With critical nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers due to resume in Switzerland on Thursday, the New York Times’ reporters pile pressure on Tehran this morning.
The Times’ report, fed by “Western diplomats” begins with the headline charge, “In Nuclear Talks, Iran Seeks to Avoid Specifics”:
If an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear capability is reached by deadline in the next seven days, one thing may be missing: an actual written accord, signed by the Iranians.
Last Friday, Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) adjourned five days of intense talks in Lausanne, mainly between the Iranian and the American delegations. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry will resume their discussions on Thursday.
The Times article, written by David Sanger and Michael Gordon, is not detached from the facts of the negotiations. It correctly notes that the Iranians have favored a two-stage process, with a General Framework agreed by March 31 and a comprehensive settlement by July 1. The US is insisting on a one-stage, full and final resolution by next week.
However, Sanger and Gordon are able to cast blame through omission. They never mention that Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) agreed last November to a July 1 deadline. Nor do they explain that Washington suddenly moved this last month, setting the informal cut-off of March 31.
It was this shift, put out by the White House and US Secretary of State John Kerry, that unsettled the Iranians. They fear that a one-stage full agreement will leave sanctions in place for the long-term, rather than being lifted within months of a deal. That would offer little relief for the embattled Iranian economy.
Sanger and Gordon reframe this by blaming the Supreme Leader, incorrectly implying that he acted without consultation with President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and the nuclear negotiatiors: “In early February, Ayatollah Khamenei, who has taken his own negotiators by surprise several times, said there would be only one agreement.”
Sanger has a long track record of articles condemning the Iranians for supposed pursuit of a nuclear weapon, even after Tehran took significant measures in 2012 to restrict its stock of 20% uranium which could be further enriched for a military program.
Two weeks ago, Sanger and William Broad fired a broadside to unsettle the talks — at a critical stage over Iran’s level and number of centrifuges — “What Iran Won’t Say About the Bomb“.
Instead of dealing with the substance of the talks, the article shifted the ground from the discussions to issues about Iran’s negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency over inspection and verification of Iranian facilities and programs.
The piece incorrectly asserted, “To date, Iran has dodged all but one of the agency’s dozen sharp questions on bomb design,” as former IAEA Director Robert Kelley explained in a thorough dissection of the “misconceptions, innuendo, and technical ignorance”.
Sanger and Broad also omitted to mention the framework agreements reached between Tehran and the IAEA in the past year, and distorted the ongoing discussions over fulfillment of the conditions in those agreements.
The Times’ reporters concluded ominously, “If past is prologue, the West might once again find itself stonewalled.”