Sanity Check on Iran

February 24, 2012   ·   0 Comments

Source: Mondoweiss

Target Iran

By Philip Weiss:

Some rays of light amid the Iran warmongering. Yesterday the New York Times ran an important piece on the Iran war saber-rattling saying that it recalled the buildup to the disastrous Iraq war. Reporter Scott Shane several times made the Israel connection:

With Israel and Iran exchanging accusations of assassination plots, some analysts see a danger of blundering into a war that would inevitably involve the United States.

Echoes of the period leading up to the Iraq war in 2003 are unmistakable, igniting a familiar debate over whether journalists are overstating Iran’s progress toward a bomb. Yet there is one significant difference: by contrast with 2003, when the Bush administration portrayed Iraq as an imminent threat, Obama administration officials and intelligence professionals seem eager to calm the feverish language..

With the notable exception of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, Republican presidential candidates have kept up a competition in threatening Iran and portraying themselves as protectors of Israel. A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday released a letter to President Obama saying that new talks could prove a “dangerous distraction,” allowing Iran to buy time to move closer to developing a weapon..

the news media, including The New York Times, which ultimately apologized to readers for some of its coverage of claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, are again under scrutiny by critics wary of exaggerated threats. Both the ombudsman of The Washington Post and the public editor of The New York Times in his online blog have scolded their newspapers since December for overstating the current evidence against Iran in particular headlines and stories.

Jim Fallows, an important voice during the Vietnam debacle, approves this piece at the Atlantic:

it’s very good to see the NYT running, on page one and above the fold, an analysis of the reckless agitation for a preemptive military strike on Iran, and of the risks this talk holds for all involved. Lots of people wrote these analyses, after the fact, about the panicky rush-toward-war mentality that preceded the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is certainly better to start talking about the problem now, when “hey, wait a minute” thoughts can make a difference.

Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast says that an attack on Iran makes no sense, but the hawks are winning the debate:

And who are the hawks who have so far marginalized the defense and intelligence establishments in both Israel and the U.S.? They’re a collection of think-tankers and politicians, most absolutely sincere, in my experience. But from Rick Santorum to John McCain to Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, their defining characteristic is that they were equally apocalyptic about the threat from Iraq, and equally nonchalant about the difficulties of successfully attacking it. The story of the Iraq debate was, in large measure, the story of their triumph over the career military and intelligence officials—folks like Eric Shinseki and Joseph Wilson—whose successors are now warning against attacking Iran.

How can it be, less than a decade after the U.S. invaded Iraq, that the Iran debate is breaking down along largely the same lines, and the people who were manifestly, painfully wrong about that war are driving the debate this time as well? Culturally, it’s a fascinating question—and too depressing for words.

Yes culturally it’s a fascinating question. And I don’t think Beinart is completely forthcoming; he went down the waterslide himself, he supported the Iraq war and back then he credited the influence of Paul Berman, Robert Kagan, David Frum, Tamara Cofman Wittes and Kenneth Pollack. The cultural question he addresses is the Israel lobby: the aggrandized role inside the Jewish community (and the American establishment) of neoconservative extremists.  Who gave the neocons power? Liberals did. And culture played a significant role.

Note that Eli Clifton (who reports that Tucker Carlson says Iran should be annihilated) broke open the Israel lobby piece of this story months ago at Think Progress:

a Tuesday press release [PDF] from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) brings to mind eery parallels between the escalation of sanctions against Iran and the slow lead up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Now (and again thanks to Ilene Cohen) here is Yossi Verter, in Haaretz, saying that even people in Israel are sick of the saber-rattling. And Shimon Peres is trying to box out the hawks with Obama.

President Shimon Peres is expected to tell U.S. President Barack Obama early next month that he does not believe Israel should attack Iran in the near future.

…According to these officials, Peres is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on Iran, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak is perceived, at least by the Americans, as pushing for an attack.

Peres told officials that there is no point in what he called the “unceasing self-intimidation” being voiced by senior Israeli spokesmen. This is what he intends to tell Obama.

This piece further undermines the reports by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic in 2010 and Ronen Bergman in the New York Times Magazine that cast an Israeli attack as inevitable and logical, based on Israeli military and government sources. Who were they talking to, and why were they parroting their views? Self-intimidation indeed.

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of


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