Coverage about Iran in the past few days focused, naturally, on the president’s trip to the Middle East. There seemed to be a media consensus that the visit was all about red lines, but not about which ones.
The build-up to the visit came with his interview to one of Israel’s TV channels, Interestingly enough, the headlines that interview elicited were varied:
*Iran nuclear program: Obama makes case for diplomacy ahead of trip to Israel
*Engagement with Iran is on: Obama
*Obama to Israeli TV before visit: Nuclear Iran a red line
*Obama won’t trip over Netanyahu’s Iran “red line”
Guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder…
As the visit progressed, the lens did not necessarily become more focused regarding the red lines. Particularly following the president’s various speeches, the media on the whole competed over interpretation (the usual pro-Iran suspects we’ve written about before made clear their conviction that Obama expressed a pro-diplomacy stance). This appeared to be particularly true in Israel, where as best as we could tell the argument centered on the question of whether the Jewish state had received a “green” or “red” light to use force to stop Tehran’s military nuclear program.
But assuming the media do not really know what was said behind closed doors, better to focus on what is known. A few examples not necessarily covered to the extent we feel they deserved:
Leading up to the visit, the president issued his annual greeting for the Persian New Year , the Nowruz. Unlike previous years, this time he focused heavily on the nuclear crisis – an indicative quote:
Iran’s leaders say that their nuclear program is for medical research and electricity. To date, however, they have been unable to convince the international community that their nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes. That’s why the world is united in its resolve to address this issue and why Iran is now so isolated. The people of Iran have paid a high and unnecessary price because of your leaders’ unwillingness to address this issue.
During the visit, this Washington Post piece pointed out increasing concern in the international community with Iran’s plutonium activities as an alternative route to the bomb.
About the same time as the visit, technical experts from the P5+1 met in Istanbul with their Iranian counterparts. While little has been reported publicly about the meeting, this Christian Science Monitor item makes clear that the Iranian optimism exuded following the recent Almaty encounter was merely spin-doctor stuff meant to draw out more and more concessions without actually stopping their own nuclear activities.
After departing Israel for Jordan, Obama made clear that while he hopes military action is not required to stop the program he has no intention of removing this option from the table.
Through the jungle of all the media reports and punditry about the visit, we found this Al-Monitor piece by Israeli-Iranian analyst Meir Javedanfar noteworthy to share – he comments:
Obama has proved himself to be the master of pushing Iran towards its compromise red line through sanctions while pulling it away from its red line to make a nuclear bomb by offering negotiations and not excessively relying on the military option. It is such recognition of Iran that makes Obama a trusted and powerful ally against the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions.
An interesting point – even those who may not fully agree with it, can certainly admit it’s worth contemplation.