How Not to Write an Analysis Piece on a Possible War With Iran

A report published on the Business Insider website, saying Israel and the U.S. are preparing for a strike against Iran, contains nothing exclusive, no new information, and is riddled with gross inaccuracies.

A great deal gets written about Iran and a possible war between the Islamic Republic, Israel and the United States. How much of that is reliable and worth reading is another question. Take for example a piece that appeared today on the American financial website, Business Insider. The headline is "Here's How US and Israel Are Preparing For a Possible War With Iran" and it has an "exclusive" banner over it. It is a lesson of how not to write an analysis on such an issue.

For a start, there is nothing "exclusive" about it - all there is in the piece is a collection of quotes and links culled from other publications, the connection between them often tenuous at best. Second, the piece doesn't tell you anything about how the U.S. and Israel are preparing for a war on Iran, not even if they are indeed doing so. Instead, there is a list of recent US defense acquisitions, which probably have no connection to a possible operation in Iran, and some quotes from Israeli officials on the need to "prepare other options" for countering Iran's nuclear program. Nothing new there then.

There is one very interesting detail though. According to Business Insider, there is "an Iranian F-16 acquisition" in the works, which would be groundbreaking news, if only it could be true. But besides this report, there has been no indication anywhere the U.S. is about to reverse its arms embargo against the Islamic Republic, in force for 33 years (except for some clandestine deals such as Iran-Contras). After that dreadful mistake, nothing else in the piece really matters, but still, just a few pointers.

The writers highlight recent arms deals by the Pentagon such as the purchase of 361 Tomahawk cruise missiles and another for a 17 thousand sonar buoys. The U.S. has been buying from Raytheon thousands of Tomahawks from the early 1980s, it has been the most effective and widely-used ship-launched missile in all the armed confrontations America has fought since then. An additional 361 is just keeping up operational levels, and making sure that wherever the U.S. Navy will find itself, it will be able to launch a devastating strike. With regard the sonar buoys, they are a standard, if advanced, instrument used to pinpoint the location of enemy submarines. But the old Soviet-era submarines of the Iranian Navy are hardly a reason for the Americans to buy advanced hardware – the threat to American ships in the Persian Gulf is not underwater; it is small and fast surface-attack boats and anti-shipping missiles.

Another detail that seems significant to the writers is the passing of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act last month in Congress. This is an important bill, but it is designed in part to reassure Israel that America is resolutely guaranteeing its security, and therefore it does not have to launch a strike on Iran.

Two other small but not irrelevant inaccuracies: The report mentions that Israel just ordered "its fourth German-made sub." Actually, it ordered its sixth sub and just took delivery of the fourth. Not that this has any connection with a possibly impending strike on Iran, which would almost certainly be airborne.

The other inaccuracy is their writing that the Iranians are preparing for war with "some of the most advanced military technology of anyone out there." Not to belittle Iran's power, but it is not based on "advanced military technology." Most of the military technology Iran has is what is left from the Shah's purchases from the US in the 1970s, augmented by some nascent attempts to develop an indigenous arms industry, with North Korean assistance. There are a number of nations in the region with much more advanced military technology - Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf States. That's why General David Petraeus said in 2009 that the United Arab Emirates air force, a much smaller country, "could take out the entire Iranian air force."

The basic premise of the piece could be true – the U.S. and Israel may be preparing a possible war on Iran, though it still seems that the U.S. is mainly trying to prevent such a war. But none of the details in the report actually support the headline.


Iran nuclear