Frontline World


Iran - Going Nuclear



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Ron Richards - Los Angeles, California
How disappointing that a program such as Frontline would join in the politics of the Bush junta in spreading its war propaganda.

Your piece was biased and slanted, and even worse, you never once questioned the presuppositions upon which the Bush junta's arguments rest, nor the hypocrisy of the United States' position.

  1. First off, even under the existing treaty, Iran is not prohibited from creating a nuclear energy program.
  2. Even if Iran wanted to withdraw from the treaty and create nuclear weapons, so what? As a sovereign country it has every right to do so. The United States under Bush withdrew from nuclear treaties before, and Iran has that right as well.
  3. What is really offensive is how Frontline adopted hook, line and sinker the presupposition that the United States has the right to dictate to Iran what Iran may or may not have in terms of nuclear weaponry. Frontline has adopted this quasi-panicked position that the United States under Bush is trying to promote: "Oh my God, Oh my God, Iran might soon have nuclear weapons! What ever are we to do?" Why should the United States be allowed to have nuclear weapons but not Iran? It is the United States that has launched illegal preemptive wars, not Iran.
  4. Why single out Iran? Because it is a predominantly Muslim country? What about America's racist, apartheid client state in occupied Palestine? When will we see a Frontline special titled, "Nuclear Weapons in Israel?" Are we going to see Frontline reporters walking about Tel Aviv or elsewhere asking probing questions about WMD and nukes?
  5. Finally, and most inexcusably, Frontline never questions the real reason the U.S. is worried about nukes in Iran, and that is that this would compromise the United States' ability to go in and unilaterally dictate to the world what the rest of the world's policy should be. The U.S. is able to do so only because of its military might, and when potential adversaries have nuclear weaponry, this instantly and unquestionably neutralizes that military might. Not even a Christian fundamentalist madman like Bush dares to attack North Korea, and there is a reason for this.
You know, there is another perspective that was missing from your coverage, and that is from Westerners who are almost relieved that Iran and other Third World countries will soon develop nukes and delivery systems, since that is probably the only way of stopping neo-fascists like Bush and Blair from waging war willy-nilly all over the globe. It may not be your perspective and it may not be the average perspective, but it is nonetheless the perspective of many thinking people and as such, deserves to have been addressed in your "coverage" of the nuclear situation in Iran.

Editor's Response:
You're correct about your first point: Iran has a right to a nuclear energy program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it signed. We make this point several times in our story. Not only do we say it explicitly in the narration, but also we have the Iranian negotiators make the point themselves. We also try to do justice to several more arguments that the Iranians make for their energy program when we state that: (1) Iran claims it only turned to the nuclear black market because a U.S.-led trade embargo made it impossible to seek out a nuclear energy program above board; (2) though Iran has great oil wealth, the country might need nuclear power for domestic use because of its soaring population. We also hear from Sirus Naseri, an Iranian negotiator, who claims that Iran has a right not only to the use of nuclear energy, but to produce nuclear fuel (enriched uranium) that they could sell to other countries for energy uses.

You ask why we single out Iran on the nuclear issue. The answer is that we are a news organization, and questions about Iran's nuclear program are now news, just as questions about the nuclear programs in North Korea, Israel, Pakistan and elsewhere have been newsworthy at different times. We have covered all of these stories in Frontline or FRONTLINE/World documentaries.

As for criticism of Bush foreign policy toward Iran, we left that to Naseri, who tells our reporter: "Who are the Americans to say what we want to have, what we have and what we should want. All they have done is made every effort, in every manner that they could, to deny us [nuclear] technology...The Americans do not have a game plan. I think the whole thing is becoming extremely rhetorical within the U.S. administration. They think they are in the driverís seat, but where do they want to go?"

Aaron Deraps - San Francisco, California
The story lists the Shahs as having ruled Iran from 1501 to 1979. The story overlooks the fact that a democratically elected government and prime minister were elected in 1951. In 1953, the United States overthrew the democratic government of Iran (headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh) and installed a Shah friendly to the U.S. and Britain. This event was called Operation Ajax.

My point is that Operation Ajax is one of the biggest reasons the U.S. is hated by the Arab world, yet most Americans have never heard of it. The Arab world doesn't "hate our freedom," they hate our imperialist policies in their homelands. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that many countries are afraid of America doing the same thing to them, and the only way to guard against it is to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea is a great example of that.

Darin Enferadi - Benicia, California
Any country that currently supports international violence should not be allowed to make nuclear weapons. Then again, America has the most weapons stockpiled and we use violence often, so we can hardly defend ourselves from this double standard. We unjustly used nuclear weapons in World War II, have invaded Iraq based on a lie, and have condoned the outsourcing of detainees so they may be tortured. Having said that, we should be careful not to allow the spread of the most deadly weapons made by man. Iran's history is filled with the interference of America and Russia and it is no wonder that they want and demand the right of nuclear power. Also, it should come as no surprise that they might want nuclear weapons. Just look at the example the U.S. has set recently -- if you have nuclear weapons, we will not invade you. America's foreign policy is a pathetic joke in general but especially when it comes to Iran.

