The media and Iran


Our serious foreign policy geniuses strike again
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2007-12-04

Debunking Iran's Nuclear Program: Another 'Intelligence Failure' --
On the Part of the Press?

Iraqi WMD redux:
The release of the NIE throwing cold water
on oft-repeated claims of a rampant Iranian nuclear weapons program
has chastened public officials and policymakers
who have promoted this line for years.
But many in the media have made these same claims,
often extravagantly.

By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2007-12-04

Press reports so far have suggested that
the belated release of the National Intelligence Estimate yesterday
throwing cold water on oft-repeated claims
of a rampant Iranian nuclear weapons program
has deeply embarrassed, or at least chastened,
public officials and policymakers who have promoted this line for years.
Gaining little attention so far:
Many in the media have made these same claims,
often extravagantly,

which promoted (deliberately or not) the tubthumping for striking Iran.

Surely you remember Sen. John McCain’s inspired Beach Boys’ parody,
a YouTube favorite, “Bomb-bomb-bomb, Bomb-bomb Iran”?
That was the least of it. You could dance to it and it had a good beat.
Not so for so much of the press and punditry surrounding the bomb.
Who can forget Norman Podhoretz’s call for an immediate attack on Iran,
in the pages of the Wall Street Journal last May, as he argued that
“the plain and brutal truth is that
if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal,
there is no alternative to the actual use of military force --
any more than there was an alternative to force
if Hitler was to be stopped in 1938.”

As I’ve warned in this space for years,
too many in the media seemed to fail to learn the lessons of the Iraqi WMD intelligence failure -- and White House propaganda effort --
and instead, were repeating it, re: Iran.
This time, perhaps, we may have averted war,
with little help from most of the media.
In this case, it appears, the NIE people managed to resist
several months of efforts by the administration to change their assessment.
If only they had stiffened their backbones concerning Iraq in 2002.

For the rest of today and this week,
media critics will be offering up all sorts of reminders of the near-fatal claims by many in the press relating to Iranian nukes.
Sure to get attention are the scare stories in the summer of 2005
after “proof” of an Iranian nuke program somehow surfaced on a certain laptop,
proudly unveiled by officials and bought by many in the media then
as firm evidence (and now debunked,
like much of the “proof” of Iraqi WMD provided by defectors a few years back).

Wth much effort, I’ve already found
this beauty from David Brooks of The New York Times from Jan. 22, 2006,
when he declared that
“despite administration hopes,
there is scant reason to believe that imagined Iranian cosmopolitans
would shut down the nuclear program, or could if they wanted to,
or could do it in time -
before Israel forced the issue to a crisis point.
This is going to be a lengthy and tortured debate, dividing both parties.
We’ll probably be engaged in it
up to the moment the Iranian bombs are built and fully functioning.”

As recently as this past June, Thomas Friedman of The Times wrote:
“Iran is about to go nuclear.”

Even more recently, on October 23, 2007, Richard Cohen
(like Brooks and Friedman, a big backer of the attack on Iraq)
of The Washington Post, wrote:
“Sadly, it is simply not possible to dismiss the Iranian threat.
Not only is Iran proceeding with a nuclear program,
but it projects a pugnacious, somewhat nutty, profile to the world.”

More in this vein is sure to come:
I found those three quotes without even breaking a sweat.
At least Friedman, Brooks and Cohen
back some kind of diplomacy in regard to Iran,
unlike many of their brethren.

Another Post columnist, Jim Hoagland, exactly one month ago
summarized his year-long travels and study surrounding this issue,
declaring “unmistakable effort by Iran to develop nuclear weapons....
That Iran has gone to great, secretive lengths
to create and push forward a bomb-building capability
is not a Bush delusion.”
He added the warning that
“time is running out on the diplomatic track.”

One week before that, reporting on his trip to Moscow,
Hoagland noted Putin’s doubts
that Tehran will be able to turn enriched uranium into a usable weapon --
but called that failure “implausible.”

We’d be remiss if we left out William Kristol, the hawk’s hawk on Iran,
who for the July 14, 2006 issue of The Weekly Standard called for
a “military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Why wait?
Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained?
That the current regime will negotiate in good faith?
It would be easier to act sooner rather than later.
Yes, there would be repercussions--and they would be healthy ones,
showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.”

As often the case, Salon.com’s popular blogger, Glenn Greenwald,
may have gotten there first.
A longtime critic of The Washington Post editorial page and its editor, Fred Hiatt,
he has already happily reprinted a few choice passages from the past.

Here is the latest, from a Sept. 26, 2007 editorial in the Post,
which flatly denounced Iran’s “race for a bomb”:
[Actually, this is not the latest.
See the 2007-10-26 editorial “A Boost for Diplomacy.”]

