Who’s an Iran Expert? The Hawks Have Their Say

cbs-ftn-iranWhen the US and other Western powers appeared to be on the verge of a major diplomatic breakthrough over Iran’s nuclear program, the Sunday chat shows turned their attention to the issue–which wasn’t good news. 

CBS‘s Face the Nation (11/10/13) covered the talks by interviewing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of negotiations who has repeatedly claimed–without evidence–that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Interviewer Norah O’Donnell did little to clear up matters by asking Netanyahu this:

But the United States, other Europeans believe this would be a historic deal, because for the first time it would freeze their nuclear weapons program.

Iran is not known to have such a program; treating this claim as a fact is a problem. CBS didn’t expand the discussion much from there; the next interview was with former CIA director Leon Panetta, who warned against trusting Iran because “Iran is a country that has promoted terrorism.”

On ABC‘s This Week (11/10/13), host George Stephanopoulos  covered Iran by turning to Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), one of the most vocal supporters of economic sanctions on Iran. His position was that “the Iranians are on the ropes” now, so there’s no need to push for a deal. And Menendez discussed the possibility of increasing the sanctions: 

So I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward on a package that ultimately would send a very clear message where we intend to be if the Iranians don’t strike a deal and stop their nuclear weapons program.

Again, such unsubstantiated rhetoric about Iranian weapons should be challenged by journalists. But more often than not,  such talk comes from the journalists themselves. On NBC‘s Meet the Press (11/10/13), host David Gregory told viewers that

Iranian President Rouhani this morning insisted his country will not give up the right to enrich uranium. That is the critical step in the production of nuclear weapons.

It’s also, of course, a critical step in the production of nuclear power, which is what Iran claims it is enriching uranium for.

During his interview with Secretary of State John Kerry, Gregory said, “You want them to stop their weapons program.” And Gregory voiced the hawkish position that since sanctions were working so well, there should be more of them: 

 But here is the question : If the only reason they’re coming to the table now is because they feel the economic pain of sanctions–it’s not just the Israelis, it’s the Saudis, it’s Republicans in Congress…. If that’s the only reason they’re coming to the table, what’s the rush? Why not increase that economic pressure so you get not just a halt, but actually get a dismantlement of the architecture, which is the goal the president seeks?

And Gregory referenced some of Netanyahu’s past rhetoric, portraying the Iranian president as someone who cannot be trusted:

But as America’s chief diplomat, are you being skeptical enough about a man who has been called a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who wrote a book in which he talked about how they can continue work on their nuclear program while they gain confidence of the West, basically played games with the West? Are you being skeptical enough?

Meet the Press continued the discussion of Iran with Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who has discussed blocking efforts at sanctions relief.

That’s the state of corporate media discussions of Iran, where the preferred debate is basically no debate at all. 

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.