I have zero support for the theocracy of Iran and the corrupt nature of its government, but a number of our strongest allies have working relationships with Iran and they seem to be more optimistic toward peaceful dialog with a nuclear Iran. I think that political change is going to come to Iran soon; the demographics of Iran point to this. The clerics cannot keep such a young growing populace under repressive control for much longer. I think we should wait it out and let the country got through an organic political evolution into one that represents the interests of the people. I also believe that we cannot take the knowledge already acquired away from Iran, so we must come to the realization that a nuclear-powered and possibly armed Iran is very much in our future.

Anonymous - Chicago, Illinois
To be fair to mankind lets eliminate all nuclear weapons and generators. That includes the U.S. -- no exceptions.

Anonymous - Chicago, Illinois
I found your program on Frontline May 24, 2005 concerning Iran's nuclear facility rather biased. It seems to me that it was a political statement made to further alienate public opinion against Iran. Many countries have nuclear generators and I don't see Bush jumping on them. Also Israel continually thumbs its nose at the U.N. and I don't see any reaction from your station. I might have missed a program on Israel's nuclear facility in the past, and if you did air such a program, I would probably buy it.

Jamshid Salehi - Tehran, Iran
Nobody should be prevented from having nuclear power plants and everybody should be prevented from having an atomic arsenal! This is much better for the whole world, including the United States.


Mario Caires - Caracas, Venezuela
It is very hard to maintain a division between nuclear and non-nuclear countries; I would say this is an unrealistic way to look at the issue. On the other hand, I perfectly understand the concern of people about a nuclear world where a superpower or a less developed country could start a nuclear attack. But, who in the world can say that Israel is allowed to have nuclear weapons for security reasons and not Iran? The Pandoraís box was opened in Hiroshima in August 1945 and nobody is able or wants to put the demon back in the box. This is a threshold for humankind, because the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat to the survival of this civilization.

George Daniel - London, Wisconsin
High-tone media outlets claim to excel at providing context. But context is exactly what Frontline did not offer the viewers of its report on Iran's nuclear development. Such "silence about truth" is a prerequisite for the kind of self-righteous hypocrisy that's likely to propel a military assault on Iran. Why doesnít Frontline go do a documentary on the illegal state of Israel and their nuclear arsenal?

Mo Adir - Iran
Why not Iran has nuclear weapons -- 500 of them. It is a double-standard policy; it is unjust and unfair and what makes countries go underground and build their arsenals.

Paul Hager - Bloomington, Indiana
Even before the U.S. went into Iraq, it has been my view that Iran as it is presently constituted must be prevented from developing nuclear weapons. I support regime change in Iran by any means necessary in order to prevent the mullahs from developing nukes.

Anonymous - Clinton, Louisiana
I was vastly disappointed in "Going Nuclear." I am a reader of newspapers and current events and looked forward to learning about the issue of Iran's nuclear program. I did not learn much of anything from this shallow look at the issue. I, in fact, know more about this issue than was presented in your program just from reading newspapers. How about interviewing more than one person from the U.S. government? Why not ask harder questions of this one public official considering the fact that we have been warned before about a Middle Eastern country having nuclear weapons when they in fact did not? How about mentioning the fact that our intelligence on Iran is deplorable and was found to be so by a bipartisan government commission?

This episode built up to a foreboding "time for diplomacy may be running out." How about interviewing someone from Britain, Germany, or France since they are involved in working diplomacy with the Iranians right now? This fact was not explored. How about interviewing more people from the IAEA? The head of the IAEA hardly spoke to the issue. I have seen PBS programming that conducted private interviews with Iranian citizens on the subject of government censorship so why did this program only ask a group of probably threatened citizens in a public market two token questions? I expect deeper, more probing, and more intelligent programming from anything using "Frontline" in its title.

Ben Sham - New York, New York
Which country dropped the nuclear bomb on Japan?

Parker - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
I found the report appallingly gullible. In the post-Iraq world, no claim of lack of cooperation or suspicious activities by sovereign Third World countries is credible as "evidence" of evil intent. Why didn't the producers grill the State Department officials about being wrong about Iraq, which also barred U.N. inspectors from certain facilities and performed actions that seemed "suspicious"? Seeing this report, I see journalists mistaking the relatively greater access to "information" offered by the U.S. as "proof" that the Americans are more honest, and, thus, worthy of more credibility. Journalists and the public are being fooled again. When will PBS start treating U.S. sources with the same objective skepticism that they do with foreign sources?

Anonymous - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I fear the "gullibility" you sense is your own. This is not about counterfeit CDs -- this is about nuclear weapons. Surely a mushroom cloud is not the hard evidence you seek. Besides, it is not in your interest to leave the benefit of the doubt with a radical theocracy -- particularly one espousing a religious philosophy, which at extremes produces suicide bombers.


