Media Flagstones Along a Path to War on Iran

On Tuesday, big alarm bells went off in the national media echo chamber, and major U.S. news outlets showed that they knew the drill. Iran’s nuclear activities were pernicious, most of all, because people in high places in Washington said so.

It didn’t seem to matter much that just that morning the Washington Post reported: “A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis. The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House.”

By evening — hours after the Iranian government said it would no longer suspend activities related to enriching uranium — American news outlets were making grave pronouncements, amplifying the statements from French, British and German officials closing ranks with the Bush administration. On television in the United States, a narrow range of talking heads detoured around the USA’s profuse nuclear hypocrisies.

Yes, officials in Washington and their allies conceded, an Iranian restart of uranium enrichment activities would not violate the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But, as a Washington Post article put it Wednesday, the Iranian nuclear program was “built in secret over 18 years” and “the clandestine nature of the effort created deep suspicions in Washington and elsewhere about Iran’s intentions.”

In sharp contrast, no “suspicions” are needed about the nuclear activities of two of Iran’s bitterest enemies, Israel and Pakistan. Both have produced atomic weapons. Unlike Iran, those two U.S. allies have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and do not submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

For good measure, last month the U.S. government announced plans to engage in cooperation on atomic energy projects with the Indian government, which has nuclear bombs and has not signed the NPT.

So, the nuclear moralists in Washington have no problem with Israeli, Pakistani and Indian nuclear weapons, developed and stockpiled with contemptuous disregard for the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the White House and talking heads of U.S. television are insisting that Iran has no right to do what the treaty allows it and other signers to do — develop nuclear power, ostensibly to generate electricity.

The latest U.S. media uproar about Iran’s nuclear program is part of a dream starting to come true for neo-cons in Washington who fantasize about “regime change” in Tehran. More realistically, for the nearer term, the Bush administration is setting the agenda for a U.S. air attack on Iran.

“This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous,” President Bush told a news conference in late February. He added in the same breath: “and having said that, all options are on the table.” Assembled journalists laughed.