Here’s continuing bias at the New York Times: the paper is downplaying the Trump administration’s efforts to provoke conflict with Iran — but when it does obliquely report on the danger it relies far too much on quotes from the “Foundation for Defense of Democracies,” a Washington, D.C. “think tank” that is actually a bellicose front organization for Israel. The Times gives disproportionate space to the FDD’s warmongering, instead of quoting distinguished experts, Iranians and others, who counsel diplomacy and restraint.
Neither the Times nor the Washington Post has yet reported Donald Trump’s extraordinary October 9 public statement, in which he used an expletive to threaten Iran that “if you do something bad to us, we are gonna do things to you that have never been done before.” Neither paper would have buried Trump’s quote if he had been talking about his Supreme Court nominee or the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nor have the Times or the Post reminded their readers that the U.S., along with Israel, has conducted a violent sabotage campaign inside Iran over the past few months, which has destroyed power plants, aluminum and chemical factories, a medical clinic and 7 ships at the port of Bushehr. Neither paper reported how the U.S. navy provocatively sent the aircraft carrier Nimitz through the Straits of Hormuz, the first capital ship ordered into the Persian Gulf since last year.
And when the two newspapers have reported on elements of the U.S.-Israeli provocation campaign, like last week’s further intensification of economic sanctions, they both turned for approving comments to the ill-named Foundation for Defense of Democracies — but they failed to disclose that the FDD is a close ally of Israel. Years ago, the estimable John Judis revealed the FDD’s tight connection to the Israel and its U.S.-based lobby, but the most recent Times article only called it “a Washington think tank.”
A comprehensive report on the Trump administration campaign to goad Iran into conflict did appear recently, but not in the Times or the Post. Trina Parsi published a summary on the valuable Responsible Statecraft website, titled, “Is Mike Pompeo preparing an October Surprise?” Parsi was born in Iran, and fled into exile with his family aged 4. He got his doctorate at Johns Hopkins, and uses his knowledge of Iran’s language and culture to published balanced work, such as Losing an Enemy, a detailed account of how the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was negotiated. In 2002, Parsi also helped found the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which lobbied for the nuclear deal with Tehran and continues arguing against U.S. war with Iran.
Trita Parsi is hardly the only pro-diplomacy, antiwar Iran expert out there. Sina Toossi, a Senior Research Analyst at NIAC, also offers intelligent observations. Other Iranians in exile, like the journalist Negar Mortazavi, have similarly well-informed views that are not pro war.
The search function at the New York Times’s website is not entirely accurate, but it does reveal that Trita Parsi is quoted on Iran considerably less often than the “Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” Negar Mortazavi has not appeared in the Times since 2014. Sina Toossi has never been quoted there.
By contrast to the biased Times and Post reports, here’s a quick look at how the British Financial Times handled last week’s increased sanctions story. Instead of running to the FDD, the FT consulted, among others, Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council, a genuine Iran expert like Parsi, Toossi and Mortazavi, (and someone I had the good fortune to meet in Cairo 35 years ago). Instead of endorsing the sanctions, like the FDD did, Slavin called them “sadistic, counterproductive and ultimately rather sad and desperate.”
The Times and the Post should not rely excessively on the FDD and hide its ties to the Israel lobby, but of course both papers should want Israel’s view of the continuing effort to goad Iran into conflict. But they should ask Israel directly — and if, (as expected), Netanyahu officials won’t officially respond, the two papers could try and reach what are called “unidentified sources” inside the Israel government. If they can’t find any, this site knows journalists in Israel who might be able to help.