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U.S. mainstream media fails to challenge Trump administration’s push toward war with Iran

Media Analysis
on 42 Comments

The risky U.S. moves to provoke a war with Iran continue, and the American mainstream media is still transmitting the Trump administration’s views almost without challenge:

* The New York Times has run lengthy accounts about the alleged Iranian attack on oil tankers, but the paper buried the skepticism about the U.S. version lower in its articles.

* A respected Israeli expert, writing in Haaretz, calmly explained why “Iran is the immediate, but unlikely suspect” in the attacks. Nothing like his point of view has gotten prominent play in America.

* The most influential foreign affairs columnist in the world, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, is still missing in action, a good 6 weeks after the Trump administration launched its latest effort to provoke Iran. 

* None of the mainstream coverage explains that Israel is a big factor instigating the rising American hostility to Iran.

The lead front-page New York Times report on Saturday is one sign of the bias. Paragraph after paragraph reported the U.S. version of the June 13 attack on 2 oil tankers, citing “officials,” “President Trump,” “a senior official,” and “a grainy black-and-white American military video.”

Only when readers got to paragraphs 8 and 9 did we learn:

–“.  .  . others said the (video) footage fell short of proving Iran’s culpability”

— and that the Japanese owner of one of the tankers questioned that his ship had even been attacked by mines, “saying it had been struck by a flying object.”

The Israeli reporter, Zvi Bar’el, used a different approach to raise doubts about the U.S. version of the attacks. Bar’el, a longstanding expert on the Mideast, argued that such a strike “goes against Iran’s policy, which seeks to neutralize any pretext for a military clash in the Gulf.”

Bar’el adds, perfectly logically:

. . . Iran is sure that the United States is only looking for an excuse to attack it. Any violent initiative on Tehran’s part could only make things worse and bring it close to a military conflict, which it must avoid.

Trita Parsi has expressed similar skepticism, unnoticed by news reporters despite his undeniable expertise:

Attacking tankers in the Strait of Hormuz . . . provides Iran with few additional economic or diplomatic benefits while drastically increasing the downsides. Iran has little to gain from a violent escalation in which it will be seen as the aggressor, let alone one that allows the Trump administration to portray its bellicose policy as defensive and justified.

Meanwhile, Thomas Friedman, who has portrayed himself as a Middle East expect for 3 decades, has still said nothing; he apparently has felt it more important to publish columns about trade with China. At least the NY Times editorial board spoke up, but their opinion was weak, reflected in the headline: “Iran and the U.S. Are on a Collision Course.” More accurate would have been: “U.S. Continues to Try and Provoke Iran into a Conflict.” The paper went on to agree with the Trump administration that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards “is a likely culprit” for the attacks on the tankers — an unproven assertion that prompted a blistering hostile reaction in the readers’ comment section.

By contrast, the Washington Post, which is usually more hawkish, did better: “Trump has backed himself into a dangerous corner on Iran.” The Post said:

Mr. Trump has ordered a series of provocative actions toward the Islamic republic that, on Thursday, produced the entirely predictable images of oil tankers burning near the Strait of Hormuz — and the very real danger of escalation toward armed conflict.

None of the mainstream media has connected Israel to Trump’s escalation against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu has long tried to provoke America to attack the Islamic state, and in the past Israeli intelligence has been the source for some of the extreme claims about the alleged Iranian threat to Middle East peace. Trump himself is interested in money, and he already admitted that his top donor, the pro-Israel gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, advised him to hire as his national security adviser John Bolton, the notorious hawk who is pushing the anti-Iran policy. This Trump-Adelson-Bolton connection has gone almost completely unreported in the mainstream.

P.S. One sign of hope: the reader comments in the New York Times following its latest editorial are almost unanimously opposed to a U.S. war with Iran and suspicious of the Trump administration’s version of events.

James North

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.

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42 Responses

  1. JWalters on June 15, 2019, 7:10 pm

    “None of the mainstream media has connected Israel to Trump’s escalation against Iran.”

