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February 4, 2022 1:24 pm

New York Times Coverage of Iran Talks Shows Paper Can’t Be Trusted on Topic

avatar by Ira Stoll


Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and members of the Iranian delegation wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria November 29, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via REUTERS

Looking for accurate reporting on the negotiations with Iran over re-entering a nuclear deal? Steer clear of the New York Times, which is unreliable on the topic.

A recent news article is a case in point. “For President Biden, restoring the deal — and with it, limits on Iran’s production capability — would fulfill a major campaign promise,” the Times claims.

That’s not accurate: Biden didn’t promise merely to restore the deal. When he talked about doing that, he also in the same breath talked about making the deal longer and stronger. To the extent that any “promise” was involved, that was an intrinsic part of the promise.

Here are remarks Biden prepared for delivery in July 2019: “If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, I would re-join the agreement and work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.” Here is Biden in a September 2020 CNN op-ed: “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern. This includes working aggressively to free unjustly detained Americans and calling out the regime for its ongoing violations of human rights.” In May 2020, as I reported for The Algemeiner at the time, Biden told an audience at a virtual fundraiser that he would use “renewed diplomacy with our allies to strengthen and extend the Iran deal.”

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This is a subtle point but an important one. The Times is claiming that Biden can “fulfill a major campaign promise” by simply re-entering the old deal. But that wouldn’t really fulfill the promise. The promise was “strengthen and extend.” Without “strengthen and extend,” the promise isn’t fulfilled; it’s broken, or at best half-filled, not fulfilled.

The Times article goes on: “In fact, the United States violated the original accord first, when it withdrew and reimposed sanctions against Iran.” The “in fact” is a giveaway from the Times that what comes next isn’t actually a fact. The Times has no idea who violated the original accord first, because one of the problems with the original accord, as Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out at the time, was that it was unverifiable. Netanyahu said to Congress in 2015, “Iran not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them…. Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don’t know about, the US and Israel.”

The New York Times itself published a headline on March 15, 2016 — before Trump had even been elected, let alone exited the nuclear deal — that said, “Israel Calls on UN to Punish Iran for Missile Tests, Saying It Violated Nuclear Pact.” So by the definition of the Israelis, at least — who are the ones Iran is planning to kill with the nuclear weapons — Iran, not the US, first violated the pact. President Trump couldn’t truthfully certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance with the deal; as the Trump administration said in a White House statement explaining the American withdrawal, the original deal “did not include a strong enough mechanism for inspections and verification.”

The Times reports that a restored Iran nuclear deal “would not halt Tehran’s support for terrorist groups or its proxy forces, which have stirred unrest across the Middle East, as some Democrats and nearly all Republicans have demanded.” This is the latest in a series of recent examples where the paper’s writing and editing is so bad that it’s not clear whether the problem is bias or incompetence. What are the Democrats and Republicans demanding? That the deal halt the support? Or not halt it? Or that the proxy forces stir unrest? Probably what the Times is trying to communicate is that a restored deal won’t meet congressional demands that Iran cease support for terrorist groups. But “not halt” understates the failure of a renewed deal in that regard. The problem isn’t merely that the deal wouldn’t halt such activities, but that it would subsidize them with $700 billion in sanctions relief. That money will pay terrorists to kill Jews.

Anyway, be warned. The Times had to be shamed into eventually canceling the luxury “Times Journeys” tours it was operating to Iran with Times-journalist tour-guides accompanying participants who paid prices up to $135,000. A regular Times op-ed contributor is facing federal criminal charges as a paid Iranian foreign agent, a fact that the paper hasn’t yet deigned to disclose to the newspaper’s readers. In those circumstances, you’d think the news reporters and editors would bend over backward to take care that their coverage was accurate rather than tilted. Instead, news articles reinforce the overall impression that the Times can’t be trusted on anything having to do with Iran.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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