Question: How do you water down the possible significance of a statement by an Iranian diplomat?
Answer: Wait for an AFP journalist to revise a previous raw report.
A short unbylined dispatch from the wire service reported that the diplomat "apparently misspoke" when he said that Iran has "the right to a nuclear weapon" not long after the incident occurred. (Dictionary.com tells us that "Used before a noun, apparent means 'seeming.'")
In a later full story ("Iran denies wants nuclear weapon as insurance"), AFP's Simon Morgan reassured readers that the statement by Ali Asghar Soltanieh "was clearly a slip of the tongue."
How can he be so certain?
Here is most of the brief early report after the incident (note that the headline, "Bombshell: Iran envoy in nuclear weapon slip-up," already had the excuse down pat; bolds are mine):
Iran's envoy to the UN atomic watchdog caused a buzz among journalists on Wednesday when he apparently misspoke and said his country had the right to a nuclear weapon.
After saying as usual that Iran was only pursuing nuclear energy for civilian purposes, Ali Asghar Soltanieh strayed alarmingly from the Islamic republic's usual line.
"The whole Iranian nation are united... on (the) inalienable right of (having a) nuclear weapon," the envoy to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency said.
He later got back on track, concluding: "We will not deprive our great nation from benefitting from peaceful uses of nuclear energy."
But in his later filing, Morgan communicated telepathic certainty that Soltanieh didnt' mean it (bold is mine):
Tehran was simply seeking to have nuclear technology, "particularly enrichment for our peaceful purposes. That is our policy. This is the policy of Iran," Soltanieh said.
Then, in what was clearly a slip of the tongue, Soltanieh said that "the whole Iranian nation are united ... on (the) inalienable right of (having) nuclear weapon."
Subsequently asked to clarify that remark, Soltanieh insisted that he had not meant to say "nuclear weapon."
Gee, isn't it at least slightly possible that Soltanieh's "misstatement" was "a slip of the tongue" only in the sense that it revealed the nature of private discussions he has behind closed doors with his home country?
Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard surely thinks so. At that publication's blog, he brought forth a couple of historical reminders Morgan "somehow" forgot to consider that might have forced him to be just a bit less certain (links are in original):
Remember when the Iranians left blueprints for a nuclear warhead lying around, and then told the IAEA inspectors that the regime "received them inadvertently while purchasing its nuclear equipment on the black market decades ago"?
.... Relax, just because they have highly-enriched uranium, blueprints for a nuclear warhead, and an envoy declaring to international inspectors that the regime has an "inalienable right" to build a nuclear weapon, that doesn't mean anything.
Of course not. Simon Morgan says so. (/sarc)
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.