Mondoweiss / August 4, 2021
Once again, the danger of conflict between Israel and Iran is rising. Once again, the mainstream U.S. media is either ignoring or distorting the news.
A drone attacked an Israeli-linked oil tanker in the Arabian Sea last week, and after a few days the U.S., Britain and Israel all accused Iran. The Washington Post report briefly noted that the drone strike is the latest in “tit-for-tat attacks” by both Israel and Iran, but stopped there. The Post nowhere mentioned that Israel is credibly charged with sponsoring attacks inside Iran, including assassinating Iranian scientists. At least the Post carried a report: the New York Times so far has ignored the latest escalation.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised a “collective response” to the allegedly Iranian drone attack, but the new Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett warned that Israel could act against Iran on its own.
You have to turn to Fred Kaplan in Slate to find out what’s really going on here. Kaplan, who is not known as a foreign policy dove, accurately points out that the escalation must be considered against the backdrop of the negotiations to restore the Iran nuclear deal, which have reportedly stalled.
He starts by noting that in the past two years “Israel has launched at least 10 attacks on Iranian vessels,” a statistic missing in the Post. Even more vitally, Kaplan explains that Israel stokes the tension to try and sabotage the deal. He says that once Biden took office, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “stepped up attacks on Iran — knowing that Iran would strike back, which would make a new nuclear deal still more unpalatable politically.”
Kaplan connects the dots:
“On April 6, hours before U.S., Iranian and European diplomats assembled in Vienna to reopen talks on the nuclear deal, an elite commando unit of the Israeli Navy attacked an Iranian military vessel.”
Netanyahu is gone, for now, but Kaplan argues that Bennett must maintain the same hardline, anti-nuclear deal policy: “Israel’s fragile new government is in no position to take daring moves toward engaging with Iran.”
Contrast Kaplan’s insights about the Iran deal with a July 31 New York Times report on the same subject. The Times article does warn that the negotiations have stalled. But somehow the paper does not mention Israel one single solitary time.
James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades; he lives in New York City