Apparently having learned no lessons from the Iraq WMD debacle, the New York Times is pushing for a heightened confrontation with Iran, slipping into the same kind of hysteria that it and other major U.S. news organizations displayed in 2002 and 2003.
In its latest neocon-styled editorial commenting on a new critical report about Iran's growing truculence toward nuclear inspectors the Times concluded with this judgment:
"Tehran, predictably, insists it is not building a [nuclear] weapon. Its refusal to halt enrichment and cooperate with the I.A.E.A. [International Atomic Energy Agency] makes that ever more impossible to believe."
Beyond the grammatical point that "impossible" like "unique" is an absolute adjective that can't be modified, the Times misses the point that its previous over-the-top hostility toward Iran evidenced in its news columns as well as its opinion pages has helped create the dynamic that is driving the standoff over Iran's nuclear program to a crisis point.
Amazingly, the Washington Post, usually an even more reliably neocon bastion than the Times, offered a more thoughtful assessment in its own Friday editorial on the same topic. The Post noted that the most promising area for negotiation with Iran was its past willingness to swap some of its low-enriched uranium for more highly enriched isotopes for medical purposes.
But the Post observed that delays in reaching an agreement over a proposed swap of 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium combined with the steady increase in Iran's stockpile "has greatly complicated the prospects."
The Post said that "when the deal was first proposed, Iran would have given up more than two-thirds of its stockpile and would have been left with less than the amount needed for one bomb. To achieve the same effect, Tehran would now have to be induced to nearly double the amount of low-enriched uranium it turned over."
The Post noted that Iran currently has enough low-enriched uranium to build two nuclear bombs, if it chose to bring the refinement up to much higher levels and committed itself to design and construct a nuclear weapon.
However, what the Post and the Times don't mention in their two lead editorials is that they and their neocon friends were instrumental in frustrating President Barack Obama's initial efforts to reach an agreement on the fuel swap last year and that they then helped sabotage a parallel deal negotiated by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey earlier this year.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Ina'cio Lula da Silva persuaded Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to accept the swap agreement in May, completing the negotiations that the Obama administration had begun.
Sinking the Swap
At that point, the swap would have removed about half of Iran's low-enriched uranium leaving the Iranianis only enough to theoretically begin work on one bomb, assuming they actually wanted to.
Though the swap would seem to have represented a major step forward since one hypothetical nuclear bomb is far less threatening than two and since the agreement might have led to more Iranian concessions the deal was trashed by opinion leaders at the Post and the Times.
The Post's editors mocked the Brazil-Turkey initiative as "yet another effort to 'engage' the extremist clique of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."
The Times star columnist Thomas Friedman chimed in, terming the Brazil-Turkey peace effort "as ugly as it gets," the title of his column. Friedman, who was also a top cheerleader for invading Iraq (having dubbed himself a "Tony Blair Democrat"), made clear that he would only be satisfied with more "regime change" in Iran.
"Ultimately, [the success of the Iranian opposition] -- not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics -- is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal," Friedman wrote.