New York Times, Iran, and the “International Consensus”

A deal between Iran, Brazil and Turkey to ship some of Iran’s uranium out of the country to be enriched in Turkey and returned for use in an Iranian medical reactor has elicited some elite media panic.  An early New York Times Web headline read, “Iran Offers to Ship Uranium, Complicating Sanctions Talks.”  The Wall Street Journal (5/17/10) went with “Iranian Nuclear Deal Raises Fears.”

The story in the print edition of the Times (5/18/10) focuses much of its attention on the U.S. reaction to the deal.  This passage is especially meaningful:

Rejecting the new deal, however, could make President Obama appear to be blocking a potential compromise.  And the deal shows how Brazil and Turkey, which for their own economic interests oppose sanctions, may derail a fragile international consensus to increase pressure on Iran.

Rejecting a deal doesn’t make one “appear” to be blocking compromise — that’s precisely what you’re doing.

More importantly, the idea that the “fragile international consensus” favors increasing sanctions on Iran makes sense only if you believe that that expression refers exclusively to certain major powers, which can force their will via the U.N. Security Council.

This is not the first time the New York Times has explained Iranian nuclear diplomacy in such terms.  Here’s Noam Chomsky (ZNet, 2/16/08), reviewing an earlier, similar example:

To take another illustration of the depth of the imperial mentality, New York Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino writes that “Iran’s intransigence [about nuclear enrichment] appears to be defeating attempts by the rest of the world to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.”  The rest of the world happens to exclude the large majority of the world: the non-aligned movement, which forcefully endorses Iran’s right to enrich Uranium, in accord with the non-proliferation treaty (NPT).  But they are not part of the world, since they do not reflexively accept U.S. orders.

We might tarry for a moment to ask whether there is any solution to the U.S./Iran confrontation over nuclear weapons.  Here is one idea: (1) Iran should have the right to develop nuclear energy, but not weapons, in accord with the NPT.  (2) A nuclear weapons-free zone should be established in the region, including Iran, Israel, and U.S. forces deployed there.  (3) The U.S. should accept the NPT.  (4) The U.S. should end threats against Iran, and turn to diplomacy.

The proposals are not original.  These are the preferences of the overwhelming majority of Americans, and also Iranians, in polls by World Public Opinion, which found that Americans and Iranians agree on basic issues.  At a forum at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies when the polls were released a year ago, Joseph Cirincione, senior vice president for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress, said the polls showed “the common sense of both the American people and the Iranian people, [who] seem to be able to rise above the rhetoric of their own leaders to find common sense solutions to some of the most crucial questions” facing the two nations, favoring pragmatic, diplomatic solutions to their differences.  The results suggest that if the U.S. and Iran were functioning democratic societies, this very dangerous confrontation could probably be resolved peaceably.

Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR.  He writes for FAIR’s magazine Extra!, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR’s syndicated radio show CounterSpin.  This article was first published in the FAIR blog on 18 May 2010 under a Creative Commons license.

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