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Fox News Produces Iran Nuclear Weapons Hoax Scare

“Iranian lawmaker declares Tehran obtained nuclear bombs” a Fox News headline read on May 12, sensationalising comments made by an Iranian political commentator who was recently re-elected to parliament in March. Despite the bold title to the article, only Israeli media bothered spreading this claim, as even US networks left it alone.

At a time when the Israeli leadership has just rejected a ceasefire proposal that Hamas accepted, choosing instead to invade both northern Gaza and Eastern Rafah, attempts have been made to shift focus to the actions of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its never proven “nuclear weapons program”. In the case of Fox News, their dual agenda of trying to blame Democratic Party President, Joe Biden, for being weak on Iran and also in serving the interests of Israel, falls flat under scrutiny.

Unfortunately for Fox News, its hyperbolic headline can be easily fact-checked and what it implies is disproven with basic due diligence. So, where did this story of an Iranian lawmaker ‘declaring’ that his country had obtained nuclear weapons come from? Well, this story emerged from an interview that was conducted by a reformist Iranian news website, Rouyad24, with elected parliamentarian Ahmed Bakhshaish Ardestani.


Ardenstani, who was re-elected to Iran’s parliament in March for the second time, is known for his activism and as a political commentator. He is not a military official and is not known to have access to sensitive information regarding Iran’s nuclear file. In the interview, published by Rouyad24 news, it is clear that he is speaking from his own opinion and not as an official, or on behalf of the Iranian government. He is asked to comment on the recent statement made by Kamal Kharrazi, an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who told Iran’s Student News Network last week that “we have no decision to build a nuclear bomb but should Iran’s existence be threatened, there will be no choice but to change our military doctrine”.

The comment triggered a mixed response inside of Iran, with many expressing opposition to the statement due to Khamenei having issued a Fatwa [Islamic Ruling] forbidding the possession of nuclear weapons on moral grounds. While Iran’s official policy is to strongly oppose the pursuit of nuclear weapons, following the Iranian retaliation to Israel’s lethal bombing of the consular segment of Tehran’s embassy in Syria, Ahmad Haghtalab, an official belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also made a controversial statement in regards to Iran’s nuclear program. Haghtalab said that “the threats of the Zionist regime (Israel) against Iran’s nuclear facilities make it possible to review our nuclear doctrine and deviate from our previous considerations”. However, both these comments are not specific and it appears as if they were worded in this way in order to serve as a plausibly deniable threat.

Yet, in the case of Ahmed Bakhshaish Ardestani’s comments, they are very clearly stated as his personal opinions. For instance he said that “as an analyst, I present this analysis regarding Iran’s behavior based on offensive realism, which says that Iran can sleep easy at night when it has a nuclear bomb, because Iran’s rival, which is Israel, has a nuclear bomb.” He also admits that he hasn’t seen any evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon, but believes it must have a nuclear bomb after it attacked Israel directly with some 300 missiles and drones. If you read the article, it is very clearly an opinion offered by someone who does not claim intimate knowledge or to speak on behalf of the Iranian government. It would be like foreign media quoting Lindsey Graham’s tantrums about dropping nuclear weapons on Gaza and Iran, as “American official declares nuclear strike an option”. Although Graham advocated it, this is not US policy and he would not likely know if it was either.

However, the anti-Iranian news website, Iran International, picked up the interview and made a headline out of it. The outlet, which has been accused of spreading lies and encouraging civil unrest in Iran and has also been revealed to have received financing from Saudi Arabia, runs stories every day which seek to delegitimize the Iranian government. It is in no way a neutral news site on this issue. The Iran International headline reads “Iranian Politician Says Tehran Might Already Have Nukes“, which is more accurate than the Fox News headline, but is still rather misleading in its tone.

The Israeli media outlet, I24 News, which is infamous for creating the “40 beheaded babies” hoax following October 7, also ran with the story and published an article entitled “Iranian lawmaker claims Iran possesses nuclear weapons“, labelling it a “startling revelation“. I24 cited Fox News as their source and spent the bulk of their article talking about the Iranian nuclear program since the breakdown of the 2015 Nuclear Deal, attempting to use similar framing as the American media outlet, which argues that while former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, Iran has recently began to enrich uranium at an increasing rate. (This is meant to intentionally mischaracterize the allowances afforded to Iran under the JCPOA should the US pull out of the deal, which it did, as illegal or unjustified — something we have discussed at length at The Last American Vagabond.)

Fox News uses the story, which is based upon an incorrect premise, to basically argue that Joe Biden has been weak on Iran and that this development is because of the Democratic Party. Yet, if they bothered to read the article published on Rouyad24 and not just the selected quotes published by Iran International — who did actually link to the original piece in Farsi — then they would have read Ardestani talk about the 2020 response against US forces, in response to the assassination of their top general Qassem Soleimani. Ardestani argues that like was the case when the IRGC launched 19 missiles at the Ain al-Assad airbase in Iraq, the Iranian State ensures it possesses great power prior to launching such strikes in order to deter the enemy. His argument about Tehran possessing a nuclear bomb, is that they wouldn’t attack Israel or America without an insurance policy.

On top of this, Iran immediately reacted to Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Nuclear Deal by upping their enrichment of uranium (which was a legally outlined allowance within the JCPOA should the US unilaterally pull out of the deal), so this policy from Tehran is not at all specific to Joe Biden’s presidency. In fact, in January of 2021, just days after Joe Biden’s inaugural ceremony, the Chief of Staff for the Israeli military, Aviv Kochavi, had stated that, due to Iran’s refusal to comply with the Iran Nuclear Deal since Trump had ditched it in 2018 (even though it was legally in full compliance) Iran was “only weeks” away from developing a nuclear bomb, which was provably false.

Addressing the revived debate over the nuclear issue, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, re-emphasized on Monday that the Islamic Republic is opposed to pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and that his country’s nuclear doctrine remains unchanged.

While you may say that the Iranian government could just be lying, this Fox/Iran International story does not in any way prove this assertion and is another case of the media making a big deal out of nothing. The narrative that Iran has been secretly seeking nuclear weapons since the 1980’s is reported uncritically in the Western and wider anti-Iranian corporate media. This is despite the fact that Israeli officials have, almost every single year for the past three decades, wrongly estimating when Tehran will develop the nuclear weapons they constantly talk about. Not only do you have so many false statements about when Iran will develop nukes, there has also never been any real evidence produced to support the claim of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. If such a program exists, the chances that a low-down politician would know about it, and somehow the US and Israeli intelligence networks do not have any proof, is almost in and of itself so ridiculous that it blows the whole story out of the water to begin with. The fact that this story was run, with such an outrageous headline from Fox News, just shows the lack of journalistic integrity present at that outlet.

Robert Inlakesh
Robert Inlakesh
Robert Inlakesh is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, Middle-East analyst & news correspondent for The Last American Vagabond.

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