    None of the mainstream media challenges Trump on ANYTHING that Israel wants him to do. This is a pattern. Since the MSM is obviously not in Trump’s pocket, the remaining possibility is that it’s in Israel’s pocket. As MW has repeatedly documented. Here’s excellent related article by Chris Hedges on the demise of America’s free press into slavery.
    “The Thought Police Are Coming”

    And a related Hedges article:
    “Israel’s Stranglehold on American Politics”

    • LiberatePalestine on June 15, 2019, 11:01 pm

      Beyond that, the mainstream media don’t challenge the state in general. Mainstream journalists are little more than stenographers for the government.

      • JWalters on June 16, 2019, 7:50 pm


    • Misterioso on June 17, 2019, 10:42 am

      @JWalters, et al

      “Bolton and Pompeo Are Trying to Start Another Forever War” by Matt Korda, Truthout, June 15/19

      “It is becoming increasingly evident that National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—President Trump’s top two foreign policy appointees—are manufacturing a crisis in order to catapult the United States into an explosive conflict with Iran.

      “This shouldn’t be remotely surprising, given their track records of supporting regime change across the Middle East, opposing the Iran nuclear deal and salivating at the prospect of bombing Tehran. Given these actions, it is frustrating to see many reporters simply parroting their unverified claims. This is exactly what Bolton and Pompeo are counting on: They want the public to be looking the other way.

      “On June 13, Pompeo delivered his assessment that Iran was behind that day’s incident in the Gulf of Oman, when two oil tankers were reportedly attacked with limpet mines. In his five-minute remarks, he provided no evidence and took no questions.

      “Pompeo’s assertion follows a similar pattern of behavior from Bolton, who claimed last month that Iran had deployed ballistic missiles on small Iranian sailing vessels––an extremely unlikely possibility, given the size of the ships and the notable lack of previous ship-based missile tests. He also claimed that Iran was responsible for subsequent attacks on Saudi ships.

      “Like Pompeo, Bolton provided zero evidence for his claims. An anonymous government official has even stated that the “new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was ‘small stuff’ and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton.

      “Despite the lack of evidence for Iran’s ‘escalatory behavior,’ as they call it, Bolton and Pompeo have used these incidents to justify escalations of their own. Under their direction, the United States has deployed a Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the region, partially evacuated the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, deployed 1,500 U.S. troops to the region, designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps––a branch of Iran’s armed forces––as a terrorist organization, and issued a threatening statement against the Iranian government. Given the clear parallels with the prelude to the Iraq War ––of which Bolton was a key architect–– Bolton and Pompeo appear to be attempting to trigger a military crisis or regime change once again.

      “Some Members of Congress, however, are trying to stop them. During the early hours of the June 12 debate over next year’s National Defense Authorization Act, Representatives Elissa Slotkin and Matt Gaetz recalled being given a ‘full formal presentation’ by Pompeo ‘on how the 2001 [Authorization on the Use of Military Force] might authorize war with Iran.’ The 2001 AUMF––passed in the immediate wake of 9/11—is essentially a blank check that gives the government unlimited war-making powers, and has been used to justify U.S. military engagement in nearly a dozen countries.

      “In an attempt to limit the broad authority of the AUMF, Representatives Ro Khanna, Anthony Brown, John Garamendi and presidential candidate Seth Moulton have introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would explicitly prohibit the United States from using military force in or against Iran, unless Congress has declared war.

      “The representatives withdrew their amendment during the mark-up; however, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chairman Adam Smith promised that a similar proposal would be re-introduced when the NDAA eventually comes to a vote on the House floor next month. The amendment has bipartisan support; the top Republican on HASC, Rep. Mac Thornberry, explicitly stated during the early morning mark-up that the 2001 AUMF does not authorize war with Iran.

      “As Representative Brown noted in a collective press release, ‘The Trump administration cannot set us down the path to war with Iran without Congressional approval, no matter how many specious arguments they make about previous and unrelated authorizations.’ Representative Moulton described the clear parallels between Iran and Vietnam: ‘The Administration seems to be hoping to provoke a situation like the Gulf of Tonkin incident that they would use to justify a U.S. response.’

      “Interestingly, Bolton and Pompeo’s quest for war with Iran has publicly put them at odds with President Trump, who reportedly told his acting Secretary of Defense that ‘he does not want war with Iran.’ It also puts them at odds with some of Trump’s strongest supporters, like Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, who have publicly stated that a war with Iran would lower his electability in 2020. If this is the case, then sustained public, media and congressional pressure might prompt Trump to realize that enabling his top two foreign policy appointees is simply more trouble than it’s worth.”

  2. Kay24 on June 15, 2019, 7:23 pm

    We should not forget that the media helped Bush, Cheney, and the war hawks, sell their Iraq war, and no one challenged the fake intelligence, or called them out on it. It seems the media was pushing for the war too. After that fiasco, you would think they would know better, and change their tactics.

    • LiberatePalestine on June 15, 2019, 11:05 pm

      It’s not that they don’t know better; it’s that they actively serve the state.

      The lie is spread all over the front pages and gets ample repetition, coupled with «analysis» from various dutiful lap-dogs of the state. Much later, perhaps, a two-line correction may appear down in a corner of page H-37.

      • Citizen on June 16, 2019, 12:31 pm

        Yes, they actively serve the state of Israel, not Trump, who also does so, the former to get and keep a good paying job, the latter for huge Zionist donors like Sheldon Adelson. Time to break up the six key media corporations (along with the big banks and big social media).

  3. HarryLaw on June 15, 2019, 8:04 pm

    Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, Pence, and Senator Lindsey Graham are certifiable, Pompeo and Pence are “end timers” waiting for the rapture, in this article Graham uses the Granada invasion [population 90,000] as a means to intimidate other nations opposing the US, starting with Venezuela [population 33 million].
    “Republican senator Lindsey Graham has suggested that the United States should take military action against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro so countries opposing the US are intimidated and surrender to Washington’s demands.
    The warmonger from South Carolina told Fox News that the US needed to resolve its issues with other countries using military actions.
    The Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary suggested using US military force to resolve America’s conflicts with countries opposed to US foreign policy.
    “Do what Reagan did in Grenada. Put military force on the table … start with your own backyard,” he suggested”.
    In the event of war, Israel and Saudi Arabia/UAE will be badly effected, Saudi oil infrastructure including tankers would be under bombardment from Iranian missiles just across the Strait of Hormus, Israel also could come under attack from all the enemies surrounding it. Trump walked out on the JCPOA and immediately said he would stop all Iranian oil sales and warned others of buying with secondary sanctions and dire consequences if they did. These are acts of war, make no mistake sanctions against Iraq causing the deaths of 500,000 children whose deaths Sec of State Albright said “was a price worth paying” are seared into the memory of everyone in the Middle East. The Iranians know how ruthless the US administration is and will not give in to US ultimatums. Trump has climbed up that tree, can he climb down?

    • Citizen on June 16, 2019, 12:55 pm

      Somebody please tell Trump & Bolton & Adelson If we’re headed for regime change in Iran, get ready for a military draft. We’ll need one. Do Equal Rights Feminists Want That? via @usatoday Conscription

      • Mooser on June 16, 2019, 2:03 pm

        “Somebody please tell Trump & Bolton & Adelson If we’re headed for regime change in Iran, get ready for a military draft.”

        This is funny. I suggested that exact thing at another blog (LGM) day before yesterday and a commenter immediately replied “We didn’t need a draft to do Iraq and Afghanistan.”

      • Citizen on June 16, 2019, 3:47 pm

        @ Mooser
        Well, go back to the other blog & send that commenter the link I sent here–it’s a very conventional source. Not to mention, Iraq & Afghanistan have been a disaster for all involved in any way.

      • LiberatePalestine on June 16, 2019, 11:48 pm

        Iran has more than 80 million people, about a quarter of the US’s population. And those people know from experience what the US is made of. They’ve seen the US overthrow their government and install an odious king beholden to Yankee interests. They’ve seen the US struggle for decades to isolate their country œconomically. They have developed a correct hatred of the US and will fiercely resist any invasion that the Yanks may be stupid enough to attempt.

      • Misterioso on June 17, 2019, 11:22 am


        Admittedly, I may well be wrong. However, the price of the U.S. launching what would be an ongoing war, including on the ground battles, against Iran, a country of 83 million people with a huge highly motivated, well armed army, would have severe negative consequences, including the inability of oil tankers to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, the disastrous results of which for the world’s already struggling economies is obvious. The war would be lengthy requiring hundreds of thousands of American troops and as currently indicated and understood by Trump, also opposed by the majority of Americans.

        Nor should we forget that a U.S. attack against Iran may well result in its ally, Hezbollah, attacking Israel. Or, of course, Israel may view a U.S. attack against Iran as an opportunity to attack Hezbollah. In short, the whole region may well be embroiled.

        Who knows? My fingers remain crossed.

      • Mooser on June 17, 2019, 12:16 pm

        “Well, go back to the other blog”

        No need. The point was made as soon as he brought Iraq and Afghanistan up.

      • Keith on June 17, 2019, 4:07 pm

        MISTERIOSO- “However, the price of the U.S. launching what would be an ongoing war….”

        If you are referring to my 6/17 @ 9:59 am comment, then you miss my point. We are currently at war with Iran utilizing so-called soft power, proxies, etc, just stopping short of direct combat intervention. These are, however, acts of war. Previously, no empire has ever had such a devastating arsenal of soft power, including economic and financial power as well as technological power. Remember the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities? We also support terrorist groups inside Iran. It may not seem like war to you because you are not on the receiving end. It is a form of hybrid warfare and is very, very serious.

        An additional comment. We are at the end of the hydrocarbon era and on the verge of an ecological and financial collapse. The empire remains relatively strong and may derive benefit from precipitating a collapse hoping to control the aftermath of planetary chaos. No joke. Shut the Strait of Hormuz? Who will that hurt the most? Europe? China? Japan? If we push Iran hard enough they may retaliate to our RELATIVE benefit. Thanks to fracking, the US has a temporary surplus of oil and gas. The US neocons and the rest of the imperial war hawks have started this “endless war” to achieve global hegemony and won’t hesitate to destroy 3/4 of the planet to achieve their objectives. Economic/financial collapse is imminent in any event. Under these unprecedented conditions, anticipating imperial geostrategic maneuvers is tenuous at best. And, thanks to Russiagate, we have ended up with Pompeo, Bolton and Abrams, a flat-out war cabinet supported by the military and intel services.

      • Mooser on June 17, 2019, 5:41 pm

        “And, thanks to Russiagate we ended up with…”

        Terrrible, the way “Russiagate” swept all the moderate, law-abiding and competent people out of the Trump administration. And forced Trump to hire Pompeo and Bolton.

      • Keith on June 17, 2019, 9:10 pm

        MOOSER- “And forced Trump to hire Pompeo and Bolton.”

        You are in deep denial, Mooser. The net effect of Russiagate was to squelch any chance of reduced tensions with Russia and to replace the original lesser warmongers with rabid neocons. Law-abiding? Half of Wall Street should be behind bars for unprosecuted financial chicanery involving trillions of dollars and you are upset that Flynn lied to the FBI during an investigation authorized based upon obvious falsehoods? Pompeo, Bolton and Abrams, more than acceptable to the warmongering Democrats and apparently to Democrat loyalist Mooser.

      • Mooser on June 18, 2019, 3:59 pm

        “Pompeo, Bolton and Abrams, more than acceptable to the warmongering Democrats”

        Yeah, that’s why Democrats confirmed the appoinments of Pompeo, Bolton and Abrams.

