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March 3, 2022 11:46 am
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Media, Take Note: It’s Not Israel Vs. Iran, It’s Iran Vs. Most of Middle East

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Opinion

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a ceremony to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 10, 2022. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

As world powers and Iran discuss reviving the 2015 deal aimed at curbing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, major news organizations are depicting developments in Vienna through a narrow lens (see here, here, here, here, and here).

The broader regional threat posed by Tehran is regularly downplayed by media outlets. Instead, these outlets seem to be promoting a false narrative that essentially equates offensive actions by Iran — the “world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism” — with the defensive maneuvers of the Middle East’s only democracy: Israel.

The resulting coverage not only effectively calls into question the Jewish state’s right to defend itself against a genocide-preaching regime, but also diminishes the gravity of Iran’s campaign of expansionism and terror and the threat it poses to Sunni states across the Middle East.

The following quote from a recent New York Times article titled “US and Allies Close to Reviving Nuclear Deal With Iran, Officials Say,” is a typical example:

One key issue is how Israel will respond. It has continued its sabotage campaign against Iran’s facilities, blowing up some of them and, at the end of the Trump administration, assassinating the scientist who led what American and Israeli intelligence believe was Iran’s bomb-design project.

What goes unmentioned is that Israel is far from being the only country in the Middle East that opposes the restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear accord. For while Jerusalem has consistently expressed opposition to the agreement, it has likewise caused grave concern in the Arab world, many of whose leaders believe that keeping the pressure up on Tehran is the correct course of action.

Indeed, Iran continues to invest heavily in its ballistic missile program, and in building up its network of terrorist proxies that cause havoc and destruction throughout the region in order to destabilize countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Tehran seeks to project power in order to essentially turn these nations into clients states.

This policy has produced what Iran has dubbed the “axis of resistance,” an amalgamation of Tehran-sponsored militias and full-blown terrorist outfits such as Hezbollah and Hamas. This radical alliance threatens Gulf states and Israel alike. For example, Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have attacked both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates using Iranian-made drones and missiles. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Tehran-supported terror groups in the Gaza Strip fire their huge arsenal of rockets at Israeli cities.

The Islamic Republic’s regional interventionism is seemingly being used as a parallel way to advance its nuclear program. As Iranian aggression increases, so too does its atomic program.

In fact, it was reported last May that Iran had enriched uranium to 63 percent purity — a short technical step away from weapons-grade 90 percent — and way beyond the 3.67 percent threshold permitted under the 2015 nuclear deal. At the same time, Tehran has from the get-go opposed the inclusion of Arab countries in the nuclear talks, not wanting to deal with their concerns over Iranian-led proxy wars and the Islamic Republic’s development of ballistic missiles and other conventional weaponry that can reach their territories.

These security threats are shared by Israel, and in part helped pave the way for the Abraham Accords, which normalized diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.

In response to these rapprochements, some experts maintain that Tehran is now pushing to enhance ties with its Mideast terrorist proxies.

As an HonestReporting analysis revealed, Iran’s regional adventurism, while largely ignored by leading Western news organizations, is regularly reported on by English-language Middle East media outlets.

One example is the reportage of the events on the second anniversary of the targeted assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. On January 3, 2022, Iran launched a drone strike against a civilian airport in Baghdad; the Houthi rebels seized an Emirati ship off the coast of Yemen; and violence broke out across the region.

The regional coverage of the anniversary of Soleimani’s death demonstrated the polarizing effect of the general’s violent legacy. His demise is seen by Iran and its supporters as a “martyrdom” that is fueling further animus against the West and Tehran’s enemies in the region. However, among Israel, Saudi, Arabia, and the UAE, Soleimani’s killing has been depicted as a necessary response to Iran’s incessant campaign of terrorism.

In contrast, little — if any — of this news made headlines outside of the Middle East.

Soleimani was head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force, responsible for clandestine military activities conducted outside Iran. The Quds Force’s stated goal is to end Western influence in the Middle East and to “liberate” Al-Quds, the Arabic word for Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, two years after “the world’s number one bad guy” was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad, media outlets continue to obscure his legacy, thereby effectively burying Tehran’s malign activities.

Specifically, between January 1 and 4, news organizations including The Washington Post, Associated Press, CNN, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, and others, published 55 pieces that mentioned the anniversary of Soleimani’s death. Out of those, 24 completely omitted the fact that he commanded the Quds Force. Others described the body as “the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” thus failing to encapsulate its true nature.

Moreover, some journalists solely referred to Soleimani as an “Iranian general,” or a “powerful military commander.”

Iran’s theocratic regime, by sowing sectarian conflicts, proxy wars, and terrorism, is responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in the region. The Islamic Republic is simultaneously committed to eradicating the world’s only Jewish state.

But newsrooms instead continue to push the simplistic narrative of Israel as “aggressor,” as well as the notion that Iran’s murderous ambitions are somehow unrelated to its nuclear program.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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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