Scott - Waynesville, Ohio
Interesting story. However, is the picture of a man demonstrating holding a sign that reads" Sources of Terrorism: Bush/Sharon" necessary? Typical Anti-American, left wing bias promoted by PBS. As stated, a very intriguing story that affects us all, as Americans. Please leave out the political idealism.


Ron Richards - Los Angeles, California
You know, these objections by the ultra-right that PBS is "left wing" are beginning to grow tiresome. What's wrong with placing a picture of a protestor's sign on the Web site? Frankly, many people around the world believe that both Bush and Sharon are the real sources of terror in the world, including me. Sharon is the Butcher of Beirut and Bush has slaughtered more than 100,000 Iraqis and almost 2,000 of our military personal fighting this illegal war.

I am no pacifist and I support just military actions, such as in Kosovo and Bosnia, but this war is nothing more than a neo-con fantasy-cum-nightmare designed to protect our illegal client state in occupied Palestine and to ensure that the United States can continue to impose its will on the Middle East's oil producing countries.

As for PBS, if anything, it is way too right wing. If PBS were truly left wing, it would be exploring -- more importantly explaining -- the inadequacies of the capitalist system. It would be doing stories on the hypocrisy of those who voted to impeach Clinton for lying about his tawdry little affair but who refuse to impeach Bush for lying about WMDs in Iraq -- lies that have cost the lives of tens of thousands of people.

News from PBS is, in fact, little more than an intellectualized version of the same right-wing news tripe that regularly comes through on the commercial stations and on ultra-right cable stations like CNN and FOX. PBS rarely questions the presuppositions that the corporate media use to justify this and other imperialist wars. To call PBS "liberal" is both laughable and tragic.

John Ortiz - Los Altos, California
Iran has the right to do what ever it wants with its nuclear program even if it is used for WMD. Why should we care? We have them in the U.S.; it deters our conventional enemies from attacking us, so Iran has that same right. The U.S. needs to get rid of its stockpile before policing other nations. It's so hypocritical of our leaders. And as for the U.N. inspector, they should just crawl in a hole and disappear. Why? Because they have Iraq all wrong. For years before the recent war, they were parading in the media that Iraq had WMDs and tricked the U.S. into war. Where are these inspectors now? Seriously, the U.S. should take a backseat in this situation. I don't hear any European nation overly concerned about Iran's nuclear program; I don't hear any communist nation concerning itself with Iran. So why are we? If they want to blow each other up, it's OK. If they blow us up, we do the same. It's not like we haven't done it before! I'm sure we can press that red button.

FRONTLINE/World Editor's Response:
Actually, as we stated in the report, Europe is extremely concerned about whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which is why Germany, France and Britain are so actively pursuing diplomatic measures to convince Iran to continue suspension of their enrichment program until they agree to safeguards and complete transparency, Also, Saddam Hussein, of course, once had a formidable weapons of mass destruction program, including chemical and biological weapons, and prior to the first Gulf War he was pushing hard to develop nuclear weapons. It was the U.N. weapons investigators who successfully uncovered and destroyed Iraq's WMD program. In the run-up to the current U.S. war in Iraq, it was the CIA and British intelligence, not the U.N. inspectors, who claimed -- incorrectly -- that Iraq still possessed WMD.


Tom Acker - Grand Junction, Colorado
The Bush administration has chosen to not honor nuclear treaties the U.S. has signed in the past. We are the only country to use nuclear weapons against another country -- two times! Now we have the audacity to ask if others should use nuclear technology. We are in a morally untenable position.


Bill West - Youngstown, Ohio
Good story, but this also seems like another "gotcha" story aimed at the United States. I wonder why there was not more information about the ongoing negotiations with France, Germany and Great Britain? This episode seems to point a finger (again) that all the world's problems are due to the action/inaction of the United States. I'm disappointed in Frontline for this and hope you can be a bit more balanced in the future.

Editor's response:
You're right that France, Germany, and Great Britain, known as the "EU3" -- have been central to the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Just a few days after we aired, the EU3 successfully negotiated the continuation of Iran's suspension of its uranium enrichment activities. Reporter Paul Kenyon has followed and filmed the EU3 negotiations extensively. They were a large part of the original one-hour version of his story, which aired on the BBC in late April 2005. In our version, there was no intention to minimize the role of the EU3 -- or to reframe the drama as solely the U.S. vs. Iran -- just the limitations of a 25-minute piece.

Michael P. - Portland, Oregon
I am impressed with FRONTLINE/World. However, I was disappointed in Paul Kenyon. He had the opportunity to confront a world issue -- "Iran, Going Nuclear." Instead, he made it U.S.A. versus Iran. Having the forum to speak with high-ranking Iranian officials, he chose to leave out the fact that E.U. countries want the Iranian nuclear program stopped. In a time of mostly sensationalistic journalism, I guess I should not be surprised that coverage of the anti-American protests made it into the show, while other footage was destroyed.