Dr. Obama or: How to Live With and Love the Iranian Bomb according to the NYT and WSJ

Media coverage can’t please either side on the Israel-Palestine or Israel-Iran conflicts.  Once that’s accepted as a given, the differences in stories no longer garner much attention. The “liberal” media reveal bias for the Palestinian cause and are soft on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and goal of wiping the Zionist entity off the map. The “conservative” press expresses uncritical support for Israel and fails to recognize Iran’s legitimate quest to join the world’s nuclear powers club, which includes Israel. That’s the long-standing mantra of the complaints.

So, how did our two prestigious national papers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal cover the current rift between the U.S. government and that of Israel about the ongoing negotiations on Iran’s development of nuclear power and a nuclear bomb and the lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic if it restricts current progress toward obtaining the bomb?

The NYT (“Split on Accord on Iran Strains U.S.-Israel Ties,” November 19) casts Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the whining villain, thwarting the White House’s efforts to reach an agreement: “Every time Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, ask for a little time and space to test the new Iranian leadership’s claims that it is ready for a new approach, and for compromise, Mr. Netanyahu responds that the proposed agreement  is ‘a very bad deal,’ ‘extremely dangerous,’ ‘a mistake of historic proportions’…”

Only two days after that story appeared, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made Netanyahu look prescient when he said that “Israelis cannot be called human beings” and that their country is “doomed to extinction.” Not only children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, in Israel and elsewhere, will be reminded by Khamenei’s words of similar sentiments and language expressed in Germany three quarters of a century ago and will inspire much worse than the “ire” the NYT headline proclaims.

The November 19 story focuses on the differences between U.S. and Israeli “fundamental goals” regarding Iran, its nuclear ambition and on the chance that lifting or easing of economic sanctions will change that country’s desire for the disappearance or annihilation of the Jewish state.

The Times cites two “eminent members of the foreign policy establishment” (a description that may not strike all readers as a recommendation), Zbigniew Brezinzki and Brent Scowcroft in support of the White House’s carrot but no stick approach with its “historic opportunity” to achieve non-proliferation and peace.

And in the story’s conclusion, pain-in-the-White-House-butt Netanyahu is permitted to say that “there can be disagreements even among the best of friends, certainly on issues related to our future and our fate.” The Times reporters chose that conciliatory-sounding but nonsensical public relations phrase to suggest that the prime minister may yet come to his senses and accept the wisdom of our foreign relations establishment when it comes to the “fate” of six million Jews and the one Jewish nation among all others.  When kosher pigs fly.

The Wall Street Journal article on the same topic (“Strains with Israel over Iran Snarl U.S. Goals in Mideast,” November 17) uses a quite different quote from Netanyahu, linking the Iranian issue to that of the Israel-Palestinian one: “You want us to recognize the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people. How about recognizing the Jewish state for the Jewish people?” WSJ readers are thus offered a window into the Mideast mess closed to those of the NYT, but one which offers a perspective on one of the fundamental, perhaps the fundamental, source of conflict without a solution in sight.

The Journal does not perform the “intransigent” Israeli stance blame game so beloved in left-leaning and often in liberal media. Instead, the problems with the negotiations with Iran are said to compound “concerns about the White House’s ability to manage the Middle East’s proliferating security crises,” according to current and former American diplomats. Can’t roll out Obamacare, can’t handle the Middle East, is there anything the man manages to do well?

Blame Bibi in the NYT, blame Obama in the WSJ. Most Americans are likely to let blame fall on both heads, with another share on those irrational desert dwellers far away.

But where’s the understanding of how things got to be the way they are in that region? Those curious will have to read long reports, such as “Iran After the Bomb. How Would a Nuclear Tehran Behave?” a 50-page document produced this year by the Rand Corporation and authored by Alireza Nader.  There they might come across questions like this one: “Would nuclear weapons make the current (revisionist) Islamic Republic into an emboldened and aggressive power?”, one more ready to support terrorists with atomic devices.

They might also learn why Iran is challenging the U.S. dominated order in the Middle East and why Israel remains fiercely opposed to a nuclear Iran (“The Islamic Republic is the most hostile and active opponent of Israel in the Middle East.”)

And it was Iran’s Ayatollah Rafsanjani (Iranian politician and fourth president of the country) who said at the United Nations on September 20: “…even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything.”

On the many boiling issues in the Middle East,  readers can get a reasonably good if somewhat skewered summary of policies and procedures (talks, negotiations, proposed deals) in both papers, but for context and history vital for a deeper understanding, they’ll have to travel beyond the daily media fare.

George Salamon taught German literature and culture at several East Coast colleges, and served as staff reporter for the St. Louis Business Journal and as senior editor for Defense Systems Review. He has published three academic books and contributed articles to the Washington Post and the American Conservative.

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