FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

New York Times Fiction

by RAMZY BAROUD

Mark Landler is a White House correspondent for The New York Times. Under the title “Through Diplomacy, Obama Finds a Pen Pal in Iran”, Landler wrote of President Barack Obama’s deep “belief in the power of the written word,” and of his “frustrating private correspondence with the leaders of Iran.” (NYT, Sep. 19)

What is also frustrating is the unabashed snobbery of Landler’s and the NYT’s narrative regarding Iran: that of successive US administrations trying their best and obstinate Iranian leaders – stereotyped and derided – who always fail to reciprocate. This is all supposedly changing though since the new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, who they present as different and approachable, decided to break ranks with his predecessors.

This is of course hardly an appropriate framing of the story. While a friendly exchange of letters between Rouhani and Obama is a welcomed development in a region that is torn between failed revolutions, civil wars and the potential of an all-out regional conflict, it is not true that it is Rouhani’s personality that is setting him apart from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani’s ‘charm offensive’ as described by the times is a ‘process’ that ‘has included the release of 11 prominent political prisoners and a series of conciliatory statements by top Iranian officials.’ It is natural then, we are meant to believe, that Obama would make his move and apply his writing skills in earnest. Israel was not mentioned in the story even once, as if the fact that Israel’s decade-long advocacy of sanctioning and bombing Iran has not been the single greatest motive behind the deteriorating relations between Washington and Tehran, long before Ahmadinejad was painted by US media, NTY included, as the devil incarnate.

Dominant US media is unlikely to adjust its attitude towards Iran and the rest of the Middle East anytime soon: the perceived enemies will remain enemies and the historic allies – as in Israel only – will always be that. While that choosy discourse has been the bread and butter of US media – from elitist publications like NYT to demagogues like Fox News – that one-sidedness will no longer suffice as the Middle East region is vastly changing in terms of alliances and power plays.

Iran’s internal politics is multifarious, and the country’s location in a geopolitically complex region makes it impossible, needless to say unfair, to confine the country’s existence to the US whims and expectations. It is US impulses, not the Iranian’s leader lack of letter writing skills that made the relationship extremely difficult since the breakup 34 years ago. Since then, it has been one pretense after the other. At the heart of the US argument is Israel’s security – a doctrine that simply means total Israeli military domination over its neighbors. US insistence to rule over a region it perceives as its domain since the fading of British and French influence in the oil-rich region has its many, violent at times, implications. But there were also many wasted opportunities that could have assured both the US and Iran that mutual respect and cooperation were a possibility worth exploring.

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami (in office 1997-2005) was a reformist, and he too was seen as ‘different’. In fact, he did try to reach out to the US, but aside from a few symbolic gestures involving both parties, to no avail. The balances of power were extremely skewed in favor of the US, and politicians with sinister ambitions understood well the danger of reciprocal diplomacy with Iran.

The Obama administration is not particularly keen on peace for its sake, but is realistic enough to understand that the balances of power are constantly shifting. If the US continues with intractable attitude, it will leave the space open for its opponents to gain ground, and could find itself mired in new conflicts with dangerous consequences. Russia, whose political lot in the Middle East has grown to an unprecedented extent, delivered a masterful stroke when it capitalized on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s apparent gaffe regarding Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. On Sep 14, Moscow’s proposal to avert war, turned into an agreement, and in record time the mood had completely shifted from one geared towards an imminent war, to one with ample possibilities.

Of course, while the current civil war is tearing Syria to shreds, Iran and its allies – as well as its enemies – have been key players in the conflict. Now that an agreement has been reached regarding Syria, Tom Curry, a National Affairs Writer with NBC News reported that Obama is hoping the Syria agreement “could point the way to a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.”

Preparing for all possibilities, Rouhani began a quest to fortify his country’s own alliances. In the recent 13th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Kyrgyzstan, Rouhani showed willingness to resolve problems surrounding its nuclear weapons program. Empowered by the dissipating chances of war against Syria, and Russia’s growing fortunes as a diplomatic arbitrator, Iran sees an opportunity for a dignified solution.

Evidently, Israel and its Washington allies are not happy. To offset a backlash, Kerry selected Israel as his first destination after the signing of the Syria chemical weapons agreement on Sep. 14. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had warned that Rouhani was no different than his predecessor, must now find a way to restate his country’s relevance, and will continue to find ways to push for war. Republican Senator John McCain’s tireless advocacy for military action is not bearing fruits. His song ‘bomb, bomb, bomb Iran’ couldn’t even deliver a limited strike against Syria. Pro-Israel lawmakers such as Ted Deutch and Peter Roskam are merely urging their government to double its efforts to prevent Russia’s arming of Iran with advanced S-300 air defense systems.

Too little too late. Russia knows well that any turning back on its Iranian ally will not bode well for its longer term interests in the region. Andrei Arashev of the leading Russian think tank Strategic Culture Foundation is calling for “strategic alliance” with Iran, a sentiment echoed elsewhere. To achieve that alliance, but also to ease tensions with Washington, the Russian Kommersant reported that Moscow might offer Antey-2500, an alternative air defense system with equal efficiency. But there is more as “Russia is ready to execute the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project, ignoring the US sanctions on Iran,” reported Pakistan’s The New International on Sep. 19, citing a Russian minister’s comments in a meeting with Pakistan’s petroleum minister in Islamabad.

It really matters little whether Obama is a true pen pal or not, the same way that his oratory skills have long been disregarded as extraneous. The issue here has much to do with the political landscape in the Middle East, the failed attempt at war in Syria and Iran’s own alliances, starting with Russia. Obama’s alleged morally-driven expectations from Iran’s leaders and his supposed need for a trustworthy Iranian pen pal is all but mere fiction promoted by the New York Times. This strange logic begins and ends there.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle  and  “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail