement has been confirmed by Seymour Hersh, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, and by Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who for several years was a confidential source of mine till his death.
The Post reporter has rejected my characterization of his source and demanded that I “rewrite” this post. I responded that I would do so, but only if he revealed anything at all about the source itself. At least he has admitted publicly that he has a source. His article doesn’t even claim that. Whoever that is has been “disappeared” in the article.
Jerusalem Post’s Bought-and-Paid-For Journalism
The Israeli media watchdog, 7th Eye, reports that Gilad Erdan’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs routinely engaged in shady, if not illegal methods to promote its mission fighting “delegitimization” of Israel, specifically in attacking the BDS campaign. Recently, the Forward reported that it spent $7-million funding various Israel Lobby-type groups in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Africa. This direct funding of domestic U.S. NGOs by a foreign government is illegal. Though the IRS is so feeble and lacking in will that it has never held any of them to account. I also reported that Erdan’s ministry spent $1.5-million on a London festival designed to promote Tel Aviv. The British Zionist Federation also kicked in $1.5-million, though it was offered no control of the content or programming for the event.
The latest story says that Erdan paid the Jerusalem Post $40,000 in 2019 to publish an anti-BDS insert featuring articles touting the minister, the ministry and its programs. Some of the articles also showcased organizations funded by the ministry. Their primary claim was that BDS was not only anti-Semitic, but that it was in bed with Palestinian terrorists.
All the articles were written and featured bylines of regular Post reporters. Among them were former managing editor, Steve Linde, former National Public Radio correspondent Linda Gradstein, and ex-felon and pro-Israel propagandist, Adam Milstein. None of the articles noted they were paid content funded by the government. One of the articles was an interview with GOP senator and former presidential candidate, Ted Cruz and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutsch. 7th Eye called it “government-funded propaganda.”
The Ministry also spent an additional $50,000 sponsoring two anti-BDS conferences hosted by the Post in the U.S. Earlier in 2017, Erdan’s ministry spent nearly $100,000 funding articles in Sheldon Adelson’s Makor Rishon. Among them was an interview with former-presidential candidate, Marco Rubio. It’s no accident that Adelson’s first choice in the 2016 Republican primary was Rubio, and not the eventual winner, Trump.
What makes this story even more important is that Erdan has been promoted from being police and strategic affairs minister to UN ambassador. In November, he will add the ambassador to the U.S. role to his portfolio. We will have among us Israel’s most powerful diplomat with a past that includes ethical violations, funding scandals, and gross violations of media integrity. He also is implicated in the scandal over the murder of an Israeli Bedouin teacher by the Border Police. He and the national police chief both lied claiming the victim was an ISIS terrorist.
This is the supremely ambitious pol who harbors clear ambitions to become the next prime minister.
I’ve reached out to Cruz for any comment they might make about the story. If I hear a response I will add it here. The Post’s editor, Yaakov Katz, refused to respond to the 7th Eye report. I find it shocking that a publication accused of violating basic journalistic ethics wouldn’t even bother to defend or explain itself.
Yonah Bob says
Hi Richard, feel free to contact me in the future before you try to critique an article of mine. My email: email@example.com is public as is my twitter account. Just so you know though – regarding my sources – you are not even close in this case. You might want to rewrite your article. In terms of anonymous sources, there is nothing new about protecting sources providing sensitive information from right to left (over the years many of the biggest exposes against Trump.)
Richard Silverstein says
@ Yonah Bob: I’ll take your advice to rewrite my post when you rewrite your article to even note that you have a source for your claims. “The Post has learned” does not qualify in journalistic terms. All reputable journalists refer at least obliquely to a source even if they don’t name them. There is a difference between “protecting” sources and disappearing them, which you did here.
Natanz and “Dutch Mole” planted Stuxnet virus
Designed for industrial sabotage with support from Siemens.
M.A. Wunsch says
“There is a difference between “protecting” sources and disappearing them, which you did here”.
Mr. Silverstein. You are being disingenuous.
You obviously recognized that J.Post had a ‘source’, because you tried, unsuccessfully, to identify him.
Mr. Silverstein. You also failed to reach out to Yonah Bob in preparation of your article.
You didn’t do your job as a journalist here.
Jeal R. says
Now take all this critical thinking and apply it to your own reporting about Beirut explosion.
You give no details about what actually happened that day. One can sum that series of articles in a single sentence – “Israel did it”.
You cherry pick sentences from export opinions and discard whatever does not fit in.
Before judging others Journalism, you should examine yours.
Ksennia Fox says
Richard Silverstein you are an Iranian toe licker, a complete waste of space, an oxygen thief. Everyone knows you are an Iranian mouthpiece. You are IRGC bred, Shiite fed and Iranian led. You have no credibility whatsoever.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Whoever You Are: I only published this comment to expose what a fake you are. I checked your e mail: it’s fake. Your name: Ksennia? Really? How did you pick it? Obvious fake. Your IP address resolves to Perth. But you could live anywhere. I do note that Perth is the hometown of another Judeo-fascist hoaxster, David Lange: but again who knows. You’re probably posting from an MeK bot account in Albania and hiding your IP using an IP proxy. SO let’s just dispose of you as a total fraud.
Boy, the hasbaristas are out in forced…. you must have jangled some nerves.
Also, in the unlikely event that you haven’t seen this article in the Guardian today, I include a link: