Operation Get a Grip

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OK, I’ve gotten another cup of coffee, and almost feel the strength to deconstruct this piece of lousy journalism.

1) This is the Jerusalem Post quoting Israel Army Radio, e.g. they didn’t even report it themselves.

2) It’s not only second hand in terms of one media outlet citing another; it’s third hand in terms of sourcing, and all anonymous at that. The Jerusalem Post is citing Israel Army Radio which is quoting an unnamed Israeli official quoting an — again unnamed — “senior member of Bush’s entourage” which includes a universe of people that could be say the spouse of a businessperson who was part of the delegation. Almost certainly not a government official and almost certainly not someone informed about policy deliberations. Something in the realm of idle gossip.

3) If all that didn’t, this line should give you pause: “However, the official continued, ‘the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’ was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic, for the time being.” In other words, while according to fourth hand anonymous sources Bush and Cheney believe force may be necessary, they are prevented from acting by the Secretaries of Defense and State. To begin with, Bush gets to override his cabinet heads when he wants to. Secondly, this is a line that essentially negates the first part of the story.

4) White House denial here, FWIW:

An article in today’s Jerusalem Post about the President’s position on Iran that quotes unnamed sources — quoting unnamed sources — is not worth the paper it’s written on.

Let me respond by reaffirming the policy of the Administration: We, along with our international allies who want peace in the Middle East, remain opposed to Iran’s ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon. To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program.

As the President has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard.

“Not worth the paper it’s printed on.” I would have to agree.

I have a friend who sends me every such “they’re gonna bomb Iran” rumor he sees. One day, I am aware, he may get to send me an “I told you so” email, but perhaps not. There are a lot of reasons to think Bush won’t use force against Iran before he leaves office, among them: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, the elections, the intelligence indicating there is more time and uncertainty about the very nature of Iran’s program, gas prices, international consensus lacking, domestic consensus lacking, Congress, top officials in Washington and elsewhere not convinced force would solve the US’s many gripes with Iran, as well as the fact that the Bush administration has invested a lot of energy in its second term helping cobble together an international alliance to pressure Iran diplomatically, economically, and by other means, an effort which is by no means defunct. Even in Israel where officials do tend for obvious reasons to cite worst case scenarios regarding estimates of Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli officials I intervied last week say the focus should be on strengthening sanctions at this point, and what’s more, there is no consensus there about the use of force. The focus is very much on strengthening sanctions, which take time to work. This article doesn’t offer any insight, solid information or perspective.

Update: A friend informs me the Jerusalem Post report has now been replaced. “There was an article on the Jerusalem Post website this morning titled ‘Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term’ which was widely circulated on various listservs; the White House issued a denial of the story — interestingly, the Jerusalem Post, rather than simply run a follow-up piece reporting the White House’s denial, or expanding the existing article, seems to have outright replaced the original piece with a new one: the link for the original piece (www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1210668683139&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull) now yields the new, substitute piece with the title ‘White House denies Iran attack report’. Where is the original piece? I can’t find it online anywhere else in its original form, though I do have a copy in my e-mail…”

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