The International Atomic Energy Agency, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have all recently said that while they believe Iran may be moving toward a nuclear weapons capability, the regime has not made a decision to build a bomb. President Obama said just today that “ultimately the Iranians’ regime has to make a decision to move in that direction, a decision that they have not made thus far.”
Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton recently highlighted this distinction of fact between Iran’s nuclear program (which the country admittedly has) and its alleged nuclear weapons program and cautioned against “getting ahead of the facts.” “The IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one,” he wrote, adding that news outlets stating that Iran is building a nuclear weapon is “misleading.”
But it seems that Pexton’s direction doesn’t extend to the Post’s op-ed pages. GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed published this afternoon on the newspaper’s website attacking Obama’s Iran policy (while at the same time calling for all of what Obama is already doing) and referred to Iran wanting to build a nuclear weapon three times:
America and the world face a strikingly similar situation today; only even more is at stake. The same Islamic fanatics who took our diplomats hostage are racing to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama, America’s most feckless president since Carter, has declared such an outcome unacceptable, but his rhetoric has not been matched by an effective policy. While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world. […]
Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must.
Sticking to the facts about Iran or Obama’s policy toward the Islamic Republic isn’t exactly Mitt Romney’s strong suit. Just this weekend, the former Massachusetts governor was caught falsely claiming Obama “failed to communicate that military options are on the table” regarding Iran’s nuclear program and that Obama never said “it’s unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” (Obama has, in fact, communicated both sentiments.)
But the Washington Post should know better, particularly in light of Pexton’s recent plea, than to allow Romney to get away with unverifiable claims about Iran’s nuclear program that, as Pexton said, “play into the hands of those who are seeking further confrontation with Iran.”