“As France’s new foreign minister has recognized,
the danger is growing that
the United States and its allies could face a choice between
allowing Iran to acquire the capacity to build a nuclear weapon
going to war to prevent it.

“The only way to avoid facing that terrible decision is effective diplomacy --
that is, a mix of sanctions and incentives
that will induce Mr. Ahmadinejad’s superiors to suspend their race for a bomb. ...
Even if Tehran provides satisfactory answers, its uranium enrichment --
and thus its progress toward a bomb -- will continue.
That doesn’t trouble Mr. ElBaradei, who hasn’t hidden his view that
the world should stop trying to prevent Iran from enriching uranium
and should concentrate instead on blocking U.S. military action ...

“European diplomats say they are worried that
escalating tensions between the United States and Iran,
if fueled by more sanctions,
could lead to war.
What they don’t make clear is
how the government Mr. Ahmadinejad represents
will be induced to change its policy
if it has nothing to fear from the West.”

Greenwald also resurrects Post editorial quotes in this vein going back to 2005,
along with this choice snippet
from a September online interview with Kenneth Pollack,

whose complete wrongheadedness on Iraqi WMD
somehow has not kept him
from remaining a darling of the press

as an expert on Iran’s nukes and other Middle East issues:

“Q. How compelling is the evidence
that Iranians are developing a nuclear weapons program?

“POLLACK: Obviously, the evidence is circumstantial, but it is quite strong.”

I’ll provide other examples of pundit malfeasance as they surface.

[Two things are true:
  1. Podhoretz, Friedman, Brooks, Cohen, Kristol, and Pollack are all Jewish.
    (I don’t know about Jim Hoagland.)
  2. The ADL and its many, many supporters
    will vehemently attack anyone pointing that out
    as being “anti-Semiatic.”


America's Israeli-Occupied Media
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-12

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

There should be little doubt that

the Israeli government is making every effort
to jump-start a war against Iran sooner rather than later.

Many Israelis not surprisingly believe it is in their interest
to convince the United States to attack Iran
so that Israel will not have to do it,
and they are hell-bent on bringing that about.

their efforts are being aided and abetted by
a U.S. mainstream media that is
unwilling to ask any hard questions or
challenge the assumptions of the Israeli government.

Israeli intellectuals such as Benny Morris
have been provided a platform to argue implausibly that
a little war is necessary right now to prevent a larger nuclear conflict.
The repeated visits to Washington
by Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
to pressure Washington to commit to a military option
are generally unreported in the U.S. media,
and no one is asking
why the United States should be involved in
what is clearly a “wag the dog” scenario.

For once, however,
some officials in Washington appear to have developed a backbone
and are pushing back.
A flurry of visits to Israel by
Defense Secretary Robert Gates,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen,
and intelligence chiefs Mike McConnell and Michael Hayden
have made clear that
there is considerable opposition at the Pentagon and in intelligence circles
to starting a third war at this time.

Israel says that Iran is about to obtain a nuclear weapon
while the Pentagon and American intelligence services
are providing a more cautious assessment,
putting forward the U.S. view that
Iran is still far removed from having nuclear capability.
Mullen went so far as to tell the Israelis flatly that
Washington does not want another war.
He even brought up the subject of the USS Liberty,
a not-so subtle hint that Washington knows that
Israel might try to engineer a Gulf of Tonkin-type surprise
to force American involvement.
Mullen may have been implying that
any incident in the Persian Gulf that might lead to armed conflict
will be scrutinized carefully
to determine if it is a false flag operation initiated by Tel Aviv.

On the home front there is also some additional good news
for those who prefer diplomacy to warfare:
Congress is in recess and won’t be able to do anything truly stupid,
at least not until next month.
House Resolution 362 has 261 co-sponsors,
but it is still in committee and the word is that
it will be rewritten because of concerns about some of its language.
Though not binding,

it would have recommended a blockade of Iranian ports
to stop the import of petroleum products,
which many have rightly seen as an act of war.

