The New York Times does continue to report on the U.S. effort to stop humanitarian aid from reaching Iran during the coronavirus crisis. The paper, to its credit, even editorialized against the vicious sanctions. But the Times either ignores or covers up key factors that motivate the Trump administration’s inhumane policy: Israel, and the Israel lobby inside the United States. The U.S. just increased the pressure another notch, by using its power at the International Monetary Fund to block Iran’s request for an emergency $5 billion loan to fight the pandemic.
Neither the paper’s latest report nor that March 25 editorial mentioned Israel one single time. But anyone who gives recent Middle East history more than a passing glance recognizes that Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu has for years tried to instigate the U.S. to increase pressure and even launch military attacks against Iran — although Teheran is no threat to American national interests (with one semi-exception). Netanyahu’s vigorous campaign against the Iran nuclear deal is just one example of Israel’s provocative intervention in America’s foreign policy, but the Times saw no need to remind its readers of that history.
What’s more, Israel advocates in America are vigorously promoting the hostility to Iran. A small but influential lobbying group in Washington called the “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies,” a disguise if ever there was one, pushes the anti-Iran line. The estimable John Judis profiled the FDD a few years ago, pointing out that its “chief funders have been drawn almost entirely from American Jews who have a long history of funding pro-Israel organizations.”
The truth is that Iran today is not targeting the United States. Americans who remember the 1979-80 hostage crisis may not have fond memories, but the only area of friction right now is inside Iraq, where 5000 U.S. troops are still stationed 17 years after the disastrous 2003 invasion. During the long fight against ISIS, those American soldiers actually cooperated with local militias that are allied with Iran, but now tensions are rising — especially after the Trump administration assassinated the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in January. But that dispute could be resolved without a war between the U.S. and Iran.
Let’s look at how another publication is covering the Iran coronavirus crisis. Al-Monitor reports all sides of the the dispute, including quoting a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. But then its comprehensive article goes on to note that:
. . . the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), supports Trump’s stringent sanctions regime. . . Democrats closely aligned with AIPAC, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations panel, Bob Menendez, D-N.J., have explicitly called for the current U.S. sanctions to remain in place.
The New York Times could ask its army of reporters in Washington, and its Jerusalem bureau, to investigate further. Surely there are Congressional staffers, or dissident Israelis, who are disgusted by the inhumane Trump/Netanyahu policy toward the Iranian people and could provide off-the-record detail.
What’s more, if there’s anything we’ve learned so far it’s that the coronavirus does not respect national frontiers. As the pandemic bites deeply into Iran, 200,000 Afghans who were working there without papers are fleeing eastward toward home — where they may spread the disease, undermine fragile attempts toward a peace settlement, and even threaten the health of American soldiers who are still stationed there.