Sometimes, major media is the last to recognise shifts in policy positions. Iran seems a case in point.
In the lead up to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s annual speech to the General Assembly, American TV stations were preparing their audiences for a provocative Israel-hating rant.
Brace yourself, we were told. It is his last appearance in office so you can expect him to go off and all-out in denouncing Israel and the world’s Jews.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon cautioned him publicly to restrain his rhetoric even as right wing media outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, that has never seen a far right wing Zionist cause it hasn’t embraced, went into full demonisation mode with a front cover featuring his picture and the words, “Piece of Sh*t” (it was reminiscent of the crude Saddam-baiting in US media in the run-up to the Iraq War).
The rhetoric of the well-orchestrated anti-Iranian crowds outside was even bloodier than the Iranians had ever been with former Republican speaker of the House and GOP presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich calling for immediate US air strikes.
Gingrich sounded like his main financial backer, right-wing casino mogul and supporter of Israeli settlers, Shedon Adelson, who poured millions into his failed campaign before shifting his resources to Mitt Romney.
But, surprise, surprise, the Iranians shifted their approach, and offered a subdued and non-inflammatory, even analytical speech, indicting big power pressure and capitalism but with no quotable hate speech-like excesses. Its tone may have reflected the fact that Iran is now leading the Non-Aligned Movement.
What is going on? The latest Iran Review, a respected policy journal, carries an article calling for dialogue with the US, not more diatribes.
Nasser Saghafi-Ameri took issue with the US obsession with its nuclear programme, arguing:
“Focusing only on Iran’s nuclear programme as premise for confrontation with this country has practically deprived the US to seek Iran’s much prized assistance on some critical issues that both countries have shared interest such as the stability in the post-occupation Iraq and Afghanistan, peace and stability in the wider Middle East region following the Arab Spring’s upheavals, and preference for a ‘soft landing’ of revolutionary fervors in the region and especially if it spreads to Saudi Arabia with all consequential effects including on the world oil markets.”
Earlier, the new Egyptian President Morsi suggested that Iran could play a valuable role in dampening tensions with Syria. When Kofi Annan suggested something similar, the idea was immediately rejected by the United States, and he later stepped down as a mediator.
But as the Syria crisis gets worse, a two track idea may be in play.
I was recently at a TV appearance by a negotiations expert on Saudia Arabian TV. He told me that he is involved in two back channel negotiations on the issue.
Iranian nuclear experts are also offering compromise proposals, as reported by IPS journalist Gareth Porter, who say that “Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent”. Washington has yet to publicly respond or acknowledge this compromise, perhaps because the passions of the campaign.
So far, the United States has not even recognised these signals or concessions publicly but still won’t do what the Israelis want by imposing so called “red lines”, that if crossed, will lead to an attack.
Some Iranian analysts believe Obama’s adversion to proclaiming so-called “red lines” is because they could restrict the future manoeuvering by US diplomats. Some in Tehran believe, according to Iran Review, “There are signs that Obama is determined to go for a new round of negotiations with Iran after the November election.”
Israel, like Iran, seems to be modifying its time table with Netanyahu actually speaking kindly of Obama during his UN talk. That was new. A day later, both Obama and Romney called the Israeli leader.
What’s going on?
These are signs of secret initiatives underway to build bridges, but so far, media outlets – more eager to fan the flames of confrontation and polarisation – have ignored them.
Is it ignorance, ideology, or something worse?
News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at NewsDissector.net. His latest books are Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street and Blogothon (Cosimo Books.) He hosts a show on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.