[Well, Israel for one
would surely never take a mere act like a blockade as a casus belli ;-)]

Senate Resolution 580, which has 49 senators as co-sponsors,
is also reportedly being redrafted.
The antiwar movement has claimed some credit
for stopping the two resolutions in their original versions
because of a mobilization that produced thousands of calls to congressmen,
but AIPAC has been lobbying heavily for the approval of both resolutions.
I expect that the Israel lobby will prevail. [!!]
Both resolutions should pass with overwhelming majorities
when Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

The principal problem in attempting to derail the rush to war
has been the mainstream media,
which provides a bully pulpit for those who want war.
The media also accepts
the framework of the Iran “problem” as defined by Washington and Tel Aviv,
refusing to enter into any kind of serious, adult discussion
of how the outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran might be resolved.
A good example of how it all works was provided on Aug. 3,
when Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
was interviewed on CNN’s Late Edition by Wolf Blitzer,
who himself once worked for AIPAC.
[CNN transcript, Israel MFA transcript]

Livni has an interesting resume.
Her father was one of the Irgun terrorists
who blew up the King David hotel in 1946
and later massacred Arab villagers in Deir Yassin.
As a teenager,
Livni participated in demonstrations
on behalf of the nationalist extremist group Greater Israel,
which advocated expelling all Arabs and
extending Israeli domination over all of historic Palestine
to include the West Bank, parts of Jordan,
up to the Litani River in Lebanon to the north,
and down to include Sinai and the Suez Canal in the south and west.
She is reported to have mellowed somewhat since that time.
She was close to Ariel Sharon, became justice minister,
switched over to Kadima with Sharon, and was elected to the Knesset.
She was rewarded with the Foreign Ministry by Sharon
and now serves Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
She is a former intelligence officer,
a lawyer by training, bright and articulate,
and generally regarded as a “realist”
vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the Muslim world,
meaning that she supported the Sharon policy of “disengagement”
and seeks a negotiated solution and normalization
rather than continuing armed conflict.
She appears to be the leading candidate to replace Ehud Olmert
when he steps down later this year
due to his acceptance of gifts from an American businessman.

[Barak and Netanyahu may disagree.]

Livni has been reported as having said privately in October 2007
that Iran poses no existential threat to Israel
and was highly critical of attempts to hype the danger,
but her private views have not in any way
influenced her public pronouncements.
In her interview with CNN
she made a number of statements that are inaccurate or at best speculative,
but predictably, she was not challenged in any way by Blitzer.
Most viewers probably came away from the interview convinced that Iran
is seeking nuclear weapons,
is unwilling to negotiate over its nuclear enrichment program, and
is a danger to the entire world.

Following a lead-in by Blitzer affirming that Iran is
“showing absolutely no indication they’re going to stop enriching uranium,”
Livni – representing a country that has
ignored more UN resolutions than any other,
engaged in ethnic cleansing, and
attacked all of its neighbors without warning – asserted that
“It is clear that Iran doesn’t pay attention to talks …
Iran is a threat, not only to Israel, but this is a global threat.”

Blitzer then obligingly provided another softball,
referring to Ehud Barak’s assessment that
there is only a window of 15 to 36 months
before Iran crosses the “line of no return.”
While it is not clear what the expression “line of no return” means,
Livni jumped on it, saying that
“any kind of hesitation … is being perceived by the Iranians as weakness. …
Iran is a threat to its neighbors, as well. …
We shouldn’t wait for what we call ‘point of no return.’ ”
Blitzer then asked,
“You don’t even give them 15 months necessarily.
You think it’s a more urgent matter?”
“Yes,” Livni answered.

Blitzer then suggested that
the U.S. might not ready for a “third front” in the Middle East
at the present time,
to which Livni replied,
“[T]he world cannot afford a nuclear Iran
and weapons of mass destruction everywhere in this region,
in the hands not only of states, but also of terrorist organizations.”
Livni clearly believes that
it is all right for Israel to have a secret nuclear arsenal
but unacceptable for any of Israel’s neighbors,
because they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly.
The allegation that Tehran would give nuclear weapons to terrorists
surfaces frequently from Israeli and neocon sources.
It is speculative and in all likelihood a complete fantasy,
given the apocalyptic consequences of such an action for Iran,
but Blitzer failed to contest the point.
The terrorist argument is an essential line in the script
for those who want the U.S. to engage in a war with Iran.

Tzipi Livni should not be blamed for reciting her lines
in spite of her personal misgivings,
because she is, after all,
the government official responsible for explaining Tel Aviv’s foreign policy.
It is the American media that continues to play the patsy.
If interviewers like Wolf Blitzer
are the best that the U.S. mainstream media can come up with,
then we are in serious trouble.
The interview format itself is a travesty,
particularly as it suggests that some rational process is being applied
to either critique or validate what the interviewee is saying.
As the Livni interview demonstrates,
if the subject is the Middle East and the interviewer is Wolf Blitzer,
that is not likely to be the case.

[This is double-posted in
The Lobby and Iran and
The media and Iran.]


The Israeli case for war in ‘The New York Times’
by David Bromwich
Mondoweiss.net, 2012-03-01

An extraordinary op-ed in the New York Times today is entitled
“Israel's Last Chance to Strike Iran.”
Written by Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence,
the article deepens the impression that

members of Israel's security establishment
have a faucet at the Times
which they can turn on at pleasure.