When I sat down to take in the headlines yesterday on the New York Times website, I was not altogether pleased with the paper of record. Admittedly, I am in an almost constant state of perturbance when it comes to the Times; however, their particularly heinous reporting on the Bibi "red line" hullabaloo Friday got my blood up, propelling me to dash off a long letter to the new Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, from whom I have yet to receive a response. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting posted an excellent write-up of the affair, so I won't bother doing so here. Suffice it to say that my exasperation level was unusually high.
So imagine my mirth when I came upon the following excerpt in the piece "Israeli leader makes case against Iran on US TV":
Mr. Netanyahu, who also appeared on the CNN program "State of the Union" on Sunday, sought to link the violence [at US embassies in the Middle East] with Iran's nuclear ambitions, arguing that Iran's leaders were driven by the same fanaticism that enraged the protesters. Israel has its own nuclear arsenal, though it has never publicly acknowledged it.
WHAT? Did the New York Times just mention the fact that Israel has nukes!? Oh SNAP! Day-um, hear that, Bibi? Bet that BURNS!
But what could have possibly gotten into the Times to allow such a tawdry fact into their Iran reporting? It's not like a mention was called for by the information preceding it. I think that my reaction to its inclusion was so marked precisely because there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for the Times to mention the Israeli arsenal at this particular point in the piece.
There are two major items of concern in the July 19, 2012 New York Times story "Hezbollah Is Blamed in Attack on Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria."
First, the article states
The bombing comes at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but Israel and the West say is a cover for developing weapons.
But it is not true that Israel and the West say that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. A number of top US and Israeli military and intelligence officials have publicly stated that they do not believe that Iranian leadership has decided to develop nuclear weapons. Furthermore, neither the most recent intelligence reports out of the US and Israel, nor recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, say that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
Second, the author's use of "confirmed" in the first sentence of the article is, I believe, misleading:
Talks in Moscow between the P5+1 and Iran have apparently hit the same wall that ended last month's Baghdad meeting. The West wants Iran to halt its 20% enrichment, ship its 20% stockpile out of the country, and close down Fordo. And what is it willing to give in return? Safety upgrades for an Iranian civil nuclear reactor and some airplane parts. The West's negotiating position does not address either of Iran's desiderata: sanctions relief and acknowledgement of Iran's right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.
The one redeeming feature of this offer is that it could be construed as an implicit acceptance of a civilian nuclear program in Iran, but … seriously? The West is expecting Iran to give up some of its best bargaining chips for airplane parts?
At long last, the United States and Iran are engaged in serious talks about Iran's nuclear program. But instead of celebrating the fact that President Obama is keeping his promise to the people who voted for him to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran, the New York Times has suggested to its readers that Iran's Supreme Leader is uniquely and intrinsically untrustworthy when he says that Iran will never pursue a nuclear weapon. Why? Because, according to the Times, Iran's leaders are Shiites, and Shiites have a religious doctrine called "taqiyya," which allows them to lie.
No scholar or analyst was cited by the New York Times in support of this argument, which should have been a red flag for Times editors for an argument claiming that the leadership of a country against which the United States has threatened war is essentially different from us because they belong to a different religion.
Last Saturday - the same day the United States and Iran were having "constructive and useful" discussions on Iran's nuclear program in Istanbul, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - the New York Times published a piece titled, "Seeking Nuclear Insight in Fog of the Ayatollah's Utterances," over the byline of James Risen.
That piece contained the following paragraph:
Complicating matters further, some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei's denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.
When President Obama nominated global health superhero Dr. Jim Young Kim to lead the World Bank, Harvard development economist Dani Rodrik remarked, "It's nice to see that Obama can still surprise us."
Is it possible that Obama could pleasantly surprise us in the upcoming talks with Iran over its nuclear program? Much of the media coverage would suggest otherwise.
Nonetheless, there are actually quite a few positive signs that we can point to:
1. There have been no reported major explosions in Iran or assassinations of Iranian scientists recently, as have seemed to occur in the run-up to previous talks. This could be a sign that U.S. pressure on Israel and the Iranian MEK terrorist group is working to keep things quiet on that front. There is some evidence that this might be the case.
2. No-one appears to be talking about Israel much at all. Israeli officials appear to be keeping a relatively low profile, and Israeli Defense Minister Barak recently put forward a proposed list of Western demands that is at least on the planet of plausibility - in particular, Barak made no demand that Iran cease enriching uranium.
3. Thanks in no small part to the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Reid, Congress has also been relatively quiet. And this week Congress is out of session.
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Call your reps today to oppose AIPAC's push for war with Iran! Here's what you do:
1. Call the congressional switchboard using this toll-free number provided by the Friend's Committee on National Legislation: 1-855-686-6927.
2. Ask to be connected to one of your representatives' offices.
3. Urge your Senators to oppose and vote NO on S. Res. 380. Urge your Representative in the House to oppose and vote NO on H. Res. 568.
4. Tell your representative's office that you oppose this legislation because:
i. It supports going to war with Iran in order to prevent it from developing a “nuclear weapons capability,” a vague threshold many experts believe Iran has already reached. In other words, the legislation supports going to war at the earliest convenience, even if Iran has no intention of actually developing a weapon.
Ellison-Jones Dear Colleague: "Support Diplomacy to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation and War with Iran"
Dear Colleague: Support Diplomacy to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation and War with Iran
[Sign-on deadline March 1]
Now that the international community has enacted the strongest sanctions against Iran to date, we must redouble our diplomatic efforts to achieve the transparency measures that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains a civilian one.
Without a corresponding diplomatic undertaking, pressure alone could lead to unintended and potentially devastating consequences, including war. Top U.S. national security officials have said that a military strike against Iran could lead to a regional war in the Middle East and attacks against U.S. interests.
While we acknowledge that progress will be difficult, we believe that keeping diplomatic channels open is the best way to avoid a new war and ensure that Iran does not gain a nuclear weapon. Please join us in sending this message to President Obama.
Keith Ellison Walter Jones
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Dear President Obama:
As tension with Iran continues to escalate, we urge your Administration to utilize all available tools of diplomacy to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and prevent another costly war in the Middle East.
For all it has done to promote confrontation between the United States and Iran, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to avoid the public perception that AIPAC is openly promoting war. In AIPAC's public documents, the emphasis has always been on tougher sanctions. (If you make sanctions "tough" enough - an effective embargo - that is an act of war, but it is still at one remove from saying that the U.S. should start bombing.)
But a new Senate effort to move the goalposts of U.S. policy to declare it "unacceptable" for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability - not a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one - gives AIPAC the opportunity to make a choice which all can observe. If the Lieberman resolution becomes an ask for AIPAC lobbyists at the March AIPAC policy conference, then the world will know: AIPAC is lobbying Congress for war with Iran.
Sponsors of the Lieberman resolution deny that it is an "authorization for military force," and in a legal, technical sense, they are absolutely correct: it is not a legal authorization for military force. But it is an attempt to enact a political authorization for military force. It is an attempt to pressure the Administration politically to move forward the tripwire for war, to a place indistinguishable from the status quo that exists today. If successful, this political move would make it impossible for the Administration to pursue meaningful diplomatic engagement with Iran, shutting down the most plausible alternative to war.
It seems that the Washington Post still requires a bit of help sticking to the facts on Iran. An article in yesterday's Post, entitled "Center for American Progress, group tied to Obama, under fire from Israel advocates," featured the following passage (emphasis mine):
At the same time, Israel’s supporters worry that Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon and greater instability in the Middle East pose existential threats to Israel.
Hm. "Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon." Sounds awfully familiar. Where have we heard that before?
Oh, yes. Recall that, way back in December, Just Foreign Policy initiated a campaign to get the Washington Post to correct a photo gallery headline, which originally read, "Iran's quest to possess nuclear weapons." The ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, agreed that the headline was "misleading," and the Post corrected it to read, "Iran's quest to possess nuclear technology." The mishap was blamed on the tricky nature of the headline creating process.
This time, however, the object of Iran's quest wasn't being mulled by an uninformed photo or copy editor--a journalist or editor, who should have known better, was responsible.
To his credit, Mr. Pexton responded to my email in a prompt fashion, and the offending passage was revised shortly thereafter--about six hours after the article was originally published. The passage now reads (emphasis mine):
In a front page exposé on January 4, the Washington Post revealed that sneaky Persian agitators are conspiring to thwart the Pentagon's noble aim of keeping 10,000-30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan on "non-permanent," "non-U.S." bases after "all foreign troops are supposed to be withdrawn" in 2014, just as these sneaky Persians conspired to thwart the Pentagon's noble aim of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.
The Post story is quite instructive, even if it is not exactly "news" in the common sense of the term. It presents the world from the point of view of diehard Pentagon revanchists who want to keep US troops in Muslim countries forever against the will of the majority of Americans and against the will of the majority of people who live in these countries. It presents this diehard Pentagon revanchist view as if there were no interests in the world besides those of Pentagon revanchists and wily Persian agitators, such as the interests of the majority of people who happen to live in the United States, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Of course, in the world view of the diehard Pentagon revanchist, the concerns of these mere residents are largely irrelevant, if they have no military implications. How many divisions do these mere residents control? These mere residents are just pawns in a game of Pentagon-sneaky Persian chess.
It is a story, moreover, that is spectacularly contradicted by the Post's own previous reporting, as well as that of other major American newspapers.
The story informs us: