Iran’s top leadership has been making similarly unambiguous statements for almost a full decade, even taking out a full page ad in the New York Times in 2005 to counter the growing clamor in the US for a military attack by proclaiming that Iran had no desire for nuclear weapons, was not pursuing them, and wanted transparency, accountability and peace - exactly what Brian Williams told his viewers last night was a “sudden” and newfound claim.
Obviously, the fact that Iran claims it does not want nuclear weapons is not proof that it is not seeking them or will not seek them at some point in the future; all government statements should be subjected to skepticism (and one can only dream of the day when US media stars subject the statements of their own government to the same skepticism accorded to those of leaders of non-allied countries). But what is true is that US intelligence agencies have repeatedly though secretly concluded that they do not believe that Iran is building a nuclear weapon, and even top Israeli military officials have expressed serious doubts that Iran is building, or will build, a nuclear weapon.
But whether Iran is sincere is an entirely separate question from the one about which Williams radically misled his viewers last night. While Iran’s actual intentions regarding nuclear weapons may be debatable, the fact that they have repeatedly and over the course of many years emphatically disclaimed any interest in acquiring nuclear weapons is not debatable. It is indisputable fact that they have done exactly that. There is nothing new or “sudden” about this claim.
To the contrary, Iran has been trying to make Americans hear for years that they have no interest in nuclear weapons. Indeed, they have repeatedly made clear that they have not only banned such weapons but favor region-wide nuclear disarmament, including of Israel’s vast nuclear arsenal, which actually exists. It is Israel, not Iran, which has steadfastly refused to allow inspections of its nuclear arsenal (despite UN demands they do so) or to join the NPT or other conventions designed to monitor and regulate nuclear weapons.
But these facts have been excluded almost entirely from the dominant US media narrative for years. The fact that Iran, at its highest leadership levels, has repeatedly and unequivocally disavowed any interest in nuclear weapons is something that most Americans simply don’t know, because the country’s media stars have barely ever mentioned it. Brian Williams himself was either ignorant of this history, or chose to pretend last night that it did not happen when framing this historic event for his viewers.
Whichever of those two options is true, NBC News feels free to spout such plainly false propaganda - “suddenly claiming they don’t want nuclear weapons!” - because they know they and fellow large media outlets have done such an effective job in keeping their viewers ignorant of these facts. They thus believe that they can sow doubts about Iran’s intentions with little danger that their deceit will be discovered. Many NBC News viewers have likely never heard before that Iran has emphatically claimed not to want nuclear weapons and have even formally banned them, and thus are easily misled into believing Williams when he tells them that these current claims represent some “sudden”, inexplicable, and bizarre reversal that are not to be trusted.