Iran Feature: Non-News Nuclear Scare Story Of The Day (Reuters)
Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 11:08
Joanna Paraszczuk in Arak, Dan Williams, EA Iran, Fredrik Dahl, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mark Fitzpatrick, Middle East and Iran, Reuters

With the Iranian Presidential election and Syria dominating the news, there has been little space in the news cycle lately for a good, old-fashioned Iran nuclear scare story.

Yet, lest readers despair, Reuters' Dan Williams and --- of course --- Fredrik Dahl "man up", stepping up to the plate with this gem: Iran's Arak reactor looms into Israeli, Western view.

What news of Arak, Iran's heavy-water research reactor that has yet to become operational?

Oh. None.

The lack of new developments with Arak reactor does not deter our intrepid reporters, however. Right in the lede, they appeal to authority, promising us "Israeli and Western experts", and thrilling us with this threat: Israel, which has bombed such construction sites around the Middle East before, may try to stop the plant being completed.

Dahl and Williams offer us some speculation from former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, whom, they remind us "was among eight pilots who in 1981 [32 years ago -- Ed.] bombed Iran's Osirak reactor".

Still, this is not really enough for a news story. So, after a few more paragraphs of filler, Dahl and Williams once against tantalize us with the promise of yet more experts --- and this time, diplomats too.

On the edge of your seat yet? You should be. Williams and Dahl have this quote from --- yes, you guessed it --- an unnamed "Western diplomat in Vienna", that staple character of all Iran nuclear scare stories.

The diplomat starts off well, entering stage left with this meaty quote: "The concern about that plutonium route and the Arak site has got much stronger."

That's it, however --- the diplomat has nothing else to say, and Williams and Dahl admit, in passing, that he is "not from one of the big powers."

Still not enough for a really good scare story, then. So what are Williams and Dahl to do, already as they are in the final half of the report? Yes, it's time for --- fanfare --- Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), to enter, Clint Eastwood-style, and save the day. Hurrah!

But wait, what is this strange sense of deja-vu? Hasn't Mark said this before?

Arak would potentially be able to produce one bomb's worth of weapons-grade plutonium a year, he informs us.

It would thus, he said, be "one of the key targets if there is ever a decision by Iran's adversaries to employ military force against the nuclear program".

And that's about it, really --- though our Western expert does make a comeback right at the end to give us this disappointing news: Fitzpatrick said he did not expect the reactor - located southwest of Tehran - "to become operational until 2015".

Our advice to Williams and Dahl? Don't base an entire in-depth news story on a quote from a retired Israeli military intelligence chief and an IAEA report from 22 May. News should be "new" --- hence the name.

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