THE BLOG
06/17/2008 12:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

NYT Exposes Fraud of "Generous Offer" to Iran

Who says America doesn't have a free press?

Everything you know about the world will be reported by the New York Times -- eventually.

You just have to be very patient -- and read very carefully.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that President Bush "accused" Iran of rejecting a new set of incentives to stop enriching uranium. "I am disappointed that the leaders rejected this generous offer out of hand," Bush said.

Of course, Iran didn't reject it "out of hand," as the article goes on to explain:

Tehran did not formally reject the offer... Mr. Mottaki [Iran's Foreign Minister] said that Iran's response would depend on how the West responded to Iran's May 13 proposal calling for international talks on all issues and improved international inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities.

Nor was it true that President Bush was disappointed:

The French and Americans presumed in advance that their new proposal of incentives ... would be brushed aside by Tehran, officials and diplomats said, insisting on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

[Presumably, "sensitivity of the issue" means "because they are not supposed to be quoted on the record saying that the 'diplomatic' initiative is a charade."]

So, in the space of thirteen words, President Bush managed to lie (at least) twice.

Was it a "generous offer"? That of course is a matter of perspective. Iran is being offered a package of economic incentives to give up what Iranians -- not just the government, but Iranians generally -- regard as a fundamental right -- mastery of the technology to enrich uranium. As Iran's UN Ambassador told the Boston Globe on May 31, "This has become an issue of national pride." As the NYT notes, the same deal was offered in the past, and Iran rejected it.

Regardless of whether anyone in Washington agrees that Iran has the right to enrich uranium, it is an objective fact that Iranians generally, not just the government, believe that Iran has the right to enrich uranium.

In April, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland published a poll of Iranian public opinion. PIPA found that 81% of Iranians consider it "very important" for "Iran to have a full-fuel-cycle nuclear program" which would give Iran the capacity to produce nuclear fuel for energy production. Four out of five. Only 5% think Iran should not pursue a full-fuel-cycle program.

So, the United States and its allies made a proposal for Iran to give up something that four out of five Iranians consider to be "very important." The United States and its allies expected Iran to reject the "offer," as it has in the past.

Why the charade? The NYT explains:

But Mr. Bush and the Europeans who formally made the offer want to show that all efforts at dialogue are being taken.

So, "all efforts at dialogue" means restating a proposal that the government of Iran has already rejected -- and which Iran is expected, by those making the proposal, to reject again -- to give up something that four in five Iranians say is "very important."

Who is the audience for this "show"? People who don't read the New York Times, apparently. These people will be told that "all efforts at dialogue" have been exhausted and there is no alternative to "other punitive moves against Iran that could be taken by a 'coalition of the willing' outside the United Nations":

"Officials would not provide details, but analysts suggest those could include a naval embargo of the Persian Gulf or the refusal to supply Western-made technology required for Iran's oil industry, creating bottlenecks in Iran's oil production."

For those scoring at home, a naval embargo would be an act of war. If undertaken "outside the United Nations" -- i.e. without the authorization of the UN Security Council -- it would be a war crime. If you don't think Iran would retaliate for this act of war, or that it doesn't have effective means of doing so, then you are, as John McCain might say, "naïve and inexperienced."

Once again a false choice is placed before the world -- the fake diplomacy of the Bush administration or war. Are there no other alternatives?

The same PIPA poll found that 58% of Iranians support the idea of making a deal with the UN Security Council that would allow Iran to have a full-cycle nuclear program while giving the International Atomic Energy Agency "permanent and full access throughout Iran to ensure that its nuclear program is limited to energy production" and not producing nuclear weapons. PIPA notes that in a March 2008 poll for the BBC World Service 55% of Americans approved of such a deal.

Indeed, in its May 13 proposal -- which the NYT dismisses in a phrase by noting that it "does not mention the key Western demand -- that Iran stop enriching uranium," Iran proposed "international talks on all issues and improved international inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities."

Furthermore, as the Boston Globe reported May 31, Iran's UN Ambassador said Iran "would consider establishing an internationally owned consortium inside Iran that could produce nuclear fuel with Iranian participation."

As the Boston Globe noted on June 10, "Thomas Pickering, the US ambassador to the United Nations under President George H.W. Bush, endorsed the idea of such a consortium in a March article in the New York Review of Books." And the plan is "getting increased interest from senior members of both parties in Congress and nonproliferation specialists":

Senators Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, have said publicly that the plan should be explored.

Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, went further, calling the plan "a creative, thoughtful, and productive potential solution."

And Joseph Cirincione, a "nonproliferation specialist who serves informally as an adviser to Obama's campaign," says the idea is "worth exploring."

So there is an alternative. But you wouldn't know it from the "show."

If you think Congress should be pressing for real diplomacy with Iran, you can ask them to do so here.