Iraq? Iran? Who Can Tell the Difference?

A U.S. government publication gets a 1981 reactor attack wrong.

March 26, 2008— -- Do you have trouble keeping Iran and Iraq straight? Don't worry -- so do folks at the Pentagon, sometimes.

A Defense Intelligence Agency publication available as recently as yesterday on its Web site noted "an Israeli F-16 raid to destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor" in 1981.

Just one problem: publicly-known history includes no Israeli raid on an Iranian nuclear reactor in 1981. Israel did attack an Iraqi facility at Osirak that year, however.

"I cannot exclude, of course, that the DIA detected an operation which no one else knows of to this day," wrote the man who apparently caught the error, Israeli historian Gideon Remez, in an e-mail to DIA March 24.

However, "today's preoccupation with Iran's nuclear program seems to have been projected onto the events of 27 years ago," Remez noted dryly.

The publication in question was a history of DIA produced in 1996. It was available on the DIA Web site until yesterday, according to Secrecy News, a Washington publication which first reported the DIA's error.

Today the DIA acknowledged its mistake. "You are correct," it wrote Remez. "We did not realize it until you pointed it out. We are taking steps to correct it." Remez's e-mails to and from DIA were provided to ABC News by Secrecy News which still hosts the uncorrected version.

DIA spokesman Sean Kelly acknowledged the error, but said it was corrected on updated versions of the pamphlet. Kelly noted that a nearly identical DIA history, posted more prominently on the agency's Web site, contained accurate information on the 1981 Israeli airstrike.

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