The dust has barely settled on Pres. Obama’s Congressional victory regarding the Iran nuclear deal, but the Israel Lobby and its assets in the media world refuse to give up, despite their loss.
The Washington Post, known for its hawkish editorial positions on Middle East issues and Israel in particular publishes Michael Gerson, a resident neocon evangelical (one-quarter Jewish, no less), who was George Bush’s chief speechwriter for five years.
Gerson just published a doozy of an attack piece on Iran full of exaggerations, distortions and outright falsehood. But one element in particular cries out for exposure. Ripping a page from George Jahn’s book (see below), Gerson writes this:
As President Obama was busy twisting congressional arms to prevent repudiation of the agreement, the Iranian regime has been systematically humiliating him.
Almost immediately, bulldozers began sanitizing the Parchin nuclear complex, where Iran is suspected to have researched the weaponization of nuclear technology…
Let’s unpack the lies in this passage. First, Parchin is not, nor ever was a “nuclear complex.” There were claims offered by unnamed “intelligence sources” to the IAEA that Iran did research on nuclear triggering devices at Parchin. In its report, the IAEA says such claims have been made about Parchin. But that report makes clear that there has never been any proof offered to substantiate this claim. So what we know for sure is that Parchin has been a military site for 85 years. That is all that we know.
— Jim White (@JimWhiteGNV) September 15, 2015
When George Jahn made the same claim in a story he wrote for the AP, Muhammad Sahimi and I and a dozen or more other journalists and analysts took him to task for this and other mistakes he made in his report (and this wasn’t the first time he’d made such blatantly false claims and errors). As a result, AP buried the original story by changing its original URL. That is now the link for a correction published by the news agency:
In a story Aug. 19 about an arrangement over alleged past nuclear weapons work between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, The Associated Press erroneously referred to Parchin as a “nuclear site. In fact, it’s a military site where some believe nuclear work occurred.
Apparently Gerson, stuck in his neocon bubble, never got the memo.
The op-ed further mangles the truth in this passage:
Ten days after the deal was announced, Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani flew to Moscow (in defiance of a U.N. travel ban) to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin. In short order, Iranian and Russian military forces began arriving in Syria
While it’s true that Soleimani did travel to Russia and hold such meetings. And new Russian military equipment and forces began arriving in Syria after that. But there has been no escalation in Iranian involvement in Syria. Iranian forces did not “begin arriving in Syria” after the visit to Moscow. There have been Iranian forces there for several years. But there has been no increase as Gerson implies. The link he offers to support his claim is to a NY Times article which highlights Russia’s escalating presence in Syria, but says nothing about any similar Iranian development. Therefore, Gerson’s narrative that Iran is thumbing its nose at the U.S. president, who hasn’t manned up against this perfidious enemy, is ludicrous.
Here is another unsubstantiated Gerson claim:
[In the aftermath of the deal] Iran is effectively announcing that it will be more aggressive in the region after the deal, not less.
On the contrary says Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council, quoting an Iranian academic close to the Rouhani government:
Contrary to the impression many in Washington seem to have that Iran will inevitably double down on intervention in regional conflicts, some members of the Iranian policy elite are advocating retrenchment to focus on repairing Iran’s sanctions-battered economy, according to Nasser Hadian, a Tehran University professor of political science who is close to the government of President Hassan Rouhani.
In a new paper to be presented Sept. 14 at the Atlantic Council…Hadian wrote that a “pro-minimal engagement” camp is arguing that Iran should reduce its intervention in neighboring states to “a bare minimum.”
Hadian does not identify who is in this camp, telling Al-Monitor that those having these views have not yet chosen to make them public. But he said that they include “key figures … among conservatives, radicals, reformers, the military, research institutions, and secular and religious people.”
Last month, Jewish Forward editor Larry Cohler Esses traveled to Iran and interviewed Grand Ayatollahs and local Jewish leaders about Iran’s relationship with Israel and its nuclear program. The figure with the most extreme views, verging on anti-Semitism, was the former commander of Iranian forces during the Iran-Iraq war and a losing 2012 presidential candidate, Hossein Kanani Moghaddam. He echoed Hadian’s views in his interview with Cohler Esses:
Given the nation’s long-stymied domestic development imperatives and radically diminished economic position — not to mention the public’s pent-up demand for jobs, goods and government services — Iran must pull back from foreign involvements, Moghaddam believes.
“We have to try to use the money inside,” he said of the billions of dollars in unfrozen assets that would flow into Iran if sanctions were lifted…He did not mean to abandon Hezbollah or Syria. But he emphasized, “We can support them politically, not militarily.
“We have to reduce the military budget, because in the last few years we have been part of a bad competition with Saudi Arabia and the United States. This destroys the economy of Iran. It’s worse than the sanctions. Even if Saudi Arabia spends $100, we should spend just $1.”
So Michael Gerson, who knows gornisht fun gornisht about the views of Iran’s leaders tells us the Iranians want to take over the world, or at least their own little part of it. While an Iranian political scientist with close connections to the country’s leadership tells us the exact opposite. And a bastion of the Iranian military elite agrees. Gee, I know who I’d believe.
The final outrage of Gerson’s screed is comparing Ayatollah Khamenei to Donald Trump, a classic non sequitur if ever there was one:
The Iranian supreme leader and Donald Trump have this much in common: They find their opponents to be losers.
Let’s hope the editors at the Post are as diligent as those at AP in correcting their columnists errors. Especially ones like this which poison political debate on an issue critical to world peace and U.S.-Iran relations.
Gerson may want to brush up his nuclear “Shakespeare” by talking with former Israel Atomic Energy Commission director-general, Uzi Elam, who wrote a new op-ed in Haaretz, All in All, a Good Agreement (behind Hebrew paywall–there is a way to circumvent it, contact me for further information). Among the points Elam makes in favor of the agreement is that in the fifteen years it is in effect Iran, will not have enough uranium to produce “a single bomb.”
H/t to Jim White.