        “and apparently to Democrat loyalist Mooser.”

        No, really, I understand your Republican loyalist POV. Today’s Russia is a model for us in every area, and what the world needs now is the two largest oligarchical empires getting together.

      • Keith on June 18, 2019, 9:06 pm

        MOOSE- ” Today’s Russia is a model for us in every area ….”

        Totally irrelevant in regards to the ongoing demonization of Russia and Putin as part of Imperial geostrategic aggression. The empire is on a rampage which could lead to an imperial nuclear war of aggression and you are making snarky jokes. I am out of town and don’t have time for this.

      • Mooser on June 19, 2019, 11:53 am

        “The empire is on a rampage…”

        Yeah, between that and the ‘economic anxiety’, it’s hard to know what to do.

  4. HarryLaw on June 16, 2019, 3:29 am

    In my opinion there will be no war with Iran, too many losers, Saudi Arabia/UAE, Israel, the US fleet [in Bahrain] the US bases all over the Middle East, of course Iran and its friends could be destroyed [but at what cost?] The Strait of Hormus is bristling with Iranian anti ship missiles, the first sign of war would see the US fleet depart from Bahrain, the lumbering giant and vulnerable B52’s based in Qatar would not get off the ground. As for any US carriers in the area, just read why the ‘war nerd’ thinks the carriers are obsolete and have had their day……

    “Every single change in technology in the past half a century has had “Stop building carriers!” written all over it. And nobody in the navy brass paid any attention.
    The lesson here is the same one all of you suckers should have learned from watching the financial news this year: the people at the top are just as dumb as you are, just meaner and greedier. And that goes for the ones running the US surface fleet as much as it does for the GM or Chrysler honchos. “The purpose of the Navy,” Vice Admiral John Bird, commander of the Seventh Fleet, tells me, “is not to fight.” The mere presence of the Navy should suffice, he argues, to dissuade any attack or attempt to destabilize the region. From Yokosuka, Guam, and Honolulu
    That’s the kind of story people are still writing. It’s so stupid, that first line, I won’t even bother with it: “The purpose of the Navy is not to fight.” No kidding. The Seventh Fleet covers the area included in that 2000 km range for the new Chinese anti-ship weapons, so I guess it’s a good thing they’re not there to fight”.
    I suppose most leaders in Iran do not want war, unlike many US politicians, but I can’t help thinking that if war is inevitable there are some who may just say ‘Go ahead make my day’.

    • Misterioso on June 17, 2019, 8:39 am


      “In my opinion there will be no war with Iran..”
      With fingers crossed, I agree.

      • Keith on June 17, 2019, 9:59 am

        MISTERIOSO & HARRYLAW- “In my opinion there will be no war with Iran..”
        With fingers crossed, I agree.”

        We are currently at war with Iran utilizing a large chunk of the spectrum of full spectrum dominance: economic, financial, proxy, technological, etc. That we haven’t bombed them yet is hardly indicative of “peace.” Further, we are currently involved in a similar global war against any and all opposition to empire. The recent news that we are attempting to hack into Russia’s energy grid ominous. I leave you with an apropos quote:

        “If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now.” (Richard Perle)

  5. HarryLaw on June 16, 2019, 6:29 am

    Remember that grainy video.
    Could it be? I don’t know, but Trump and Pompeo would have red faces if this turns out to be the truth that’s for sure.
    Magnets for fastening and anchor points
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  6. Tuyzentfloot on June 16, 2019, 7:20 am

    There will be considerable pushback from the media. The media align with elite opinion, or to put it differently, they turn to serious people in order to understand the narrative. And many serious people are opposed to war with Iran. They don’t mind draconian sanctions. There is interpretation of events which says Iran now decided that considering the severe economic pressure they are now under with the oil exports being blocked, they have to move aggressively to make clear to the US it can’t have one without the other, that it cannot have such sanctions without large scale conflict. Elijah Magnier took that position recently and MoonofA now agrees. They managed to convince me now and it moved to the top of my differential diagnosis.

