Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, November 8.
1) New flexibility?
The Washington Post reports Iranian ministry suggests openness to nuclear talks.
The Intelligence Ministry is viewed as a hawkish power center within
Iran’s system but not a channel for expressing the Islamic republic’s
foreign policy views. The findings in the report suggest that the
ministry has a pragmatic understanding of the challenges the country
faces, the cost it is paying for continuing uranium enrichment at
current levels, the threat of Israeli aggression and, perhaps most
important, a way out of the stalemate.
Curious, I checked the history of the Intelligence Ministry's website. I found this: Iran’s Feared Intelligence Ministry Launches Website. The date it was reported? October 19, 2012, roughly three weeks ago.
Although the statement refers to Israel as the “Zionist regime,” it is
otherwise devoid of the ideological tone that characterizes most
ministry reports and that has been the Iranian norm for decades.
Instead, the arguments in the 1,200-word report reflect many of the
views agreed on by international advocates of a negotiated solution,
namely that the potential destruction caused by strikes on Iran’s
nuclear facilities would set back the program by only a few years at
most and that diplomacy is a preferred way forward.
Ignoring the possibility of “imminent force,” the report says, would be
an “unforgivable sin.” To avoid such a military confrontation, the
report advises: “One of the options is to take diplomatic and political
measures and use the potentials of international bodies, which is a
necessary and less costly option.”
This report mentions a number of the features of the website:
recruitment, safety tips. However, an Iranian journalist currently
living in New York provides a different perspective:
“In particular, some of the sections of the website are trying to
demonstrate that the Intelligence Ministry is concerned about the
security of citizens, and is trying to make them feel psychologically
secure," Mirebrahimi says. "I see it as window dressing because of my
experience. The ministry doesn't access people’s information to protect
them; on the contrary, I believe it exposes citizens to more risks.”
The bylined reporter for the Washington Post story is Jason Rezaian, who according to his Twitter profile, is now the Tehran correspondent for the paper. Rezaian also contributed Misreading Tehran to Foreign Policy back in March.
Ebrahimi says that, when he was arrested in Iran, intelligence officials
seized on his main tool as a journalist, his telephone book, and used
it to make accusations and bring charges.
One opposition member in Tehran said in an email that he was even afraid
to check the new website because “they’ve been behind the arrest of
many of our friends. They monitor our online and [offline] activities.”
Rafsanjani and Khatami's decision won them no fans in Iran's
increasingly marginalized world of opposition politics. Khatami in
particular has been branded a traitor by many reformists, and his
decision to vote has been the subject of several biting political
cartoons. What their votes did accomplish, however, was to ensure that
both maintained their political heartbeats within the Islamic Republic
establishment, which is currently the only show in town.
It reads like he's promoting the regime's agenda.
As some Western and Israeli leaders hold out hope for a domestic
uprising that rearranges Iran's political system, they seem unable to
grasp this essential fact. Even in the face of severe economic and
political isolation, no existential domestic threat is worrying the
Islamic Republic's leadership as it did in the months following the 2009
presidential election. Air attacks on Iran's nuclear program,
meanwhile, are viewed as a manageable inconvenience.
Given Iranian leaders' calculations, their recent hard line toward
negotiations with international powers should come as no surprise. We've
got money, sanctions on our oil don't hurt us much as they'll hurt you
-- and we're not shutting down our enrichment program, the logic goes.
I can't prove it, but I'd guess that the paper at the Intelligence Ministry's website is disinformation.
2) Spiking the ball
The New York Times reports Netanyahu Rushes to Repair Damage With Obama:
Mr. Netanyahu woke up Wednesday to find not only that his Republican
friend had lost, but also that many Israelis were questioning whether he
had risked their collective relationship with Washington.
I don't see anything in what's reported here shows "damage-control,"
simply maintaining a proper relationship. (After President Obama's
exchange with Nicholas Sarkozy complaining about his relationship with
Netanyahu, I don't recall articles in American papers about the need of
Obama to "repair the relationship.")
“This has not been a very good morning for Netanyahu,” a deputy prime
minister, Eli Yishai of the religious Shas Party, told journalists in
The prime minister, facing his own re-election fight on Jan. 22, did not
directly acknowledge any missteps, but he rushed to repair the
relationship. He called the American ambassador to his office for a
ceremonial hug. He issued a damage-control statement declaring the bond
between the two nations “rock solid.” He put out word to leaders of his
Likud Party whose congratulatory messages had included criticism of Mr.
Obama that they should stop.
If President Obama's support of Israel is as strong as he claims, his personal differences with Netanyahu shouldn't matter.
Of course this perception is a potentially big issue in Israel. In 1999
one of the contributing factors to Netanyahu's defeat was his alienation
from the Clinton administration. I don't expect that the issue will
resonate as strongly as Obama isn't viewed as friendly to Israel as
President Clinton was. Effectively, the New York Times elevated an
opposition talking point into a news story.
The fact that The Lede's anti-Israel blogger, Robert Mackey, piled on, suggests that the New York Times will be working hard in the coming months to undermine Netanyahu from across the ocean.
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Iranian nuclear threat, Middle East Media Sampler, New York Times, Soccer Dad, US-Israel relationship