    • Mooser on June 16, 2019, 2:07 pm

      “And many serious people are opposed to war with Iran.”

      That’s a relief. As I remember, the ‘serious’ people were for the War on Iraq.

      • Tuyzentfloot on June 16, 2019, 2:56 pm

        Of course the serious people aren’t always right but nobody’s perfect. And quality newspapers like the NYTimes always rely on the serious people. Otherwise they wouldn’t be quality now would they. Every serious NYTimes journalist knows not to hang out with the fringe.

      • Mooser on June 17, 2019, 12:19 pm

        Wait, I remember now. War on Iraq was for “serious” people, but “real men” want to go to Tehran. That’s right.

  7. Tuyzentfloot on June 16, 2019, 7:36 am

    Tankertrackers was very good at finding the Iranian shipments which used an array of tricks to evade the sanctions, and stupid enough to make it a priority to find them all.

  8. CigarGod on June 16, 2019, 1:11 pm

    As predictable was the sun rising and setting, our “media” marches to the same Zionist drummer.
    Our eyes are open but we can’t see.

  9. Ossinev on June 16, 2019, 1:42 pm

    “Somebody please tell Trump & Bolton & Adelson If we’re headed for regime change in Iran, get ready for a military draft”

    And somebody should tell Jared , the Junior Trumps and all those younger Republican warmongers about bone spurs before it is too late.

    BTW Does anyone know which “elite” divisions has Israel promised to provide to support its magnificent ally in the event of a land war. Perhaps the 3 a.m. Palestinian villages child snatching brigades should lead the assault on Teheran.

    • HarryLaw on June 16, 2019, 4:23 pm

      I think prospective Private Donald ‘bone spurs’ Trump would have made a good General, [too late now, he is too old] maybe one of the greatest Generals in history. If only he had signed up. /S

      • LiberatePalestine on June 16, 2019, 11:38 pm

        He would have been fragged in a heartbeat.

    • Citizen on June 22, 2019, 7:23 am

      Lyndsey Grahm Cracker just told the US public Israel would attack Iran, & US would jump in to protect its ally, Israel. Actually, US does not have a mutual defense treaty with Israel. Of course, it has a slew of very lopsided MOU’s committing US to do all under the sun to support Israel. Don’t hold your breath for mainstream journalism to spell this out to the US public.

      • LiberatePalestine on June 22, 2019, 7:58 pm

        So the Zionist entity launches an attack and then runs behind the knees of the US and expects «protection». Stupid idea.

  10. Citizen on June 16, 2019, 3:53 pm

    Sec. Pompeo: ‘Unmistakable’ That Iran Behind Tanker Attacks | & large AIPAC donor recipient Senator Tom Cotton Recommended Attacking Iran: via @Newsmax

  11. jackal on June 16, 2019, 5:51 pm

    Reply to Citizen’s comment @ Jun 16 12:21:

    “Time to break up the six key media corporations (along with the big banks and big social media).”

    Excellent idea, but how do you go about doing that, when media is in the pocket of all the rich guys? It’s like trying to break up General Motors, or Ford or ….. You could hurt Ford by not buying any more vehicles, but the addiction to TV, which is everybody’s news source isn’t going to happen. Newspapers, on the other hand, are growing smaller and smaller in most countries, and if it weren’t for the comics, Sodoka, and letters to the editor, they would probably be gone by now. More and more, the underground internet news is gaining traction, with some of the big papers getting into the action, but generally requiring subscriptions which few people like to pay.
    We need more Robert Fisks with his brilliant historical knowledge and research who isn’t (too) afraid to get into the action of wars. With Cook in Bethlehem, Abby Martin all over the world, Alison Weir in the States, Gideon Levy in Israel, James North and others in Mondoweiss, anybody who really wants the news has it at their fingertips. The problem of course is that the illiterates have to be spoon-fed. And the worse offenders in this world, IMHO, are the religious fanatics. :))

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